Coming in at 6 feet 4 inches and 218 pounds, junior Garrett Gilbert took a lot of heat for his performance last year when Texas went 5-7 after going 13-1 the previous season. During this year's preseason, Gilbert won a heated four-way battle to keep his starting job.
However, the former Gatorade High School Player of the Year threw more interceptions last year (17) than touchdowns (10). Although he has all the tools to be a good pocket passer, Gilbert has struggled to surpass his career interceptions (21) with touchdowns (12). The Cougar defense hopes to keep Gilbert from accomplishing only his second 300-yard passing performance.
"Their quarterback can drop back and pass it or he can run it when he wants to, so we'll have to account for that," Ogletree said.
In speaking of rushing, Cougar fans can expect 6-foot-3-inch, 222-pound third-string freshman quarterback David Ash to receive playing time. Coach Brown has a package of plays for Ash and he'll more than likely receive 5-10 snaps, if not more, behind center as a more mobile quarterback.
"They're very athletic guys," said Ogletree. "They'll run a lot of Boise State stuff with some gadgets thrown in there, but they also have a lot of base stuff they're productive in. They're not afraid to throw a gadget in once they cross the 50-yard line. That's when you can expect some gadgets, and especially when they're within the 20."
Coach Mendenhall mentioned last Wednesday that the Cougar staff expects to see, and has prepared for, different personnel with unique skill sets to take the helm at the quarterback position.
Texas rushing attack: Fozzy Whittaker/Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron/D.J. Monroe
"We have great linebackers, great rotation and great coaching," said Hebron Fangupo. "We just have to not allow them to run the ball. We have to force them to do the hard stuff and that's to pass, so if we can force them to do the hard stuff, hopefully we'll win."
There are three every-down running backs that Texas will use in various ways. The first is 5-foot-10-inch, 202-pound senior Fozzy Whittaker (4.3 yards per carry). He is a quick back much in the mold of Ole Miss' running back Jeff Scott.
Behind him are a pair of two up-and-coming true freshmen with great high school resumes. One is 6-foot, 217-pound Malcolm Brown, who was a two-time all-state, three-time first-team and all-district, and thee-year starting running back for Steele High School.
Brown is a real talent – he led Texas in rushing yards in his debut against Rice – and was the No. 2 high school running back in the 2011 recruiting class, but he is a true freshman playing against a very physical and experienced Mendenhall defense.
"They like to come in with a 21-personnel," said Fangupo. "That's two running backs and one tight end. That just tells me they're going to run the ball, but not my gap. They better run it the other way if they have the chance because I will not give up."
The other true freshman is more of a power back in 6-foot-1-inch, 235-pound Joe Bergeron, who is more in the fullback mold. Against Rice, Bergeron carried the ball six times for 26 yards.
However, in short-yardage situations Bergeron will give way to 5-foot-11-inch, 252-pound senior Cody Johnson. Johnson has averaged 4.2 yards a carry and scored 31 touchdowns in his career. He also ranks eighth on UT's career rushing touchdown list.
But the most explosive running back in the Texas backfield is 5-foot-9-inch, 175-pound D.J. Monroe. Monroe is a member of the Longhorn track team and earned First-Team All-American honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championship.
Monroe will get 5-to-10 touches as a running back/slot receiver and will be used on jet sweeps. Texas also has several plays where they use Monroe as a decoy.
"We know their skill position is going to be fast," said Jordan Pendleton. "Like Ole Miss, we knew we had to stop the run. Going into this game we also know we have to stop the run, so going into this game we have the same mentality and that's to stop the run."
"My goal is to hold them to under a 100 yards rushing and less than 17 points," Fangupo said. "I told our offense last week, ‘We're going to hold them to under 15 points, so you better score more than that.'"