From The Other Side: Texas

Each week, BearsIllustrated.com will dig deeper into the opponent by interviewing a media member from the opposing team. This week William Wilkerson, from HornsDigest.com, helps us learn more about The University of Texas.

In our fifth question and answer series, BearsIllustrated caught up with HornsDigest.com Publisher, William Wilkerson to dig deeper in to the Texas Longhorns and answer questions regarding the upcoming game against in Austin, Texas. This game will be televised nationally on the ABC/ESPN Network on Saturday, at 2:30 PM.

--- Tyrone Swoopes has shown improvement each week. How has he embraced the leadership role, since he became the full time starter?

I don’t think anyone envisioned Swoopes taking control of this offense as well as he has. Yes, even despite Texas’ 1-2 record with him as the starter.

If you’ve followed Swoopes from high school, where he went to tiny Whitewright (Texas), you would have seen a player that wasn’t very demonstrative and vocal. It’s just not in his nature. He’s fairly passive and just all around a quieter individual.

And his performance in Texas’ spring game, when he threw an interception on his first pass against UT’s second string, didn’t exactly give him a boost of momentum heading into the offseason.

But he’s been anything but passive with the team and even with the media since he took over for David Ash. Coaches and players have gone to him and asked for him to step up his vocal presence and he’s responded in a big way. Even though he’s young and hasn’t had much game experience, Swoopes has gained the trust of his teammates because of the way he carries himself. And quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson has praised Swoopes’ learning curve since he took over, especially when it comes to film study and just overall preparation.

--- With the weaknesses in the OL, what will Coach Wickline and Coach Watson work on this week to help boost the running game? Will Texas work to use the pass to open the run?

It’s been a really rough year for Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. They just haven’t been able to get anything going on the ground behind this offensive line, rushing for 222 and 191 yards respectively and two TDs (both by Brown).

This offensive line just isn’t cutting it, though they have showed signs of improvement over the past two games.

What will Texas try and work on this week? Well Charlie Strong didn’t rule out that massive 6-8 tackle Desmond Harrison and Daje Johnson wouldn’t both come back from suspension in this one. Either would be a huge boost. Whether they return or not I think you’ll see UT use the pass to open the run more than it has in any game this season. They’ll try and do that by going deep on BU.

The Longhorns have yet to complete a called deep pass this year (had a 48-yarder to Jaxon Shipley after Swoopes broke the pocket to avoid a rush). Look for Marcus Johnson to be the guy that tries to get behind BU’s defense. Other than that, well, it’s slim pickings. John Harris has emerged as Texas’ go-to receiver and the Longhorns like to use their TE’s, but only when it gets in the red zone.

--- The Texas defense has forced 9 INT’s. What would you attribute their success to? No matter who you are playing, a shut out in the Big 12, on the road, is impressive.

Vance Bedford, Texas’ first-year defensive coordinator, has really done a nice job with this secondary. His attitude is contagious and his players have caught on.

Quandre Diggs, who had an INT against KU, was actually asked why they are picking off more passes this season and his answer was simple: They are catching the ball. They had a number of opportunities last season but the DBs just proved why they were DBs and not WRs.

Also, you’ve got to give credit to Texas’ defensive line, which is really the strength of this team as well as better play from the linebackers (Jordan Hicks is playing like an All-American).

--- Obviously it is not difficult for the Texas players to get up for Baylor, or Oklahoma for that matter. But with Baylor winning 3 of the last 4, what is Texas’ mindset going in to this game against the Bears?

The respect is there, though, you won’t find any of Texas’ players waxing poetic about how great Baylor has become. Do they all feel like Steve Edmond? Publicly no one else is going to say anything like Texas’ MLB. But there were hints of it in what John Harris said on Monday, saying, “They're still Baylor. Just because they started playing better, that's good for them. We're still Texas.”

Last year’s loss to the Bears has really haunted UT in many ways. Swoopes said they've thought about this game, "In the spring, winter, summer conditioning and fall camp." And then Cedric Reed chimed in with the following: "It still haunts us that we were 30 minutes away from a Big 12 championship last year."

--- What is the attitude inside the fan base as to how this Texas team has performed up to now and heading in to Baylor? How do you see this game playing out and what is your prediction?

The fan base from what we can tell on HornsDigest is fairly split, with perhaps a slight edge going toward Charlie Strong’s supporters.

They understand what Texas is up against considering all of the injuries, suspensions and just overall lack of talent on this roster right now. I think most Longhorns supporters will watch Saturday with one eye covered. I think it could get ugly.

Something tells me Texas will hang for a half but the Longhorns have shown a tendency to come out extremely slow in the third quarter. That could be Baylor’s chance to really take control. And we all know Art Briles is coming down to Austin without any brakes on his car. He’s going to run up the score as much as he can. I’m predicting Baylor to win by at least 17. If either suspended player returns I might drop it to two touchdowns.

BearsIllustrated wants to thank William Wilkerson for taking the time to answer questions. Baylor fans be sure to follow William on twitter @WVWilkerson and also at Horns Digest for all information on Texas Football leading up to the 2:30 pm kickoff on Saturday, October 4th at Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.


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