Texas Longhorns: Texas Longhorns
When Malcom Brown hit the field, everyone else stopped to watch.
Brown, a projected mid-first round pick, was the star of Texas’ pro day as expected Tuesday. The coveted defensive tackle stood by his NFL scouting combine testing numbers but did perform positional drills run by three NFL defensive line coaches: the Colts’ Gary Emanuel, the Lions’ Kris Kocurek and the Bengals’ Jay Hayes.
“I came in, attacked the work, did my best job and whatever that gets me is where I’ll go,” Brown said.
The 6-foot-2, 319-pound defensive lineman is currently the No. 17 pick in mock drafts by both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. That pick belongs to the San Diego Chargers, though Brown said he doesn’t know where he’ll take pre-draft visits for workouts.
Brown did say he’s excited by the possibility of the Lions showing interest after losing Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins in free agency.
“It would be great,” Brown said. “I idolize myself after him. He plays really great and I’ll try to go somewhere to make an immediate impact.”
A year after having no players selected in the NFL draft, the Longhorns have several more standouts who will merit mid- to late-round consideration.
Jordan Hicks said he was out to prove he can be a three-down linebacker in his positional drills, and he already has visits lined up with the Texans and Eagles.
Running back Malcolm Brown improved his 40-yard dash from the NFL scouting combine, running an unofficial 40 in the mid-4.4 range on Tuesday after clocking 4.62 in Indianapolis.
“I want to be a four-down back who can run the ball, pass protect, catch the ball out of the backfield and, on fourth down, special teams,” Brown said. “That’s something I’m going to put my mind to and work as hard as I can.”
Cornerback Quandre Diggs was proud of his footwork in defensive back drills and is still trying to fight the perception that a 5-9 corner will have limited opportunities at the next level.
“Everybody is talking about slot corner but, you know, get on a team and let me play slot and I’ll show you I can play outside,” Diggs said. “I just need a chance, need a shot, and I think it’ll come in the draft. I think I’ll surprise a lot of people.”
Defensive end Cedric Reed did not participate in the pro day while he continues to recover from January surgery for a torn meniscus suffered during his senior season. He performed only the bench press at the NFL scouting combine last month. Receiver John Harris, who was not invited to the scouting combine despite a 1,000-yard season, likely raised his stock with an unofficial 4.5 in the 40.
Other Texas pro day notes:
- Receiver Jaxon Shipley made a big impression on scouts with an unofficial 40 time around 4.45. With brother Jordan Shipley in attendance for support, the younger Shipley tested well and looked sharp catching passes from former Texas quarterback David Ash.
- Nate Boyer, the Longhorns’ 34-year-old former Green Beret, is hoping to find an opportunity in the NFL as a long snapper. He bulked up 20 pounds to 216 and is hoping for at least a tryout after working out for scouts Tuesday. He was honorably discharged by the Army last month after 10 years of service, including spending the past two summers stationed in Afghanistan.
- Tight end Geoff Swaim helped his chances on Tuesday with a strong testing day. Swaim, primarily a blocker in his two seasons in Austin, produced a 35 ½ inch vertical and a 40 in the 4.6 range. Defensive back Mykkele Thompson, who wants to prove he’s a tall corner at the next level, had a good day as well with a 40 time in the 4.4 range.
We've been tracking this not-so-advanced statistic on Texas' defense throughout the season because it continues to amaze.
Texas' defense has been responsible for allowing a total of 129 points in Big 12 play this season, an average of 16.1 points per game. Throw out the special teams TDs and the offensive turnovers for scores and you get 129. It's a pretty impressive number.
Last season, against these same eight Big 12 opponents Texas has already faced, the Horns' defense was responsible for 185 points allowed. Scoring against Texas' defense is down 30 percent in Big 12 play under Charlie Strong, Vance Bedford and the new coaching staff.
You can credit that substantial improvement to a few things, and the number of veterans Texas has on D is certainly one of them. But it seems pretty clear Strong, Bedford and the staff have gotta much more out of this group than the previous coaches did.
2. Ten and nine
Tyrone Swoopes' first season as Texas' starting quarterback has evoked a lot of good statistical comparisons lately, from the first seasons of Teddy Bridgewater to Colt McCoy to Vince Young. But what about Trevone Boykin?
TCU's Heisman contender quarterback debuted under similar circumstances in 2012. He started TCU's final nine games after Casey Pachall (rehab) was lost for the season. Boykin wasn't supposed to start. He was supposed to back up and learn from a veteran. He was thrown into the fire, and some weeks went better than others.
