Texas Longhorns: Texas Longhorns

Stats that matter: UCLA vs. Texas

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
5:00
PM ET
Ready for some numbers? It's time for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats & Information to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas' faceoff with No. 12 UCLA on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.

1. 97

If Texas does have one of the nation's best defensive lines, this is the week to prove it. UCLA's downfall as a College Football Playoff contender could be its inability to protect Brett Hundley.

Since 2012, when Jim Mora Jr.'s staff took over, UCLA quarterbacks have been sacked 97 times, tied second-most in FBS. Hundley has already been sacked a nation-leading nine times this season and gets hurried or knocked down on nearly 25 percent of his snaps. Even more damning, he's been sacked 51 times in his career on plays in which a defense sent four pass-rushers or fewer.

The Bruins' struggles extend beyond pass protection. This offense produces too many negative plays -- a total of 130 plays lost yards in the past two seasons, third-most in FBS -- and, in the run game, its yards before contact per-game average ranks second-worst in the Pac-12.

Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford say they take pride in their blitzing schemes. Cedric Reed, Malcom Brown and the rest of Texas' front seven should feast if they get into the backfield consistently.

2. 2.34

Texas' offense has its own problems to face up front, too. As Shawn Watson acknowledged Tuesday, it's not just that the Longhorns are down to eight or nine offensive linemen. The starting line has no experience playing together. The starting five haven't had time to gel or get comfortable with each other's tendencies.

That showed in the run game vs. BYU. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 75 rushing yards and Texas averaged 2.34 yards per rush as a team. That was this team's worst yards-per-carry performance since Gray joined the program in 2012.

Add up Texas' efforts in three of its past four games -- against Baylor, Oregon and BYU -- and this unit is averaging a measly 3.52 yards per play and 8 points per game. That is some poor big-game offense. The pressure is on Watson and Joe Wickline this week to produce a plan that will get the Longhorns' offense moving and scoring early and often.

3. 19.5

Texas coaches talked up Hundley plenty this week, but one name that did not come up: Myles Jack. The UCLA sophomore burst onto the national scene last season as the Pac-12's Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year. He's a scary playmaker on both sides of the ball.

And while Jack is playing at as high a level as ever at linebacker (career-high 13 tackles vs. Memphis), his offensive snaps have been limited. After rushing for seven TDs last season, Jack has just three carries in 2014. He scored on one last week, and Mora says his offensive role could increase soon.

Perhaps Mora is just saving him for a big night against Texas. Jack has found the end zone on 19.5 percent of his 41 career carries, and the Longhorns will no doubt have to keep an eye on him. He's the kind of guy who can, in just a few plays, swing an otherwise close battle.

Three more to remember

36.7: UCLA's points-per-game average since the start of 2013, despite all those aforementioned sack/pressure stats.

546: Hundley's total rushing yards on scrambles in the past two seasons, second-most among Power 5 conference quarterbacks behind Johnny Manziel.

27-1: Strong's record as a head coach when his team wins the turnover battle.

Stats that matter: BYU-Texas

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
10:00
AM ET
Are you ready for some numbers? It's time for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats and Info to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas’ rematch with BYU.

1. 600

Charlie Strong does not have a problem with defending rushing quarterbacks.

In the past 10 years (six at Florida, four at Louisville) his defenses have give up a total of 600 rushing yards to quarterbacks. That's 131 games, 940 rushes, 600 yards. That's an average of 4.58 yards per game. We're including sacks in that number, but to put this in perspective: Last season, Texas gave up 715 rushing yards to QBs.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill rushed for 259 yards against Texas last season. Strong's Louisville defenses gave up a total of 209 in the last three years. His teams of the past decade have never allowed a performance like the one Hill produced.

No team surpassed 300 rushing yards against Louisville during the Strong era. Excluding sacks, Texas gave up twice as many rushing yards to QBs (2,173) as Louisville did (1,034) in the past four years. No quarterback has surpassed 80 rushing yards against his defense in 10 years.

What's the point? While Hill is a rare talent as a rusher, history suggest he could have a hard time running wild again vs. Texas.

2. 60/40

The good thing about the disastrous news Texas received on Monday is this: They've done it before.

Having to play nine games without David Ash last season gave these Longhorns experience handling a crisis at quarterback. Texas went 6-3 in those contests and developed a run-first identity along the way that helped set Case McCoy up for success.

In those six wins, Texas run-pass distribution averaged an even 60/40 with 100 more rushes than pass attempts. Texas surpassed 400 total yards in five of those six wins, outscored teams by an average of 15.7 points and had a plus-5 turnover margin.

Texas obviously has new play-callers and coordinators who will draw up their own blueprint for winning without Ash, and Strong said the scheme will have to be tweaked in some ways. But the learning process of retooling last season can at least gives these players confidence that, as Strong said, it's not the end of the world just yet.

3. Zero

The point of a season opener like the one Texas played against North Texas is you get a chance to be tested in a variety of ways before playing big-time foes. You can find out what works and what doesn't.

What we did not find out against North Texas is how the Longhorns defense will recover after giving up big plays. UNT had zero explosive runs or passes. Its longest gain of the night was 8 yards. It didn't try for many big ones, either, preferring instead to run the ball and play not to lose. While that's great for Texas, it's also problematic.

