The Baylor Bears travel down I-35 this weekend to face off against a team in a similar position to them. Both teams are coming off blowout losses to rivals, in games that were at least expected to be close. Baylor is coming off of a 49-21 shellacking at the hands of the TCU Horned Frogs, while Texas lost to Oklahoma 63-21. Two teams coming off of embarrassing losses. So, who should the Bears be on the lookout for in this battle?
The Longhorns run out three excellent running backs, so it was hard to pick just one to highlight here. The starter is Brown, though he has missed the last two games due to a left ankle injury that he is still recovering from. Brown's status is not known at this time, but if he doesn't play, Gray and Bergeron are more than capable of filling his role. Gray and Bergeron are currently listed as the co-starters with Brown and Jeremy Hills (a 3rd down specialist who is excellent in the screen game) in the 3rd position.
Bergeron is the power back in this equation and has scored 9 touchdowns on the season. He is a strong inside runner, with good size at 6-1, 230 lbs. The sophomore from Mesquite also leads the Longhorns in rushing yards and attempts (73 carries for 301 yards). The future star of the position is Gray, a 5-star freshman who has been used in a variety of ways by Mack Brown and his staff. He has primarily been their "wildcat" ball handler and has done a very good job at that. He is a game breaker with good speed, and is probably their best all-around back.
- Alex Okafor – Senior Defensive End, 6-4, 265 lbs
Another highly rated guy that took a while to pan out, but boy did he blow up last year and this year. With 7 sacks in 2011, Okafor announced himself to college football as one of the best pass rushing defensive ends in the game. This year, he has lived up to those expectations with 6 sacks already and has added 6.5 tackles for loss. Okafor is a very good speed rusher, someone that is a more developed version of Devonte Fields, the freshman defensive end from TCU that gave the Bears fits last week in their loss. He has the abilities to change the game from his end position, one of very few defensive players that can do that in the Big 12.
- Kenny Vaccaro – Senior Safety, 6-1, 218 lbs
Vaccaro is another senior starter for the Longhorns who has developed into the leader of the defense. The senior safety is the leading tackler for Texas with 40. He controls the defense from the safety position. Vaccaro is more of steady player than one that makes big plays. He only has 5 career interceptions, including 2 this year. He also only has 2 career sacks, both coming last season. He will be in the right spot most of the time, and is good in coverage, but is probably better suited for runs support.
- Quandre Diggs – Sophomore Cornerback, 5-10, 200 lbs
Diggs is one of the best pure cover corners the Bears will see. The only negative about him is that he is only 5-10. More than likely he will be lined up on Terrance Williams, even in one-on-one situations. Diggs is great when the ball is in the air, but does have issues with jump balls. He is an okay tackler, but can sometimes get beat with pure speed. This is a very interesting matchup for the Bears and Terrance Williams, who would seem to be a bad matchup for Diggs. The sophomore though is a very good player and will battle. He has been significantly better this season than when the Bears saw him last year. He has 3 interceptions on the year already.
- Jaxon Shipley – Sophomore Wide Receiver, 6-1, 192 lbs
The name should sound familiar and so should the game. Shipley, the young brother of Jordan who tormented Baylor and the Big 12 for 4 years is one of the better receiving options the Longhorns have. They really only run out Shipley, Mike Davis and Marquise Goodwin as wide receivers. They are the only receivers on the team with more than 3 receptions on the season. Shipley is more of a slot receiver in style, and he has 23 receptions for 253 yards and four touchdowns. He leads the team in receiving touchdowns, and is second in receptions and yards (to Davis). Shipley is a type of player that has given the Bears fits the last few years (think Tavon Austin of WVU or Ryan Swope of Texas A&M). He is more of the underneath route runner, while Davis stretches the field better.