Take a look at the stats from Boykin's nine starts in 2012 and compare them to Swoopes' numbers so far in 2014. A little too similar, aren't they?
Boykin made the leap this year because of a new offensive scheme and better QB coaching, but also because he's in his fourth year. It required a lot of time and patience and tough games, but he got there. His rise this season ought to provide Swoopes with a little inspiration.
This is still one of my favorite stats about last year's TCU team, one that just looks insane now that the Horned Frogs' offense has come this far.
A year ago, TCU was averaging 3.7 points per game in the first quarter and 8.8 points per game in the first half. That's a pretty good and simple explanation for why they were playing so many close games. Gary Patterson's defense kept them in games they had no business winning. They went 4-8. When you can't score early in games, you're only putting more pressure on your whole team.
This year? The Frogs are putting up 13.2 per game in the first quarter and outscoring foes 230-120 in the first half. They took 14-0 leads against Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. If TCU can do that again on Thursday, how will Texas respond?
Three more to remember
18.6 percent: We mentioned this one a few weeks ago. Going into the Texas Tech game, the Longhorns were 3-5 and their odds of reaching six wins were 18.6 percent, per ESPN Stats & Info. So yes, Strong, his coaches and his players pulled off something kind of improbable here.
74 percent: In terms of "game control," TCU is indeed one of the nation's best. The Frogs rank No. 7 nationally in that ESPN metric and have held a lead for 74 percent of their total plays this season. In Big 12 play, that percentage is nearly 66 percent.
Two: The number of plates Strong says he loads up when he eats Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy the holiday and enjoy the game, everybody.
Center Dominic Espinosa, a 40-game starter for the Longhorns, announced Tuesday on his Twitter account he will not seek a sixth season of eligibility. He started every game for Texas in 2011, 2012 and 2013 but suffered a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery during the Longhorns' opener against North Texas.
I can't imagine a better place to graduate and play football. Texas, thanks for the memories. pic.twitter.com/W5318BzWbF— DOM (@DomEspinosa) November 25, 2014
As expected, nose tackle Desmond Jackson declared Monday that he will return for one more season. He's redshirting this year after going down with a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot against UCLA. He has played in 41 games and started 16 in four seasons.
The Longhorns' Senior Night home game against TCU is Thursday. Two more Texas senior starters, linebacker Jordan Hicks and receiver John Harris, also could have an option for a sixth year due to past injuries.
Here's an interesting testamant to how stingy Texas' defense has been in 2014.
The Longhorns have held opponents scoreless on a total of 109 drives this season. They rank No. 4 nationally in that category behind Louisville, Utah State and Ole Miss. Included in that 109 are 71 drives in which Texas' defense got off the field in two minutes or less, and 53 in which no first downs were allowed.
Texas' defense is giving up points on 22 percent of possessions, or about two out of every nine drives. Its ability to keep teams out of the end zone and off the scoreboard has gone a long way toward making up for all of this team's flaws, injuries and inexperience.
Daxx Garman threw as many as any Big 12 quarterback when he took over the job, and his 25 completions of 20-plus in his first five games ranked No. 2 in the conference. He's completed just one in each of OSU's three consecutive losses. Over the past month, Garman has the conference's worst passer efficiency among Big 12 starters.
The Longhorns, meanwhile, have given up the third-fewest completions of 20-plus in the Big 12. They've not too vulnerable to those long bombs and would probably welcome Garman throwing deep as much as possible.
Ten game in, Texas has still scored just 20 points in the third quarter this season. Twenty. That's crazy. (Somehow, one FBS school has actually been worse: Vanderbilt has scored 13 through 10 games.)
In Big 12 play, Texas has scored a total of six points in the third quarter. Just to put that in perspective, TCU has scored 93 third-quarter points in Big 12 games and the conference average (excluding UT) is 48.
Why the Horns continue to have so much trouble in that quarter is hard to understand, but they've been shut out in the third in four of their five losses. Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline are going to need a lot better post-halftime plan for this must-win week.
Three more to remember
Nine: The number of offensive linemen who have started at least one game for Texas this season. Wickline has been earning that paycheck of his. The current lineup will be making its fifth start together if Kent Perkins is good to go.
8.6 percent: In Big 12 play this season, Oklahoma State's line is giving up sacks on 8.6 percent of their snaps. That's the worst rate in the conference. Garman has taken 24 sacks, eighth-most among all Power 5 conference quarterbacks.
714: Tyreek Hill's return yardage this season. He has two kickoff return TDs and four punt returns of 20-plus yards. He changes field position in an instant. Texas would be wise to kick away from him.
