Hill poses biggest threat in Stillwater showdown

Robert Larkin

Despite not playing a game this past weekend, the No. 6 Longhorns continued their ascent in the rankings thanks to Purdue toppling then-No. 2 Ohio State. But Texas will put its ranking on the line this weekend in a tricky road matchup against Oklahoma State. A potential loss to the Cowboys would derail the Longhorns’ playoff outlooks and potentially foil a Big 12 Championship game appearance. 

Here are Oklahoma State players who will look to make that happen: 

#5 Justice Hill — Running back  

When asked about Oklahoma State’s biggest threats during his press conference on Monday, Texas head coach Tom Herman pointed to running back Justice Hill and added a short, but apt description. 

“This guy’s a stud,” Herman said. 

Hill has certainly garnered attention as one of the Big 12’s best running backs during his time in Stillwater. After claiming the conference rushing title last season, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native earned first team All-Big 12 honors.

Hill possess the attributes of a game-breaking running back — the dynamic speed, elusive cutting ability and sharp quickness — but even more impressive has been his transition into becoming a reliable option for the Oklahoma State offense. 

#2 Tylan Wallace — Wide receiver 

Oklahoma State has developed a reputation for producing elite receivers in recent years, and many believe wide receiver Tylan Wallace to be the next player in that bunch. During his second season in Stillwater, Wallace has broken out as one of the premier playmakers in the conference. Through seven games, the Fort Worth, Texas, product has recorded 40 receptions for 718 yards and four touchdowns. 

But what makes Wallace’s presence on Saturday so important? It’s because while the Longhorns boast a tough defense, their secondary can be taken advantage of. In each of Texas’ seven games this season, they’ve given up at least one pass play of 40 yards or more. And Wallace is certainly talented enough to expose any lapses in the Texas defensive backs and continue that trend. 

#19 Justin Phillips — Linebacker 

One Cowboy who has undergone significant improvement under new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is senior Justin Phillips. Specifically, Phillips has excelled in run support, collecting 53 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss already this season. That tackle total has already surpassed his tally from last season.

When Oklahoma State faced Texas last season, he had the best game of his season. He recorded a season-high seven tackles against the Longhorns during the Cowboys’ 13-10 overtime victory. If Phillips can produce a similar performance this weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma State will be much more effective in handling the Longhorn ground game.  

#94 Jordan Brailford — Defensive end 

In his fourth season with the Cowboys, redshirt junior Jordan Brailford has improved to become one of the best defensive players in the Big 12. After recording five sacks and 11 tackles for loss last season, Brailford has already collected eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss through seven games in 2018. Those figures put him as the conference leader. 

Brailford failed to record a sack in the Cowboys’ last game against Kansas State, but he will look to rebound this weekend against a Texas team he performed well against in 2017. In that matchup, he recorded six tackles and 1.5 sacks. But this is an improved offensive line for the Longhorns — one that ranks third in the Big 12 in sacks allowed. Brailford will face two formidable offensive tackles in Samuel Cosmi and graduate transfer Calvin Anderson, and his success against them will determine how well Oklahoma State rushes the passer on Saturday.