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Staring Down The Musket At...The Texas Longhorns - A Q&A With Burnt Orange Nation

WVU travels to Austin to take on the Longhorns Saturday. Burnt Orange Nation's Wescott Eberts joins us to help preview the game.


Matt: Obviously the record isn't where you guys want it to be, but what's your honest opinion on Charlie Strong's regime change thus far?

Wescott: In combining the dismissals, suspensions, and injuries, the Longhorns have lost a ton this season. The dismissals and suspensions mostly impacted depth at positions like running back, wide receiver, and safety, but also impacted both of the prospective starting offensive tackles. One was dismissed and the other has been suspended all season. Throw in the retirement of starting quarterback David Ash because of concussions and a season-ending injury in the opener to the most experienced offensive lineman, center Dominic Espinosa, and the offense was severely gutted, especially a line that would have been young and inexperienced even in a best-case scenario. Oh yeah, and the most explosive player on offense, wide receiver Daje Johnson, was suspended early and then got hurt when he returned.

Put it all together and the attrition has been incredible, leaving Strong with much less to work with than he would yet. On the culture change front, there are positive things happening, but the team has been too mistake-prone to finish most of the season.

Overall, the team seems headed in the right direction, it's just been a rough ride so far. There was always going to be a high delta for this team and the dismissals, suspensions, and injuries all combined for what has pretty much become the worst-case scenario.

Matt: Tyrone Swoopes is really starting to come into his own a bit after getting thrown in to the fire because of Ash's injury. What are his big strengths and weaknesses?

Wescott: His strengths are his size and arm strength. He can be hard to bring down because he's as big as a lot of defensive tackles and his arm is one of the strongest in college football, allowing him to make any throw he wants and push the ball deep down field. Like a lot of young quarterbacks, he has struggled some with his accuracy, has struggled at times to get the plays called on time, and has lacked poise in the pocket. When opponents apply pressure, he can bring his eyes down to the pass rush and it took him some time to learn that he can't take the edge on college defenders as easily as he did small-classification defenders in high school.

Matt: WVU's D has shown enormous improvement in the last few weeks, but a power running game is still a big worry to me. How much does Texas try to pound the rock between the tackles, and what does your carry distribution look like?

Wescott: The Texas Tech game featured the most physical rushing attack that Texas has shown this season, often using two tight ends and utilizing them as lead blockers out of the backfield. As a result, the Horns gained a season-high 241 yards on 51 carries. Right now, Malcolm Brown has been the best and most productive runner for Texas. He's started to receive most of the carries ahead of Johnathan Gray, who is still coming back from the Achilles injury that he suffered last year against West Virginia. Last week, he showed off a jump cut that he hadn't been able or willing to use all season that could herald a more balanced distribution moving forward.

Matt: Kevin White has been slowed the last two weeks due to secondaries throwing everything they have at him. The side effect to that has been Mario Alford making some huge plays. Do you think that Strong will take risks with White to try to stop Alford from making big plays from the slot?

Wescott: Strong schemes to keep opposing offenses from being able to produce big plays in general, so I think he will want to slow both. The Horns have actually been quite successful in that regard -- the long passing play against them this season went for 37 yards. Expect Texas to keep two safeties deep to avoid the one-on-one match ups that Alford and White are so capable of exploiting.

Matt: Finally, how do you see this one shaking out? WVU and Texas have played two classics in Big 12 play, so do you think this one will be more of the same?

Wescott: I think Texas does successfully limit the big plays in the West Virginia passing game because the defense has been able to do that all season, but I expect struggles stopping the running game in shades of 2012. And I expect the offense and possibly the special teams to continue making the same type of crippling mistakes that have hurt the team all season, giving West Virginia the chance to pull out a close 28-24 win in yet another classic.

Matt: Bonus - Who would win in a fight between Voltron and the original Power Rangers Megazord?

Wescott: I'm totally out of my depth on this one. I'll go with Megazord because I watched Power Rangers when I was a kid.

[Author's note: Megazord is again tied with Voltron 3-3-1]

Thanks again to Wescott for the insights. Be sure to follow him on Twitter

Editor's Note: We also had a podcast this week with Barking Carnival recorded, but we are unable to complete it due to personal matters that took precedence. Our apologies to Jason Chilton from Barking Carnival who took the time to talk with us.