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford makes Texas' pass defense sound easy. If the Longhorns are getting to the quarterback, he says defenders need to cover for only three to four seconds. His defenders have made that philosophy look awfully good nine games into this season.
All of that success will be tested this week by West Virginia, especially Kevin White. He's one of the nation's most prolific receivers, but Oklahoma State and TCU held him to a combed six catches for 55 yards in the past two weeks, snapping his seven-game streak of 100-yard performances.
The two best offenses in the Big 12 had their season-worst performances against West Virginia's defense.
WVU held Baylor to 318 yards and 27 points. TCU put up 389 yards and 31 points. Two of the nation's most explosive offenses combined to average less than 4.7 yards per play and punted a total of 16 times.
The Mountaineers didn't give up points on seven of Baylor's final eight drives, then did the same on six of TCU's seven first-half drives. Getting all those stops is a big reason why they almost went 2-0 in those games, and a big reason why Texas should not take this foe lightly.
You won't see it on the stat sheet, but Tyrone Swoopes's increasing production in the run game is worth noting.
Excluding sacks, Swoopes has rushed for a total of 297 yards in Texas' last five games. He actually has outrushed Johnathan Gray during that stretch.
He's becoming adept at turning bootlegs into yards when his receivers are covered up, and the use of read-option concepts have had some success too. It's an aspect of Swoopes' game that is developing nicely and can prove dangerous in these must-win games.
Three more to remember
-5874: The average attendance at Texas home games this season, through four games, is down from 98,976 last year to 93,102. Not hard to see why Strong is focused this week on getting Texas' home-field advantage back.
54-26: The run-to-pass ratio of West Virginia's offensive playcalling against TCU. According to West Virginia MetroNews, that was the most run-heavy game of Dana Holgorsen's four years as head coach and even his six previous years as a coordinator.
77.1 percent: Texas is set to lose more than three-fourths of its wide receiver production this offseason. It'd be nice to see a young wideout like Jacorey Warrick, Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard or Armanti Foreman emerge over this final stretch of the season.
This is kind of a complicated statistic, so we will try to explain it as clearly as possible, because it illustrates a peculiar problem.
Texas was shut out for the first time this season a week ago. But these Longhorns had already played a lot of snaps with zero on the scoreboard. They didn't score on their first 50 offensive snaps against BYU. They were scoreless for their first 72 against Baylor, all 52 against Kansas State, and the first 24 against Kansas.
Add every game up and you get a total of 246 snaps this season in which Texas' offense has been playing in a shutout. The Longhorns rank second-worst nationally in that stat behind SMU. They have logged a total of 559 plays this season. So you could technically say there has been a zero on the scoreboard for 44 percent of Texas' offensive snaps.
You can point to several factors for this -- play-calling, execution, finishing drives, line play, a young quarterback, etc. -- but this week, against a Texas Tech team that just gave up the Big 12 single-game scoring record, would be a good time to start reversing that trend.
2. 18.6 percent
So Texas has about a 60 percent chance of beating Texas Tech this weekend, according to ESPN FPI projection. A victory this week would put the Longhorns at 4-5 with three games left. But what are their odds of reaching six wins?
According to 10,000 FPI simulations, there is an 18.6 percent chance that Texas finishes 6-6 or better.
Texas will have to pull off one of two difficult feats to get to that six-win goal: either win three in a row, or two of the next three and then an upset of TCU. FPI currently tabs the Horned Frogs' odds of beating Texas in the season finale at about 77 percent.
3. 75 percent
Texas Tech's defensive statistics are about as ugly as you would expect. Run defense and penalties have been two of this team's greatest weaknesses, but there is another flaw just as damaging.
Opposing teams are scoring touchdowns on 75 percent of their trips to the red zone. That rate of 27 touchdowns in 36 red-zone drives ranks second-worst in FBS behind UTEP.
Can Texas take advantage there? The Longhorns rank below-average nationally in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on nearly 59 percent (17/29). And they were abysmal in K-State territory last week. A team that has had so many missed opportunities in 2014 should know by now it must play smart once it reaches the 20.
Three more to remember
Seven: Sacks Texas Tech has allowed in eight games, a rate of less than 2 percent of their snaps. After not getting much push last week, Texas' defensive line needs to challenge this group.
No. 8: Texas still ranks No. 8 nationally in pass defense at 171.4 yards per game and is top-15 in yards per attempt and completion.
