Five questions: Texas

Get your Texas insight for the Red River Showdown with HornsDigest's Chip Brown.

It’s that time of year again. Time for Oklahoma and Texas. Here to help you learn all about the Longhorns is HornsDigest.com’s Texas insider Chip Brown.

How tough has the adjustment been with Charlie Strong the man in charge now for the program? Tougher on the field or off the field?

BROWN: Tougher on the field. His team's lack of offense and lack of ability to finish have been the bigger adjustments for Strong, because Texas could have won the UCLA game and held Baylor's offense without a point until the third quarter on Saturday. The season-ending injuries to QB David Ash and C Dom Espinosa were a killer. The two players Texas could least afford to lose on offense were lost in the first game of the year.

The outside perception is that fans are frustrated with Strong for dismissing 9 players and suspending WR/RB Daje Johnson for four games and OT Desmond Harrison for five games. But Strong gave all of the players involved multiple chances to get things right, and they blew it.

The school's regents board on Friday voted to support Strong's core values and Strong's "unwavering commitment to teaching, cultivating, supporting and demanding outstanding character, strong moral fiber and high core values in the young men he is charged to lead and teach."

Strong is all about ball and all about his players. He's not a PR guy the way Mack Brown was. Strong reminds me more of Bob Stoops.

The question is if Strong has the correct offensive philosophy in going with a run-first, pro-style attack? Stoops has always been the role model in my mind for defensive-minded head coaches and their approach to offense. Stoops had Mike Leach as his first offensive coordinator and has always been able to spread people and go up-tempo, but Stoops has also always valued fullbacks and tight ends and go two-tight ends and two-backs and pound you.

It's hard to determine where Texas' offense should be at this point, considering the empty cupboard Mack Brown left behind at quarterback and on the offensive line (especially after the injuries to Ash and Espinosa). But the offense needs to be getting better each week, and that didn't happen last week.

It’s Tyrone Swoopes’ team right now. He has been able to get his feet wet in the last month. Is he getting significantly better, or is he still in over his head at this point?

BROWN: Swoopes took a step back against Baylor. He was jittery in the pocket, locked onto receivers and was throwing behind his targets, leading to an interception in Baylor territory. Swoopes also fumbled on the goal line on a QB sneak after a 98-yard drive - from the Texas 1 (after a goal-line stand by the defense) to the Baylor 1.

Swoopes is still thinking too much. So he's holding the ball too long and not making quick enough decisions, even when it's to run on a broken play. Swoopes was better against UCLA in Game 3, when he started 11-of-11 passing and finished 24-of-34 with 2TDs and 0 INTs , than he was against Baylor in Game 5.

Daje Johnson made the backbreaking punt return touchdown last season in this one. Is he back in the good graces? And is he set to make a real impact this weekend?

BROWN: Johnson came back from a four-game suspension against Baylor, taking a reverse for 5 yards. But he suffered a hamstring injury in the game that may keep him out of the OU game.

Ask this often because sometimes you just have the feeling it’s going to happen. If you had to pick one guy on offense and defense to have a breakout performance, who would it be?

BROWN: The guy on offense who needs to have a breakout game would be Tyrone Swoopes. And after his performance against Baylor, he'd better pick it up or the coaches may have to take the redshirt off of freshman QB Jerrod Heard.

On defense, the breakout game could come from freshman safety Jason Hall (No. 31), of South Grand Prairie. Hall is a big hitter and has made his impact felt already on defense. He'll probably be inspired to have a big game coming back home.

How good and how healthy is this Texas defense? Is it starting to get worn down by the lack of offensive production? Physically and/or mentally?

BROWN: Strong has done a good job so far of keeping the team together and not allowing the defense to point fingers at an offense trying to rally around a quarterback making his fifth career start this weekend behind a patchwork offensive line.

The defense totally gave out in the third quarter of the BYU when the offense and special teams repeatedly failed to do anything positive in the first half. So a 6-0 BYU lead at halftime (that probably should have been much bigger) turned into 41-7.

Against Baylor, the offense and special teams again failed to provide any spark were often a negative drain on the team (blocked FG returned for a TD; allowing a fake punt to extend a drive to a TD; offense fumbles on BU goal line after an earlier INT in BU territory).

But the defense kept answering well into the fourth quarter. So the defense seems to be managing the lack of help right now pretty well. We'll see how long that lasts if there's more of the same (the defense seemingly going it alone) this week against OU.


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