BYU's offense had 24 explosive plays of 10-plus yards against Texas last year. Those plays accounted for more than 70 percent of the Cougars' total offense. Texas defenders could not stop them from happening. They've talked all offseason about being a changed group, one that refuses to be called soft. They had it awfully easy in Week 1, and after giving up just 94 yards, there's really nowhere to go but down. This time around, when Hill and BYU's offense lands a few punches, how will this defense respond?

Three more to remember

55: The total number of snaps Tyrone Swoopes has played in his Texas career. The Longhorns offense has produced 200 total yards while he's been on the field.

13-2: Texas' record since 2012 when its offense attempts 40 or more rushes. Six of those wins came with Ash out. Texas is also 11-1 in that span when rushing for 165-plus yards as a team.

0-8: Hill did not complete a pass on third and long against Texas last season. But he did rush for 141 yards and a touchdown on six third-down carries. Yeah, that's 23.5 yards per carry on third downs.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Thirteen months ago, David Ash had a vision for how this would someday play out.

At Big 12 media days in July 2013, Ash was asked about his relationship with Tyrone Swoopes, the freshman who'd enrolled early and was battling to become his backup. He talked about Texas' proud history at the quarterback position -- Vince Young, Colt McCoy, even mentioned Major Applewhite. Then he reflected on what he wanted to leave behind when his playing days at Texas were over.

"Coming in, Texas kind of took a nosedive for a year, and we've been trying to get back up," he said. "With Tyrone, my goal is that whenever he steps in, I've got the program where he can just keep it rolling and Texas can be good for a long time."

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMIWhile Tyrone Swoopes' ability to run gives the Longhorns another dimension, their success will depend on his ability to make key throws and good decisions.
The passing of the torch wasn't supposed to go down like this. Ash has played in just four games since then. Concussion-related symptoms have once again benched him and put his football future in doubt.

The time for Swoopes to step in is right now and when he least expected it. The sophomore played two snaps against North Texas -- the final two kneel-downs of the ballgame -- but must start his first career game Saturday against BYU.

Swoopes' resume is fairly blank to this point. He's completed nearly four times more passes in spring games (19) than in real ones (five). But he showed enough in fall camp to make this a clear-cut decision for Charlie Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson once Ash was ruled out.

"I'm very confident in Tyrone. I am," Strong said. "I'm confident with any player on this football team."

The 6-foot-4 sophomore isn't easy to bring down at 245 pounds, and Watson will surely implement more run options into the game plan this week to accentuate what Swoopes does best. Strong went so far as to compare Swoopes's ability on the perimeter to BYU's prolific quarterback Taysom Hill.

He is not the fleet-footed Young clone that fans expected during Swoopes' recruitment out of Whitewright (Texas) High School, but his legs do give the Texas offense an asset and a chance for some new wrinkles.

What Texas needs from Swoopes, above all else, is a competent passer capable of making key throws and sound decisions. He throws a nice deep ball, but how will he handle the intermediate throws? What about third downs and passing downs? Watson has seen improvements both in Swoopes' knowledge and fundamentals during their time together. A long offseason of training will soon be put to the test.

"Once Tyrone gets a couple completions in, he'll start getting a little rhythm and he'll be fine," running back Malcolm Brown said. "He's a guy that I've seen work since he's been here. I know as a backup, you always feel like you have to go above and beyond, but that's not the case at all. Just have to be consistent."

The presence of Brown and Johnathan Gray, two of the Big 12's best backs, certainly helps. Strong insists he does not demand greatness of Texas' quarterbacks. He just needs a game manager.

"What you have to look at, it's not all about one position," Strong said. "If you have the defense play well like we played the other night, you have two good running backs, your offense line protects well, you can function."

Strong said Swoopes executed the Texas offense effectively during practice Sunday, but he must also prepare a contingency plan. Swoopes' backup will be freshman Jerrod Heard, the former ESPN 150 recruit and two-time state champion from Denton (Texas) Guyer. Walk-on Trey Holtz figures to be the No. 3 option, and there are no other scholarship quarterbacks available.

Had Heard been able to enroll early at Texas this spring, he might've had a better chance to beat out Swoopes. After Watson told reporters this month that Heard was "in China" when it came to his understanding of the offense, a redshirt seemed likely. That might not be possible now.

"It's got to move very quickly for him," Strong said. "You're always a play away."

The opponent for Swoopes' first start, while familiar, is no less scary. BYU forced an Ash-led Texas offense to punt eight times in the 40-21 beatdown in Provo last season. He might struggle early, Strong admitted, but Swoopes needs to maintain his composure. He needs to find confidence.

And Texas will need everybody else to chip in if they're going to pull this off and, as Ash hoped, keep rolling.

"Other players have to step up, other players have to go play," Strong said. "You look across the country and it can happen to any team at any second. Now it's happened to us."

Stats that matter: North Texas-Texas

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
9:00
AM ET
Are you ready for some numbers? It's time once again for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats and Info to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas’ season opener against North Texas (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).

No. 1: 101.6

Charlie Strong admitted on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference Monday there's one number he cares about (after the final score) when he's handed the postgame stat sheet: Rushing yards allowed.

His defense at Louisville led FBS in run defense last season, allowing just 81.5 yards per game. Texas gave up an average of 183.1 rushing yards per game a year ago. You better believe Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford intend to close that 101.6-yard gap as much as possible in 2014.