23: Total passes Texas Tech freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes has attempted. Hard to know what to expect from him if he does get the start Saturday.
Take a closer look at what Texas’ defense has done on a drive-by-drive basis in its first two Big 12 games.
The Longhorns did not allow a single point until their 20th drive in conference play. Throw out three drives that ended with the clock expiring to end a half and you get a better sense of this group’s dominance.
Texas has now given up scores on just three of its first 24 drives in Big 12 play. Half of those 24 drives have ended in punts. Five have ended with a turnover on downs and four have ended with takeaways.
By the way: If you throw in the UCLA game, Texas’ defense hasn’t allowed points on 28 of its last 35 possessions, with 18 of those 28 drives ending in punts.
Texas’ handling of Sterling Shepard will go a long way toward deciding if Trevor Knight struggles or succeeds in his first Red River Showdown start.
Shepard is the true go-to receiver this season, getting exactly one-third of Knight’s targets and has accounted for one-third of his completions. At 30 catches for 651 yards, Shepard already has his career-high for single-season receiving yards and we’re only five games in.
Among receivers with 30 or more receptions, nobody in FBS can top Shepard’s 21.7 yards per reception. And he’s gained first downs on 22 of those catches. He’s instant offense. But that’s not the only reason he’ll be so important to Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas on Saturday.
Knight has completed passes to only three other wide receivers this season. His two interceptions against TCU came on throws intended for Shepard. At a time when the young quarterback is struggling again, Texas needs to take away his safety blanket as frequently as possible.
When Oklahoma inevitably loads the box to stop the run, is Tyrone Swoopes going to be able to make the defense pay?
On pass attempts of 15-plus yards this season, Swoopes is 5-of-23 with no touchdowns and one interception. Texas coaches have acknowledged the need for downfield shots, and Swoopes is doing a good job of passing them up when they’re not open. But he’s connecting on about only one per game.
Case McCoy’s four completions of 20-plus yards against OU last year were a game-changer: two went for TDs, three came on third downs. Swoopes doesn’t have to match that. But when he gets the 1-on-1 or busted coverage he wants, he can’t hesitate and miss his throwing window.
Swoopes will need to be sharper than ever, because this has been a weakness for OU. Though the Sooners do have nine interceptions, they’ve also given up more 20-plus yard passes than any other Big 12 team, including seven against TCU.
Three more to remember
16: The number of points Texas has given up in the first half this season, including three in the second quarter. Texas ranks No. 3 nationally in first-half scoring defense behind Baylor and Marshall. And yet, Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford must wonder why their D has allowed 80 points in the second half.
256: Samaje Perine’s rushing yards after contact this season, best in the Big 12. He’s gained 50.6 percent of his rushing yards this season after absorbing the first hit.
1: The number of tackles for loss Texas produced on Baylor rushing plays. That’s a big credit to Baylor’s offensive line, and it could be a big problem for Texas against OU. It must get stops in the backfield.
1. No. 1
Let's just make this clear: Baylor does have the No. 1 offense in the nation. Dispute this if you want, but let's look at a larger sample size than Bears' four games of 2014.
On Nov. 17, 2012, BCS No. 1 Kansas State came to Waco and got clobbered, losing 52-24 loss to a Baylor team that entered the night with a 4-5 record. This was one of the great turning-point games of the Art Briles era. Including that game, Baylor has now won 19 of its last 21 games.
The Bears have led the country in these offensive categories during that 21-game stretch: scoring offense (52.5 ppg), total offense (617.7 ypg), plays per game (84.4), touchdowns (138), first downs (610), plays gaining 10 or more yards (442) and plays gaining 20-plus (165)
They've outgained opponents by a margin of 5,434 yards. This offense scores on 50 percent of its drives and scores touchdowns on almost 44 percent. When Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford jokes that this offense making it hard for him to sleep and eat this week, there might be some truth to that.
The much-hyped duo of Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown is averaging 4.0 yards per carry this season. Neither has surpassed 100 rushing yards in a game this season. They are playing behind an inexperienced offensive line and they will be all season long.
Texas stubbornly tried to run into a loaded box at Kansas. The results weren't great. Baylor will focus on stopping Brown and Gray and making this Longhorn offense one-dimensional. How is Joe Wickline, the offensive coordinator in charge of the run game, going to adjust?
Two numbers worth keeping in mind: Brown and Gray are averaging 5.25 yards per carry on outside runs and 3.08 yards on inside runs. Based on ESPN Stats & Info's advanced data, Texas' inside rushing rate as a team ranks fifth-worst among Power 5 conference teams. There's a logical explanation for this: Texas has good blocking tight ends to help clear a path when they get outside. It also makes sense that Texas tried the speed option last week as another method for getting to the edge.
