Opponents to watch: Williams is force out of backfield

Myah Taylor

Last weekend didn’t go as planned for the Longhorns as they fell to the Oklahoma Sooners in the 115th Red River Rivalry. With two losses this season, Texas is now out of any College Football Playoff contention. But the Big 12 is still wide open. To earn a bid in the conference championship this December, Texas may have to be perfect for the remainder of the season. On Saturday, the struggling Kansas Jayhawks will provide the Longhorns with a great opportunity to add another game to their win column, but a star running back might stand in Texas’ way.

Here are four Kansas players to watch against Texas this weekend:

No. 1 Pooka Williams Jr. — Running back

Williams shined as a freshman last season, recording 1,125 yards on 161 carries and rushing for seven touchdowns. The New Orleans native was Kansas’ star out of the backfield in 2018, with 246 yards on 11 kick returns. The All-Big 12 First Team player accumulated 150.9 all-purpose yards each game, which was good enough for first in the Big 12 and sixth in the FBS. Through five games this season, Williams has rushed for 445 yards on 90 attempts and one touchdown. Against Oklahoma two weeks ago, the sophomore had his best outing of the season with 137 yards on the day. The depleted Texas secondary, which has allowed an average of 143.3 yards per game, may have a tough time limiting Williams on Saturday. 

No. 9 Carter Stanley — Quarterback

After a redshirt freshman season and three additional years of limited game action, fifth-year senior quarterback Stanley is now the starter for the Jayhawks. On Saturday, the Longhorns will be up against a quarterback who has completed 65% of his passes and thrown 12 touchdowns through six games this season. However, Stanley has also thrown four interceptions. Over the past few weeks, the Texas defense has grabbed several interceptions, including four from West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall. Like Kendall, Stanley had limited experience as a starter coming into the season, so the Longhorns could look for another big day from the secondary.

No. 5 Azur Kamara — Linebacker

In Kansas’ matchup against the Sooners, senior Kamara made three solo tackles and one sack for a loss of eight yards. Before the Jayhawks played Oklahoma, Kamara had recorded 2.5 sacks and 10 solo tackles. The last few weeks have seen junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger sacked frequently. To avoid drive-killing negative plays, the Longhorn offensive line must key in on Kamara to give Ehlinger enough time to make plays. 

No. 11 Mike Lee — Safety

As a junior last season, Lee led the Big 12 with two forced fumbles and finished 2018 with 67 total tackles. So far this season, the New Orleans native has recorded 32 tackles and two passes defended. Against Oklahoma, the senior nearly intercepted one of graduate transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts’ passes and made a pair of solo tackles. While the Texas receiving core has done a solid job at fighting for balls on passing plays, Lee is still a player the Longhorns should try to limit on Saturday.