In the past four years, only one Big 12 defense has given up fewer than 100 rushing yards per game: The 2011 Longhorns, who held teams to 96.2 yards per game on the ground.

For what it's worth, and maybe not much, Georgia's defense did hold North Texas to 7 total rushing yards on 25 attempts last year.

No. 2: 123

We know very little about North Texas starting quarterback Josh Greer, a juco transfer who spent 2012 at UAB and 2013 at Navarro College. He's seen as a guy who has some similar traits to the successful guy he replaces, Derek Thompson, and he was a 63.5-percent passer at Navarro. He's a bit of an unknown otherwise.

But we do know he'll be protected by an offensive line that, on paper, looks impressive with 123 career starts among the five starters. Cyril Lemon, a first-team All-CUSA guard last year, moves from right tackle and has 37 career starts. He's one of four senior starters along with Mason Y'Barbo (37 starts), Antonio Johnson (34) and Shawn McKinney (2).

Texas players think they have the best defensive line in the Big 12, if not the nation. Those boasts will be put to the test Saturday as they try to rattle a QB making his first college start.

No. 3: 434

When you talk about David Ash's best games as Texas' starting quarterback, his 2013 season opener against New Mexico State doesn't usually get brought up. But in his only compete game of that injury-wrecked season, Ash accounted for 434 total yards (343 passing, 91 rushing) and offered an appealing glimpse of what he might've been able to do had he stayed healthy.

Texas struggled to get rolling until late in the second quarter, but Ash got the offense to open up from there. He threw for four touchdowns, busted off a 55-yard touchdown scramble and showed poise in the second half to guide an offense that put up a school-record 715 total yards.

North Texas should be a better foe than NMSU, which went on to finish 2-10 with the fourth-worst scoring defense in the country. But will we see a version of Ash that's as good or better than the one that showed up in last year's opener?

Three more to remember

Eight: The number of kicks North Texas blocked last season, most in FBS. Four were blocked punts. Against Georgia last year, UNT blocked a punt for TD and also returned a kickoff for a TD.

Two: North Texas coach Dan McCarney coached the defensive line on Strong's Florida defenses for two seasons, in 2008 and 2009.

35-21: The score of North Texas' last game against a Big 12 program, a loss at Kansas State in 2012. UNT is 7-57 all-time against the Big 12 but 0-9 in the past decade.
Former Texas offensive guard Rami Hammad is transferring to Baylor after visiting the school on Monday morning.

Hammad, a redshirt freshman who left the Texas program last week, told ESPN.com he will sit out the 2014 season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman told ESPN.com he chose Baylor over Alabama and UCLA after receiving interest from more than 40 programs at the FBS and junior college level.

"It was the hardest decision for me to ever make in my life. I want to thank Texas and Mack Brown for giving me a chance to play there," Hammad said. "I wish it would've worked out. The staff changed and the coaches changed and I never knew this would happen. God works in mysterious ways. I wish nothing but the best for them and my teammates were my brothers. I never would've made this move if I didn't think it would work out. It was never about depth chart or playing time. It was simply a clash between me and [offensive coordinator Joe] Wickline and it couldn't be resolved."

During his recruiting process out of Irving (Texas) High School, Hammad initially committed to Oklahoma State and its offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who is now at Texas. He then committed to Baylor in November 2012, but reopened his recruitment two months later and chose Texas before signing day.

Hammad redshirted last season after suffering an injury and was a backup lineman in the Longhorn program during fall camp before he elected to transfer.

“He decided it was in his best interest to go ahead and transfer and we wish him nothing but the best," Texas coach Charlie Strong said last week.

Hammad would've provided depth and perhaps could've pushed left guard Sedrick Flowers for his starting spot during the season, but Texas is in relatively good shape at that position with Flowers on the left side and sophomore Kent Perkins at right guard.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 concludes today with Week 15. The past two Big 12 champions face off, and Bedlam is always fun.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Baylor 41, Kansas State 24: With the final weekend mirroring 2013, the Bears know this game could gain added importance if the Sooners slip up in Bedlam. Taking the field with that mindset, Baylor takes a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter and never really looks back. Bryce Petty is efficient and effective, and Baylor's defense uses the experience gained in the first 11 games to help slow Bill Snyder’s Wildcats in a comfortable win to end Year 1 at McLane Stadium.

at Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 35: Another Bedlam, another close game, another late-game win for the Sooners. This time it’s true freshman running back Joe Mixon who turns a swing pass into a late fourth-quarter touchdown, giving the Sooners a late lead and, for the second straight Bedlam game, Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker seals the win with a big play on the Cowboys’ final drive. The Sooners win the Big 12, and their campaign to be included in the College Football Playoff begins immediately with Bob Stoops saying the Sooners “absolutely” deserve to be one of the four teams included during his postgame comments.

at TCU 42, Iowa State 20: The Horned Frogs end a solid eight-win season in style with a blowout win against the Cyclones. TCU’s offense gives Horned Frogs fans plenty of hope with a six-touchdown performance to end the season, including a touchdown pass and touchdown reception from “Mr. Versatility” Trevone Boykin.