What made Baylor a complete team last season was a defense that knew exactly how to complement its high-flying offense. They focus their attention on a few critical measurements of good defense and they master them. A big one: three-and-outs.
Baylor's defense has forced 85 three-and-outs on defense since the start of the 2013 season. That's best in FBS. They're tied for sixth nationally this season with 22 through four games. Offenses facing Baylor have gone three-and-out and punted on nearly one-third of their drives (32.2 percent) since 2013.
Shawn Watson is emphasizing the importance of first-down gains this week, an area in which Texas ranks 120th nationally at 4.35 yards per play. They have to be a lot better, or else the pressure will get turned up on Tyrone Swoopes in a big way.
Three more to remember
27.9: Baylor's first-half scoring average in its past 10 conference games. Texas' struggling offense can't be expected to match four touchdowns in the first half.
0.79 percent: Bryce Petty's interception rate since the start of 2013, best among active FBS players. He's turned it over on four of his 504 attempts as a starter. He's not going to give this game away.
0-12: Baylor's record under Briles when its offense is held to fewer than 20 points.
Kansas got spanked in its only meeting with a Power 5 conference team this season, a 41-3 loss at Duke. How'd the Blue Devils do it? Well, they went ahead 17-0 in the game's first 10 minutes. When you pounce that quickly, you're typically going to have a good day.
Texas has scored just 7 points in the first quarter this season, and the yardage numbers aren't any better. The one that's most difficult to believe? The Longhorns are averaging 19 rushing yards in the first quarter. While it is important to establish Tyrone Swoopes' rhythm with short passes and tempo, getting the run game rolling early on would make his job much easier. Texas has to find a way to start faster on Saturday.
2. 41 (16)
A storyline that seemed to fall through the cracks last week was Texas losing senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson for the season to a foot injury. Hassan Ridgeway, a freaky 6-foot-4, 307-pound sophomore, will take his place in the lineup. And while Ridgeway has a high ceiling and has turned up his game in recent months, the absence of Jackson is a costly loss.
He provided this defensive line with 41 career games of experience, including 16 starts, and the role he played is consistently underappreciated. As a quality 1-technique defensive tackle, Jackson was a space eater who cleared room for Malcom Brown to shine in Texas' first three games. Ridgeway is a more natural 3-technique, like Brown, who's had to learn a new role during the bye.
Others will chip in, and Vance Bedford hinted that you could see a freshman or two debut this week. I wouldn't be shocked if we see some more three-man fronts, too. Fans have every reason to be excited about Ridgeway and his high potential. But Jackson was a critical cog in this defense, against the run and pass, and his contributions will be missed in ways that might not be obvious right away.
Besides its five starters, Texas has just two available backup offensive linemen with playing experience. Darius James has appeared in two games this season and Curtis Riser, who hasn't been suiting up lately, played in four games last year.
We covered this problem a little immediately after the BYU game, but it's worth repeating because this startling lack of depth can't get solved with a bye week. Shawn Watson said the staff is pushing for a youth movement among the second-teamers (true freshmen Elijah Rodriguez, Jake McMillon and Terrell Cuney may need to come along quickly) but right now, they simply don't have many guys they can trust beyond the starting five.
Starting right guard Taylor Doyle is listed as the backup center on the depth chart. James backs up both left and right tackle. Maybe we see more of him against Kansas. But the point? This group absolutely cannot afford another injury to a starter, and they do need Desmond Harrison back and playing at a high level.
Three more to remember
3.46: Had Texas not given up a 58-yard run on UCLA's first play of the second half, its defense would've held the Bruins to 3.46 yards per carry instead of 4.62. It was one bad bust, but contrary to popular belief, Texas' second-half run defense wasn't exactly shoddy.
9-18: Montell Cozart hasn't had an easy time getting the ball to his best receiver, Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. They've hooked up on just nine of 18 attempts with no 20-plus yard gains.
4.3: Texas receivers rank last in the Big 12 in yards after catch at 271 yards and 4.3 YAC per reception. Charlie Strong is still looking for a wideout who can turn the short route into the big score.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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
Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
TBD Oklahoma State Central Michigan TBD Northern Iowa Iowa State TBD South Dakota State Kansas TBD South Dakota Kansas State TBD Texas Notre Dame TBD Akron Oklahoma TBD Sam Houston State Texas Tech TBD Georgia Southern West Virginia