Five Questions: Texas

LonghornDigest.com Publisher Kevin Flaherty gives the inside scoop on Texas football.

Do you think this is Mack Brown's final game at DKR? What does he have to do to salvage his job and are UT fans treating Thursday's game as his home finale?
It really depends on who you talk to. There's one side that says that, no matter what, Mack Brown is gone after this season. And there's another that says that if Texas wins out and wins the Big 12, there really isn't any way to push him out. I'd venture to say that most Texas fans believe this will be Brown's last game at DKR. But Mack certainly isn't treating it that way. He's treating it as another game, one made bigger by the fact that it's a Thanksgiving game against an in-state rival.

What's the chance Texas unleashes quarterback Tyrone Swoopes on Thursday? What's the word on his progression so far?
Swoopes could potentially get a few plays here or there — that hasn't happened yet this year, but you never know after a bye week — but unless something happens to Case McCoy, he's the guy. The word from inside the program is that Swoopes has had the expected progression. He'll make some outstanding plays in practice, followed by some freshman plays. He has taken a major leap forward since he's started to get some garbage time snaps, which bodes well for the Longhorns if they have to use him. Swoopes came in as a pretty raw player, but he has all the tools. Now it's up to him to get the most out of what he has.

Obviously Johnathan Gray was a big loss. Who do you expect to get the bulk of the carries Thursday, Malcolm Brown or Joe Bergeron?
I think it will be Malcolm Brown. The staff has a great respect for Brown because he's displayed the requisite versatility and toughness to excel in the Longhorns' offense. Remember that even when Gray was healthy, there were times that Brown was the more effective back of the two. The big area where Texas misses Gray, and this is multiplied by the suspension of Daje Johnson, is that Texas doesn't have the explosiveness at the running back spot. Bergeron has put himself back into the coaches' good graces after some fumbling issues earlier this year, but Brown will still serve as the primary running back.

How has Greg Robinson and crew turned this defense around?
By going back to fundamentals. Manny Diaz's scheme was exotic, and it worked when he had experienced linebackers who could think quickly on their feet. Robinson basically came in and simplified everything, asking the players to execute more simple assignments and spending more coaching time on things like head and hand placement and understanding leverage. Once he felt like the foundation was built, he started adding a little bit more each week. But it all started with making sure that everyone understood and could execute exactly what he was asking them to do.

What is your prediction for Thursday's game?
I think both teams are desperate: Texas Tech to end its four-game skid and Texas to stay in the Big 12 title hunt. That should make for a close game. I do think the Longhorns should be able to run the ball on the Red Raider defense, and the 'Horn receiving corps might break free for a big shot play here or there as well against a young Tech secondary. At the same time, I don't think Texas will be able to shut the Texas Tech offense down. It all shapes up to something like a 42-35 game, one that I think Texas pulls out.

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