Final Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 11-1, 8-1
2. Baylor -- 10-2, 7-2
3. Kansas State -- 9-3, 7-2
4. Texas -- 8-4, 6-3
5. TCU -- 8-4, 5-4
6. Texas Tech -- 7-5, 4-5
7. West Virginia -- 5-7, 4-5
8. Oklahoma State -- 5-7, 3-6
9. Kansas -- 3-9, 1-8
10. Iowa State -- 2-10, 0-9

Big 12 media days takeaways

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
5:00
PM ET
DALLAS -- Big 12 media days have come and gone. Some of the storylines (Dairy Queen, fake watches) were silly. Others were far more serious. Here are some of the takeaways from this year’s edition of media days:

Baylor has a chip on its shoulder: Despite winning the Big 12 last season and returning the Big 12 offensive player of the year in quarterback Bryce Petty, Baylor was voted second in the conference’s preseason poll behind Oklahoma. The Bears clearly felt a bit disrespected while in Dallas this week. "That comes with being Baylor," defensive end Shawn Oakman said. "We're gonna be great one day and y'all are gonna notice." The Bears were pretty great last season, stomping the Sooners 41-12 on the way to their first Big 12 title. "That game from OU last year, that should have showed you that that product was nowhere near as good as the product that Baylor was putting on the field," Oakman said. "The execution, the players from each and every position ... You could tell we were on a different level from OU." Still getting picked to finish behind Oklahoma has given the Bears extra fuel for this season. "In our minds, we’re still underdogs," Oakman said. "We play with a chip on our shoulder. You only get the respect if you earn it."

Stoops is loose as a goose: The loosest coach at Big 12 media days might have been Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. He was cracking jokes, photo-bombing his wife’s TV interview (she was there for a Mary Kay convention) and taking a break between interview sessions to grab a strawberry smoothie. He even chided Alabama coach Nick Saban for suggesting the Crimson Tide didn’t care about being in the Sugar Bowl. "So if I’m not in a national championship game, that means I’ve got a built-in excuse?" Stoops said. Such bravado could be a sign that Stoops thinks he has a pretty good team. With Trevor Knight at quarterback and nine starters back defensively, it’s not hard to see why.

TCU has a big problem: Though they had already left, the Horned Frogs were the story the second day of Big 12 media days. Defensive end Devonte Fields, who last week was voted the league's preseason defensive player of the year, was accused of pulling a gun on his ex-girlfriend. TCU acted quickly after the news surfaced, claiming it had "separated" from Fields. If any part of the allegations levied against Fields are true, it’s difficult to see him ever playing another game in the Big 12. That is a big loss for the league. And an even bigger one for TCU, which is attempting to bounce back from one of its worst seasons in the Gary Patterson era.

Strong believes in Ash: The biggest question mark in Charlie Strong’s first season as coach at Texas is quarterback. More specifically, quarterback David Ash. But even though Ash missed virtually all of last season with concussion issues, then the spring with a fractured foot, Strong said he was impressed with Ash when watching old game film. "When Ash is healthy, he played very well," Strong said. All signs point to Ash being the starter when the Longhorns open the season. Whether he can be consistent and be healthy could go a long way in dictating how Strong’s first season goes, too.

Bowlsby does not believe in the NCAA: According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, cheating pays. And the enforcement wing of the NCAA is broken. Bowlsby painted a bleak future for the NCAA, also predicting that Olympic sports could be in trouble down the line. "If you like intercollegiate athletics the way it is, you're going to hate it going forward," he said. "There's a lot of change coming." Because of its popularity, football will always be fine. But with lawsuits and athletic department expenses about to rise dramatically, Bowlsby thinks something will have to give.

Everyone’s mind is on the playoff, even if all minds don’t quite get it: The inaugural College Football Playoff was one of the big topics of conversation this week. The Big 12 coaches all believe the league is positioned strongly for inclusion, thanks to a robust nonconference slate of games and a nine-game conference schedule. Many players, however, weren’t well-informed about how the playoff will work. One didn’t know how many teams would be in it. Another thought every conference champ automatically advanced to it. And still another had no idea just how the playoff would be picked. The playoff is going to be an adjustment for college football fans. There is going to be an adjustment for the players, too.

Trickett was always the guy: According to West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, Clint Trickett was always going to be this season’s starting quarterback. It was just a matter of him getting cleared medically. "We wanted him to be the guy," Holgorsen said. "We had to wait and see how he did coming off the shoulder surgery." Holgorsen said there was little the other West Virginia quarterbacks could have done this spring to unseat Trickett, who sat out while recovering from the shoulder injury. "He was the best option we had this year, he was the best option we had last year," Holgorsen said. "Once I was pleased with what I saw, it was a no-brainer to me."

Hill will get the ball a lot: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has had some talented offensive players over the years. But Gundy said it has been a long time since the Cowboys had a playmaker like juco running back Tyreek Hill. "He's very fast," said Gundy, comparing him to former West Virginia standout Tavon Austin. "He gets [past] that first level [of the defense] and no one is caching him." Gundy wants Hill to touch the ball at least 20 times a game. Whether he’s at running back or lined up in the slot, Hill is going to be the focal point of the Oklahoma State attack.

