Five Questions: Texas

Texas Longhorns expert William Wilkerson, publisher of HornsDigest.com, provides the inside scoop on the Longhorns prior to this week's Big 12 matchup with Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (3-5, 1-4 in Big 12) host the Longhorns (3-5, 2-3) 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock.

1. Obviously this is a down year for UT, but what has been the reaction to Charlie Strong's first season in Austin? How have most fans and people around the program reacted to him cleaning house so to speak?

Wilkerson: Mixed emotions. There are a lot of people out there that think he is doing a nice job considering he lost his starting QB and starting center after the first game and has had to go without his starting left tackle for the whole season due to suspension. On top of that he's dismissed nine players - many key contributors - and had to work with a makeshift offensive line and a QB that started his first game this season. But then there are others that are just completely fed up with being an average program and are already calling for big change, not necessarily for Strong but for possible turnover on his staff. Most people around the program have had nothing but positive things to say about him "cleaning house." Anyone who has covered this program would have told you that this needed to happen. Players were just happy to be at UT but weren't hell-bent on doing whatever it took to get the W. That's still an issue on this team but it is getting better... slowly. Once he gets his kind of players in the system he should be better off for it.

2. Have you seen improvement from quarterback Tyrone Swoopes this season? If so, in what part of his game?

Wilkerson: I've definitely seen growth in Swoopes but, as most fans would probably tell you, he's been way too inconsistent. He's got an NFL-caliber arm and can make all the throws, and his accuracy has been pretty impressive (despite his overall struggles with the deep ball). He's starting to get outside the pocket more and use his feet to help him. But he's still taking too many unnecessary sacks. He has to do a better job of throwing the ball away when there is nothing there.

3. I was able to cover Texas freshman QB Jerrod Heard several times when he was at Denton Guyer and he was an absolute stud. How is his development going? Is it pretty much a given that he is the future?

Wilkerson: To be honest, no, it's not a complete given that he's the future at Texas. Do I think he will be? Yeah, I do. But we've heard from sources that his arm strength is not close to being college-ready and that he, like many freshmen, have struggled with the playbook. But he's getting better from what QB coach Shawn Watson tells us. It's funny to me how quickly people seem to forget all that he did in high school, but that seems to be the case with highly-touted four-star Zach Gentry set to come in as part of the 2015 class. Watson wants competition at QB and might bring in a JUCO QB to spice things up a bit. So short answer: Yes I think he's the future. Long answer: He's got work to do to become the guy. Remember, Swoopes still has two years left.

4. It looks as if Texas' defensive line versus Tech's offensive line will be strength on strength this week. What makes the Longhorns defensive front so effective? Who are some guys Tech fans should be aware of?

Wilkerson: You could argue that Texas' defensive line is the best in the Big 12. DT Malcom Brown will be a first or second rounder and Hassan Ridgeway has come in for injured nose tackle Desmond Jackson and done a really nice job. The mystery in some ways has been the play of Cedric Reed, who was one of the leading sack men in the country last season. He's having a down year as far as numbers go. But he's still making an impact. Texas' line is also benefiting from solid play from UT's LBs Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond.

5. I noticed despite the coaching change Texas still has the top ranked 2015 recruiting class in the Big 12 according to Scout. How does Strong's staff differ in recruiting strategy from Mack Brown's regime?

Wilkerson: The biggest difference right now is Strong's yearning for wanting to bring in more Florida athletes. Mack was always very loyal to the state of Texas and, for as much good as that did him, it also cost him the opportunity to cherry pick fro other states. Strong understands that Texas is where he'll get most of his recruits but he is making it no secret that he's going to recruit Florida really hard. He has a long history of recruiting that state well from his time at Florida and even Louisville, and has recently begun to send offers out all over the state. He's also going to go the JUCO route a lot more frequently for quick fixes.



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