Sports editors discuss season opener, depth chart surprises

As a primer for tomorrow’s game against Rice, our beat writers Austin Laymance and Christian Corona as well as Double Coverage editor Sameer Bhuchar participated in a live chat Wednesday to discuss the depth chart and the Week 1 match against the Owls. Here are some highlights:

Q: Were you surprised by any of the choices on the depth chart?
Corona: I thought for sure D.J. Grant or Blaine Irby would be the starting tight end, but seeing Dominique Jones at the No. 1 tight end spot was surprising to me. Laymance: I was surprised to see Dominic Espinosa as the starting center. He replaced David Snow, who moved to guard. Gilbert gets the call, experience was a major factor in the coaches’ decision. Translation: not surprised.
Corona: Not surprised at all by Gilbert being named the starter, but it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll still be the guy taking the snaps at the end of the year. He needs to step up.

Q: Will Case McCoy see any playing time in week one, in mop up time or if Gilbert struggles?
Laymance: Yes. Look for him to get in the game against Rice if Gilbert struggles or if the Longhorns run away with it.
Corona: Well, he should see more playing time than he did last year (only one pass attempt). The coaches need to make sure Case McCoy gets his fair share of snaps so they know what they can expect if Gilbert doesn’t play well.
Bhuchar: Do you guys think he should see some time earlier in the game? Like say, the start of the 4th or even to end the third? Assuming Texas is running away with [the game] by then.
Laymance: Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was adamant this week that McCoy needs to be ready to play. He said the backups need to do more preparation than the starter. He could see time in second half, but don’t expect to see him before then barring injury.

Q: What are your thoughts on how well Gilbert will be ready for the game versus Rice (both physically and mentally)? This year, he has two QBs in McCoy and Ash breathing hard on his tail, so he can’t afford to play the way he did last year.
Laymance: Physically, he’s fine. Mentally, he says he’s worked on becoming a vocal leader in the huddle and on the field.
Corona: If the quarterback competition was as tight as the coaches said it was, Gilbert’s leash should be a short one. But I think he’s more ready than any of the other QBs considering how much more experience he has. Remember — Colt McCoy made tremendous strides between his sophomore and junior years.

Q: Who are some freshmen standouts not named Brown or Diggs?
Laymance: Desmond Jackson makes it on the two-deep as Kheeston Randall’s backup at D-tackle. He’s been a nice surprise. Coaches say he’s very tough to block.
Corona: Jaxon Shipley. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has said he can’t tell the difference between him and his older brother Jordan on tape. He’ll be a starting receiver and first-team punt returner. Not bad for a true freshman.
Laymance: Joe Bergeron has burst on the scene at tailback, going to break out from under fellow frosh RB Malcolm Brown’s shadow.
Bhuchar: Let’s shift our focus to this Rice team fellas … Sam McGuffie, or the “human hurdler,” is a speedy running back … you see Texas having any problems containing him?
Laymance: Don’t think he will get around the edge, Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are two of the fastest DEs in the Big 12.
Corona: Texas has one of the best front sevens in the country, especially with Kheeston Randall at defensive tackle inside. McGuffie might have a couple big runs, but the Longhorns’ defense will be ready for him.
Laymance: McGuffie wasn’t faster than the Texas defenders last September. Hard for me to see something different on Saturday. This isn’t a C-USA defense.

Printed on Friday, September 2, 2011 as: Rice's Sam McGuffie, depth chart surprises.