Snyder is still the man: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is 74 years old, just two years younger than former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who popped by media days Monday night. But Snyder is still coaching strong, with a team that was voted third in the preseason poll behind co-favorites Oklahoma and Baylor. Apparently everyone should eat only one meal a day.
DALLAS -- Winning football games holds top billing in most cases, but when discussing the most important objective to college football coaches, a great recruiting class is always high on the totem pole.

The Big 12 media days on Monday and Tuesday gave coaches a chance to share their opinions on their teams, their competitors and the future of college football. It also allowed each coach to talk about the positives and negatives of recruiting.

video
Big 12 media days came to a close Tuesday in Dallas, yet the biggest news of the day came from nearby Fort Worth, where the future of TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year, is in doubt after he has "separated" from the Horned Frogs program. Meanwhile, on site, Texas coach Charlie Strong made his debut and Oklahoma arrived with plenty of confidence.

ESPN.com's Big 12 reporters Jake Trotter, Max Olson and Brandon Chatmon answered four questions in our roundtable to wrap up the final session, which included Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.

What stuck out to you most?

Trotter: The biggest Big 12 story of the day actually didn't come from one of the five teams at media days Tuesday. Quickly, the buzz about the serious allegations levied against TCU defense end Devonte Fields made its way around the hotel with reporters and coaches alike. Later in the day, the Horned Frogs "separated" with the Big 12 preseason Defensive Player of the Year, placing Fields' collegiate-football future gravely in doubt. That could have a major impact on the Big 12 landscape.

Chatmon: The way Kansas State players seemingly take on the personality of Wildcats coach Bill Snyder is a sight to see. Quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett, center B.J. Finney, linebacker Jonathan Truman and defensive end Ryan Mueller were personable, thoughtful and engaged during their answers yet still navigated their way through the landmines some college football players seem to step on during similar settings. The overriding message: K-State is confident yet hungry heading into 2014.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP ImagesNew Texas coach Charlie Strong said all the right things at his Big 12 media days debut.
Olson: Everyone came hoping for Charlie Strong to do or say something memorable at his Big 12 media days debut. Easily a dozen TV cameras surrounded his table Tuesday afternoon before he even showed up. Strong carried himself well and said all the right things, and the talking points -- such as "putting the 'T' back in Texas" -- he's been repeating since the spring went over well. He also threw Texas fans a bone by confirming David Ash is his starting QB. All in all, a pretty solid day for the first-year coach.

What's something new you learned?

Trotter: Even though Charlie Strong arrived at Texas via Louisville, he and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops know each other well due to their connection as former Florida defensive coordinators. "I think Charlie's a great coach," Stoops said. "He's an excellent person. We've really enjoyed the times I have been around him. So I gotta be careful. I can't wish him too much luck, but I know he'll do a great job."

Chatmon: Short conversations with Texas defensive end Cedric Reed and center Dominic Espinosa left me with the impression that Charlie Strong's vision for the Longhorn program is starting to take hold. Reed said he could see signs the Longhorns could be tougher mentally this fall with guys showing up to meetings on time (or even early), and Espinosa said the mental focus of the squad has been upgraded with players willing to do the extra things to get to the another level. UT might not have a 100 percent buy-in to Strong's ways, but it sounds like things are heading in the right direction.

Olson: I'm sorry, I just have to address one of my favorite quotes of the day here. When Bill Snyder was asked to assess how optimistic he is about his team in 2014, he paused and said warmly, "My degree of optimism is negotiated daily." Then he continued a winding answer about one-day-at-a-time expectation that concluded with a laugh and Snyder proudly saying, "Didn't tell you anything, did I?" He later acknowledged he is "as old as time and that's not going to change." Basically, Bill Snyder is the best.

Your favorite exchange of the day?

Trotter: I don't know if counts as an "exchange," but Stoops purposefully photobombed his wife's TV interview. He actually did it twice. Carol Stoops, a national director with Mary Kay, was at the same hotel for a Mary Kay convention. Stoops was laid-back all day, which is usually a sign he thinks he has a good team.

Chatmon: I walked up on Tyler Lockett doing a Q&A with another reporter who asked which three people he would like to have dinner with if he could choose anyone in the world. Lockett looked at me with a sideways glance and responded: "This guy." Once our laughter subsided, Lockett answered the question. I now have a new favorite player.

Olson: I pressed Quandre Diggs on the state of his relationship with Kevin Durant. This is a sore subject for the Texas cornerback, who's a vocal member of Team LeBron. He said Durant unfollowed him on Twitter due to Diggs' preference for LeBron. Diggs is hoping to repair that relationship with his fellow Longhorn soon, and he has plenty of respect for the MVP. But Diggs was adamant he will not be able to bury the hatchet until Durant gives him a follow again.

The most impressive person?

Trotter: Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs, Iowa State center Tom Farniok, West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley and Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters were all very impressive. Diggs would make a great sports columnist someday. He has an opinion on everything. Worley, just a true sophomore, comes off like he's 10 years older than he actually is. Waters pulled off donning a bow tie, and he and Farniok were plenty sharp to extemporize on any player or team in the conference -- something many players in the conference struggle with.

