Meanwhile, the Rice defensive staff has once again been forced to shuffle its personnel as a result of injuries. This week it was announced that starting Cornerback Brandon King's Rice career is likely over after sustaining a season ending foot injury. Prior to King's injury, the Owls also left for Nashville without their 2 starting Defensive Ends and also its starting Linebackers. The good news is that some of those missing players are back for tomorrow night's game with the Horns.
Longhorn Passing Attack vs. Owl Secondary
As mentioned, losing Cornerback Brandon King was a blow to the Owl defense. King had worked extremely hard in the offseason and was having a solid 2008 season before leaving the game early against Vanderbilt. His season highlights will be short but sweet, he picked off two passes against SMU – returning one of them 54 yards. His presence will be missed, but obviously the Owls must go on without him. They recruited two outstanding Cornerback prospects in Jarrett Ben and Chris Jammer, and in a stretch of just 3 games, Jammer has emerged as a very solid Cornerback. His return of an interception against Memphis was obviously an "arrival" moment for him – he subsequently started against Vanderbilt last week. The Owls will choose from among Ben, or upperclassmen JaCorey Shepherd and Chris Douglas to replace King. Backup Free Safety Travis Bradshaw has been moved back to Cornerback, a position he played last year. Chris Jones can also play Corner. Safeties Andrew Sendejo and Bencil Smith will provide additional coverage and both have had solid seasons thus far. In fact, Sendejo leads the team in tackles. Thus far in 2008 the Owls have managed to "outpass" opponents – they will definitely need to do the same against Texas in order to pull off an upset win.
The Horn Offense is run by junior Colt McCoy. The 6-3 210 Tuscola native has completed 76% percent of his passes this year and has gotten extremely comfortable in running the Texas Offense. He's been a starter since his freshman year. Then again, all McCoy really has to do is utilize the talent he has around him and not make poor decisions. The Horns have just as much talent on Offense as they do on their richly talented Defense. Perhaps missing from the Horn arsenal this year is a big time NFL prospect at the Receiver position (thay may only be temporary though). However, Quan Cosby is a dangerous threat both lining up at Receiver and as a Returner. He leads the Horns in receiving yardage with 188 yards on 11 catches. Jordan Shipley is another dangerous Horn Receiver. Shipley was a standout high school Receiver at Burnet High School where he and current Texas A&M QB Steven McGee played together. He's struggled with injuries while at Texas but has great ball skills when healthy. Tight End Blaine Irby is also a player to watch in the Longhorn Pro style offense. They love to use their Tight Ends in their play calling. Texas has a bevy of tall, but young Receivers who will likely be the aforementioned NFL prospects sometime in the near future. Malcolm Williams, Montre Webber, and Dan Buckner are all over 6-3 and are future stars.
Edge : Texas
The Horns have more weapons than the Owls have answers for right now. Edge to the Horns.
Longhorn Running Game vs. Owl Defensive Front
Rice is getting healthy again just in time to face what will likely be the best Offensive Line they'll see all year. Starting Defensive Ends Scott Solomon and Cheta Ozougwu will likely return to action this Saturday, along with talented freshman backup Arnaud Gascon-Nadon. Kramer Lucio has filled in nicely for the Owls so its not out of the question that he might gain half the starter's reps rotating in. Chris Ptaszek has been solid for the Owls up front, and Chance Talbert continues to emerge as a player that can pressure the passer from inside. Freshmen Michael Smith and John Gioffre are now part of the rotation inside and could see more time against Texas.
Up front Texas has a wealth of talent on the Offensive Line. Just as he has done on Defense, Mack Brown has stockpiled blue chip talent for his Offensive Line. The Horns are big and talented across the front, starting with their massive starting Tackles. Kyle Hix is 6-7 320 and Adam Ulatoski 6-8 310. Inside Texas lines up Cedric Dockery at 6-4 320, and Charlie Tanner 6-4 305 at the Guards. 6-4 300 pound Center Charlie Hall is the "smallest" Horn lineman. As a unit, the Texas Offense is averaging 177 yards rushing per game.
Running behind them is a pair of very shifty, very fast Running Backs. Vondrell McGee of Longview has been getting the load of the work and has 83 yards on 18 carries for the season. Pearland native Foswhitt Whitaker is perhaps a tad more explosive – he runs 4.3 in the 40 - he has a 6.0 yard per carry average. Like Rice, Texas' QB Colt McCoy is the leading rusher on the team however and he too is a threat to tuck the ball and run at any time.
Though Texas is much bigger across the front, they are also young. The Rice Defesnive front has starters returning to action and will be anxious to rebound. The Owls could play the Horns pretty tough here so I'll call it even.
Texas punter John Gold is averaging 41.3 yards on his punts and is on the Ray Guy Award watchlist. Justin Tucker has 6 touchbacks handling kickoffs for the Longhorns. Hunter Lawrence is 1-for-1 on field goals this year, good from 40 yards. Quan Cosby is a very dangerous Returner. Ovarall, the Horns are solid on Special Teams.
Until the Owls can get their special Teams to execute - the edge goes to the other team.
Though the Texas Longhorns have an extremely talented football team they aren't guaranteed a win against Rice Saturday night in Austin. You have to say the odds are against our Owls – but then again, they usually are. Who knows, a bounce our way and some turnovers could turn the game into a big upset opportunity for Rice. We won't know the game's outcome until late Saturday night – but we do know the Owls will give it everything they've got on the field…