5 Questions: Texas

No. 5 TCU (9-1) travels to Austin on Thanksgiving to face a much improved Texas Longhorn squad looking for their seventh win. What should TCU fans be watching for from Texas? We visited with HornsDigest.com publisher William Wilkerson to get some answers.

1. Texas is on a roll lately with three straight wins, what's been the biggest reason for the win streak?

The biggest change has been the team’s belief in the offensive line. This particular set of linemen weren’t supposed to be in this position. Of the starters, only Sedrick Flowers (left guard) and Kent Perkins (right guard) figured to be starters at the beginning of the season. Joe Wickline has done a masterful job of getting this unit to gel as one and their play has led to a mini resurgence in Austin. The offensive line started to believe in themselves, which led to Texas’ running backs believing in them and Tyrone Swoopes becoming more comfortable in the pocket.

2. The offense is finally coming along for the Longhorns; why do you think it took longer for the offense to adapt to the new style than it did for the defense?

As I mentioned above it really centers around the offensive line. Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown are coming off their best month of the season and it’s no coincidence that this has happened when the offensive line has played their best ball. Aside from the OL, you also have to credit QB coach Shawn Watson with his handling of Tyrone Swoopes. The sophomore has played better - not great - over this three-game winning streak, and that has as much to do with Watson’s belief in the soft-spoken Swoopes as anything.

3. Tyrone Swoopes has showed up and down play in his first year as a starter; what do you think are his best strengths and weaknesses up to this point?

One of his best strengths has to be his arm strength. He can make any throw in the book. Also, his ability to never get too high or too low in situations has probably benefited him in the long run. He’s a very soft-spoken, even-keel type of individual. That’s probable helped him avoid some mental letdowns after some rough performances this season. Lastly, he’s starting to stay in the pocket a lot longer than he was at the beginning of the season and isn’t afraid to take a hit. That has everything to do with his confidence in the offensive line.

One of his weaknesses that he’s still working on is throwing the ball away when he has the opportunity instead of taking a sack. It seems like an easy thing to do but Swoopes has struggled mightily in that area this season. While I wouldn’t say his speed is a weakness, I definitely wouldn’t call it a strength.

4. Texas is 6-5 and has a win over a then-top 25 West Virginia; what's the vibe around the program as No.5 TCU comes to town?

There’s a ton of excitement around the program right now. When the team was sitting at 3-5, you really started to scratch your head and wonder what in the heck was going on. But the players have really bought in to this staff and refused to give up on each other. These seniors have endured a ton and want to end on a high note. A win over TCU would be huge for many reasons. Not only would it give Texas a chance at winning eight games, which seemed astronomical a few weeks ago, but it would do a world of good on the recruiting trail as UT tries to reel in some of their top remaining targets (Malik Jefferson, Kris Boyd, Ryan Newsome, etc.).

5. What's your keys for Texas to get an upset over the Frogs?

Charlie Strong mentioned it Monday: Texas can’t afford to play behind the chains. TCU’s defense is too good. The Longhorns have to play ahead of the chains and not turn the ball over. I think UT needs to get off to a good start too. The Longhorns aren’t a quick-strike offense and any chance that they could get away from that early wouldn’t be good for them. Defensively, Texas has to keep Boykin in front and try and get pressure without blitzing too much.

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