Chatmon: West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley may be more impressive off the field than he was on it in 2013. The sophomore appears to be on the road to becoming one of the Big 12's best cornerbacks, but the way he handled our one-on-one session left me holding him in a high regard. He's just a sophomore, but he handled himself like a fifth-year senior. It's easy to see why Dana Holgorsen had the trust to bring a true sophomore into this setting. "Last season enhanced my work ethic, just knowing I didn't reach my goals. I told myself I wouldn't let that happen again," he said. This from a guy who started five games at cornerback as a true freshman in the Big 12.

Olson: Besides Diggs, who is absolutely money when it comes to spitting the truth in interviews, I had to say I enjoyed chatting with famed West Virginia punter Nick O'Toole -- better known as Boomstache by the Mountaineer faithful -- about his dedication to mustache maintenance. He went for the Rollie Fingers curled look Tuesday, with the help of a little wax, and was also sporting red USA socks. He is indeed a great American.
Texas held its first-ever "Under The Lights" night camp inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Friday. While the event did not immediately result in new scholarship offers or commitments, we still learned plenty from Charlie Strong's final summer camp of 2014, which featured well more than 100 participants including at least 30 ESPN 300 prospects. Here's what stood out:

1. Out-of-state commits shine

Zach Gentry had seen his future teammates on recruiting websites and kept up with them via one long group text message. But Friday's camp provided the ESPN 300 quarterback commit the first real chance for him meet the rest of the class -- and for them to meet him.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico, native flew out for the night camp and lived up to the legends of his startling size -- he's now 6-foot-7 and 237 pounds, and swears he's done growing -- while performing well under Shawn Watson's tutelage.

Gentry gravitated toward two other Texas commits with whom he shares plenty in common as outsiders: 2015 RB Kirk Johnson and 2016 WR Collin Johnson. The committed brothers from San Jose, California, made their third trip to Austin and earned rave reviews. Collin, a ESPN Junior 300 prospect, was especially impressive with 6-foot-4 size and major leaping ability.



The Johnson brothers are proud to say they did their part to ensure Gentry joined the class in May, and the trio stays in touch frequently. Surely they'll soon reach out to their newest out-of-state future teammate, Garrett Thomas of Many, Louisiana. The four-star tackle did make it to Austin as well Friday after delivering his commitment last week.

Another out-of-state recruit everyone was watching Friday: four-star QB Kai Locksley. He made his first visit to Austin this weekend and brought along father Mike Locksley, Maryland's offensive coordinator. Locksley showed off a quick release and impressive athleticism. Heck, he might be just as good a receiver at the next level, too.

Strong and Watson dedicated a lot of time to Locksley and his father after the camp wrapped up. It's going to be Texas, Florida State or Maryland in the end, and Locksley said he wants to make his decision soon.

2. Young linemen didn't disappoint

By the end of the night, most of the recruits who were getting significant buzz for their performances were underclassmen defensive linemen.

Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints defensive tackle Mike Williams, an ESPN Junior 300 prospect, was one of the breakout stars of the night and got plenty of attention from the coaching staff afterward. As usual, massive DT Kendell Jones of Killeen (Texas) Shoemaker was a star. The 6-5, 310-pound big man ranked No. 36 in the ESPN Junior 300 has visited Texas at least three times this year, including two camp trips.

Another player we'll all be talking about a year or two from now was Houston Episcopal's Marvin Wilson. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle, a 2017 prospect, said after the camp the Longhorns are his early No. 1 school ahead of TCU, Ohio State and Texas A&M. Texas also got one of the state's best at camp in Houston Westfield DT Edward Oliver. He'll be as coveted as any in-state defensive lineman in the 2016 class.

3. Brown an exciting project

New defensive line coach Chris Rumph had to be just as excited about what he saw from the defensive ends, particularly ESPN 300 athlete Louis Brown and Texas three-star commit Charles Omenihu.

Brown, a former Baylor commit capable of playing defensive line, linebacker or tight end, shined in 1-on-1 work as a speed-rushing end. In fact, on back-to-back reps, he easily got past one of the camp's best linemen, coveted 2016 tackle J.P. Urquidez. For a kid from a small Class 2A school (Burton) who isn't used to big-time competition, Brown was unfazed.

Omenihu has been bulking up and received plenty of pointers during the camp from preseason All-Big 12 end Cedric Reed. It was clear throughout the night that Omenihu and Brown have a good bond. Brown will be a project early on in college, especially in the weight room at 6-5 and 210 pounds, but there's big potential. It's probably a safe bet he ends up choosing the Longhorns.

4. Commitments coming soon?

In addition to Brown, we'll give you three more recruits who might be on commitment watch in the not-too-distant future.

Three-star center Tyler Moore (Houston/North Shore) already has his offer and was back at camp. He and his father had an extended conversation with Joe Wickline afterward, but no pledge. Four-star defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin (Houston/Cy Falls) visited Texas before the night camp and left with some news: He's announcing his decision on Sept. 15 and it's down to Texas, Oklahoma and LSU. The former OU pledge has repeatedly said the Longhorns are in the lead.

And keep an eye on WR Ryan Newsome. The ESPN 300 speedster from Aledo, Texas, came down to Austin for a full academic tour on Friday and spent time catching up with close buddy Jerrod Heard. He's not looking to decide until December after five official visits (Texas, Oklahoma, UCLA, Oregon, Tennessee) but admitted he'll be back for several Texas games in the fall, including his official for Baylor-Texas on Oct. 4.

5. The guys on the sideline

The campers who showed up but did not compete on Friday night were truly just as critical.

