Offense on the right track while defense reboots

Lauren Giudice

Offensive line B
The offensive line has been relatively consistent most of season, as David Ash has been sacked six times so far for 49 yards lost. The line was dominated by Oklahoma but bounced back against Baylor on Saturday. With leaders like Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins, the line has been opening gaps for the running backs and allowing them to sit at fourth in rushing yards in the Big 12 with a 196-yard average per game.

Running backs B+
With Malcolm Brown’s injury, the rest of the running back corps has stepped up.  Joe Bergeron is tied for third in the FBS with 84 points and has accumulated 14 touchdowns, including five against Baylor.  True freshman Johnathan Gray has continued to improve and scored his first touchdown of the season Saturday. In addition, Daje Johnson has stepped up as another threat in the backfield and led the team in rushing against Oklahoma with 41 yards.

Wide receivers B
Mike Davis describes last season’s lack of passing as “terrible.” That certainly has changed. With the development of David Ash, the receivers, especially Davis, are getting the ball more. Jaxon Shipley hasn’t been used as much in recent weeks, but they are still causing opponent’s secondary trouble. Texas sits in seventh in the Big 12 in passing offense with 261.3-yards per game and fifteen touchdowns, but it is certainly an improvement from last year.  In the 2011 season, the Longhorns had 16 total passing touchdowns.

Quarterback B+
David Ash is arguably the most improved player on the team. He is leading the offense that is currently tied for sixth in the country in scoring with an average of 44.4 points per game. After accumulating eight interceptions last season, he is being much smarter with the ball and only has three interceptions so far. The sophomore is averaging 237.6 yards per game and has 12 touchdowns. In addition to his improved numbers, he is clearly more confident and has evolved into a leader.


Defensive line B-
Alex Okafor leads the line and is tied for first in the Big 12 with 7.5 sacks. With Jackson Jeffcoat out for the season, Cedric Reed and Reggie Wilson will take over. Reed had a sack against Baylor and showed potential, but Jeffcoat’s absence will be felt in the final five games of the season. The Longhorns’ run defense problems start at the front and have cost them games. Teams are averaging 215.7 rushing yards against the Longhorns. 

Linebackers D
During Texas’ game Saturday against Baylor, former Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson tweeted, “Man who are these linebackers for Texas.” He also noted that the defense needs Jordan Hicks back.

Robinson is definitely right. 
Like the defensive line, the young linebackers are struggling to stop the run. Demarco Cobbs, Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson are making improvement and showed that with 26 combined tackles against Baylor. But the Bears still accumulated 255 rushing yards. The linebackers are the weakest aspect of the defense and need to start making plays and hitting tackles.

Defensive backs C
Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs were expected to be two of the best cornerbacks in the country. Diggs is second in the Big 12 in passes defended and fourth in interceptions but has been burned a few times this season. The two have struggled with tackling all season and are a part of a group that’s in eighth in pass defense in the Big 12 with 313.8-yards given up per game. 

Kenny Vaccaro is one of the players who is most frustrated by the defense’s struggles. His disappointment makes sense, as he has been playing well and leading the defense. Strong safety Adrian Phillips is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to missed tackles.

Special Teams B-
Special teams have been very inconsistent. Three games into the season, the kickoff coverage team was being praised.  But the corps gave up big returns to Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

Nick Jordan went 3-for-7 on field goals while starting for injured Nick Fera.  Though Fera has returned, he missed a potential game-tying field goal against West Virginia and an extra point against Oklahoma.

On the other hand, Nick Rose has been excellent on kickoffs and Alex King is averaging a solid 46.4-yards per punt.