West Virginia’s interior offensive line has become an issue as of late because of injuries and general depth. Give us a quick run down on Texas’ defensive front and if you think that is an area that Texas can win big in on Saturday.
The Texas defensive line has been a bit of a mixed bag so far this year. Charles Omenihu struggled to get going early in the season, but has managed to to sack the quarterback six times in the last four games. Breck Hager has struggled this year and has not put up the performance that anyone was expecting from a senior captain, but the coaches continue to show confidence in him. Texas took a big blow Friday when it was announced that senior DT Chris Nelson would miss the game due to an ankle injury. Tackles in this scheme don’t show up a ton on the stat sheet, but like Poona Ford before him, Nelson has been a “space eater” in the middle, shutting down the A-gap and allowing the linebackers to run free. Junior Gerald Wilson will get the start, with Keondre Coburn and Jamari Chisholm slated to back him up.
How does the Longhorn secondary stack up against Will Grier and the extremely deep West Virginia receiving corps?
This is the matchup that scares me the most. This is a defense that on-paper should be as good as it was a year ago, but has definitely taken a step back. It’s a mix of missing out on one of the best one-on-one defenders Texas has seen in a while, Holton Hill, and some of the struggles of guys like Kris Boyd and PJ Locke III. The other issue is that there are spots where the defensive backs are covering well, but the line struggles to get pressure. It’s hard for anyone to hold coverage for 10 seconds.
West Virginia had a whale of a time trying to defend Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler. Lil’Jordan Humphrey presents a similar problem for the WVU DBs, so how should we expect Tim Beck to use him?
Lil’Jordan Humphrey has been a problem for every team not named Oklahoma State this year. He’s a guy that they like to get the ball in his hands however they can. He’s thrown and rushed for a TD, along with his receiving touchdowns. He’s best-used running underneath routes from the slot, where he’s either too big for a nickel back or too fast for a linebacker. The rub is that when teams roll coverage to him, that generally leaves Collin Johnson in single coverage, which is generally a bad situation. He’s grown immensely in his ability to beat single coverage and out-body smaller corners, which has been the secret to his success.
This is something I’ve thought of a lot this week, but is there a true home field advantage at DKR? I’ve been in the stadium and comparing it to similar large stadiums that I’ve been to, it seems a bit watered down. What’s the cause of that feeling?
Well there are two things there: first I think in a city like Austin, where there’s always something to do, it’s tough to pull students away. Whether it’s a concert or some sort of festival, it’s easy to show up late, leave early or not show up at all. All of that being said, this year I’ve seen some of the best home crowds I’ve seen in my 15 years of watching Texas football. Whether it’s the new gameday environment created by new athletic director Chris Del Conte, the repositioning of the student section, or something else, but if you watch the games against USC and TCU, the crowd was loud and into it for four quarters. With a sellout crowd for this weekend, I’m curious to see what it looks like.
Finally how do you feel this shakes out on Saturday?
This is a team that plays to the level of its opponent, so I think they’re up for this game. The problem is that the West Virginia offense is not one you stop, you merely slow them down. I think it’s a higher-scoring game, but WVU comes out on top 34-31.