ESPN 300 cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd spent much of the night together watching on the field along with four-star ATH J.W. Ketchum. They spent a lot of time with Texas freshman safety John Bonney, who played with Hill last year at Houston Lamar.

Boyd and his brother, 2016 LB Demarco Boyd, visited Baylor on Friday morning and then made the trip down to Austin. Demarco is seen as potentially the key to Kris' decision, and Texas has wisely been recruiting the younger Boyd for a while now.

Texas also hosted the No. 2 recruit in the state for 2016, safety Deontay Anderson, along with a large group of his teammates at Manvel (Texas) High School. Two more big names on the sidelines: Four-star DT Darrion Daniels and ESPN 300 WR John Humphrey Jr., the former Baylor pledge who hopes to earn a UT offer soon.

Burnt Orange Breakdown: D. Jackson

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
10:00
AM ET
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we took a deep dive this summer into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series offered a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We went down the entire roster, starting with No. 1 Shiro Davis, and today we complete the series with our final player, No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 99 Desmond Jackson
Senior defensive tackle


Recruitment rewind: The state's top defensive line prospect in 2011 considered two schools: Texas and Alabama. But once Jackson got his Texas offer at a 2010 junior day, he committed on the spot and never wavered. The Houston Westfield standout ranked 31st in the final ESPN 150 for his class, was the state's No. 4 overall recruit and played in the Under Armour All-America Game.

Career so far: Jackson showed flashes as a true freshman, with 10 tackles and two sacks in 12 games, and joined the starting lineup as a sophomore. He started 11 of 13 games and recorded 33 tackles, seven TFLs and two more sacks. He backed up Chris Whaley as a junior until Whaley went down with a torn ACL at West Virginia. Jackson was credited with starts in two of Texas' final four games but was thrust back into a major role to end the year. He worked with the No. 1 defense again in spring ball.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Jackson becomes a consistent problem up the middle for interior linemen, teaming with Malcom Brown to give the Longhorns one of the nation's best defensive tackle duos. He's always been a good run-stuffer at 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds, a weight-room warrior and one of the Longhorns' strongest players. He might even be one of Texas' most underrated assets on defense. But Jackson has yet to prove he can play like an all-conference performer week in and week out.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: You know Brown, being the behemoth he is, will draw extra attention from opponents this season and probably more than a few double teams. Jackson will have to capitalize on those prime opportunities and help this defensive line get the push it needs against the run and the pass. He's been good for two sacks a year, and it'd be disappointing if Jackson isn't in the backfield wreaking havoc more often as a senior.

Future expectations: The senior came to Texas as a top-five defensive tackle prospect nationally and seems like a sure bet to end up playing in the NFL. His on-field resume to this point, while solid, probably wouldn't be enough to ensure a selection in the draft next spring. But there's no reason to think Jackson has peaked, and working with a new defensive line coach with new ideas could bring out the best in him. If the new staff can coax bigger, better things out of its veteran players like Jackson, that might make the difference between Texas being a good team and a great one.
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 91 Bryce Cottrell
Sophomore defensive end


Recruitment rewind: A rare two-star recruit for Texas, Cottrell initially chose Oregon over Arkansas during his senior season. The linebacker/end from Plano (Texas) West didn't get an offer from Texas until late January, just weeks before signing day, but that offer was enough to sway Cottrell to make an official visit and, soon after, a commitment. Mack Brown admitted on signing day that Jackson Jeffcoat (a fellow Plano West alum) played a role in helping the Horns find Cottrell late.

Career so far: Cottrell redshirted in 2012 as a freshman and is now 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds after gaining a good 10 pounds. In his first season on the field, Cottrell appeared in 11 games though primarily on special teams. He saw action with the defense in blowout wins over TCU and Texas Tech and finished the season with five stops, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

Best-case scenario for 2014: If Texas had released a post-spring depth chart, you probably would've seen Cottrell listed as Shiro Davis' backup at defensive end. If the third-year defender can keep improving he'll have an opportunity to spell the first-time starter and play a significant number of snaps off the bench. That could even lead to a few starts if Cottrell makes the most of the playing time he does receive.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Caleb Bluiett does seem like he'll be the first end off the bench this season, at least based on his performance in spring ball, and it's entirely possible explosive freshman Derick Roberson will slide into a role as a pass-rushing specialist. Still, there's not really enough depth on paper to suggest Cottrell won't play a good amount in 2014 assuming he's ready.

Future expectations: Chris Rumph did not inherit the deepest position group on the team by any means. Once Cedric Reed graduates, you're looking at a defensive end unit that has Davis, Bluiett, Cottrell, Roberson, Jake McMillon (a potential DT) and committed DE Charles Omenihu. Unless Rumph lands some juco help in this class, the third-year trio of Davis, Cottrell and Bluiett will have to be ready to start and shine. Texas has had an impressive run of NFL defensive ends lately, and it's going to be up to that trio to keep it going.
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 90 Malcom Brown
Junior defensive tackle


Recruitment rewind: The No. 12 overall recruit in the 2012 ESPN 150 and an Under Armour All-American, Brown took visits to Texas A&M, Oklahoma and TCU but was ready to shut down his recruitment at Texas' 2011 spring game. He and linebacker Timothy Cole, his best friend and teammate at Brenham (Texas) High, committed on the same day. Brown was ranked as the No. 3 recruit in the state and No. 2 among all defensive tackles nationally.

Career so far: In 2012, Brown appeared in all 13 games and notched 25 tackles as a true freshman backup behind Desmond Jackson at nose tackle, and his playing time increased as the season progressed. He broke into the starting lineup last season, starting every game and racking up 68 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two sacks, six QB pressures and five pass breakups. Brown enters his junior season as one of Texas' most promising players and perhaps its most talented defender.

Best-case scenario for 2014: A dominant season in which Brown is a consensus All-Big 12 defensive lineman, a borderline All-American and gets a first-round evaluation for the upcoming NFL draft. If that's the case, if Brown is truly that good, he could consider going pro early. Then again, from Texas' standpoint, the best-case scenario would be Brown having that all-conference-caliber season and then returning for his senior year.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Unless he gets injured, which has yet to happen in his first two years in the program, what is Brown's floor? That he's just above average and has a hard time with the double-teams he'll now face? It's hard to envision him regressing at this point, especially under the tutelage of former Alabama assistant Chris Rumph.

Future expectations: Brown had all the makings of a future NFL player out of Brenham, and he's done nothing in two years to suggest that won't be the case. At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, he has everything you'd want from a size and power standpoint. He's going to get more consistent and the next step is becoming a game-changing force up the middle week after week, which we saw flashes of in 2013. This is a mean, hard-nosed dude who's just starting to tap into his All-America potential.
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 88 Montrel Meander
Redshirt freshman wide receiver


Recruitment rewind: Meander was about as last-second a find as it gets, a relatively unknown three-star recruit from up north in the Panhandle. He committed in January 2013 to play safety at Washington State with a teammate from Amarillo Palo Duro High, and then Texas entered the picture a week before signing day. Darrell Wyatt convinced him to fly down to Austin for an official visit, and Meander committed during his trip.

Career so far: Meander redshirted in 2013 along with most of Texas' true freshmen. He had arguably the best catch of the spring game, a 30-yard snag early in the first quarter for the second-team offense.

Best-case scenario for 2014: He's going to see the field on special teams, but no doubt Meander wants a shot at making some plays for the Texas offense. Best-case, he's looking at maybe 10-20 catches as the Longhorns' No. 4 receiver if he can work his way up the depth chart. He got stronger and faster in his first year in the program, and the lowest-rated member of Texas' 2013 class could end up being a surprise standout.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Meander is a big 6-foot-3 target with a lot of raw talent, but don't be surprised if he needs more seasoning and plays a limited role this fall. Fellow second-year receivers Jacorey Warrick and Jake Oliver are probably ahead of him on the depth chart behind the three returning starters, and at least one newcomer -- likely Armanti Foreman and/or Lorenzo Joe -- could sneak up into the two-deep. Still, Meander will help on special teams regardless of his receiving duties.

Future expectations: Texas' depth chart at wide receiver is going to be wide open entering the 2016 season after Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson graduate, so that year is probably Meander's best bet for winning a starting job. He's going to push his way onto the field before then, especially if he has that knack for making tough catch he demonstrated in the spring game, but Meander's best years are most likely at least a year away.

Burnt Orange Breakdown: Cedric Reed

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
10:00
AM ET
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 88 Cedric Reed
Senior defensive end


Recruitment rewind: Reed, a four-star defensive end from Cleveland, Texas, came down to a final four of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and LSU. After taking several spring visits to UT and A&M, Reed settled on the Longhorns in April 2010. He racked up 344 tackles and 40 sacks in his three years of starting at Cleveland High and earned all-state honors as a senior.

Career so far: Reed played in seven games in his freshman year as a reserve end. As a sophomore, he was thrust into the starting lineup at midseason when Jackson Jeffcoat went down and recorded 2.5 sacks and 13 QB pressures in his six starts. Alex Okafor graduating opened up a spot for Reed to start across from Jeffcoat, and he thrived as a junior: 10 sacks, 19 TFLs, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. For that, he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from the AP and second-team honors from the league's coaches.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Reed's game is a step better in every area -- as a pass-rusher, run-stopper and locker room leader -- and he goes on to win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and earn a few All-America nods. The guy came back with unfinished business on his mind and will benefit greatly from Chris Rumph's instruction. The end Jeffcoat used to call "Too Tall" leverages his killer size and power into some big-time numbers and fills up his trophy case the way Jeffcoat did in 2013.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Beyond a season-ending injury, which would be a devastating blow for Texas' defense and the team in general, there isn't a whole lot to fear with Reed. If he's drawing double teams and is less effective than a year ago, that's just going to create big opportunities for Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson rushing up the middle. Texas was dreadful at defending the read option last season, and that's one area where Reed and Texas' ends will get exploited again if they aren't better coached-up to handle the pressure.

Future expectations: Reed is not a surefire first-round NFL draft pick, at least not yet. He needs to continue developing his pass rushing moves and his strength/physicality this fall. But Reed absolutely passes the eye test and, at 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds, should become a coveted draft prospect if he matches or improves upon last year's production. But, again, draft stock isn't the only reason Reed decided to come back. This is a man on a mission to get Texas back on the right track before he goes off to the pros, and that's his sole focus for now.

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