Ever heard the saying that a quarterback has to control the safety with his eyes? Well, Ash needs to control Ruff with his arm. The talented Cowboy safety is a boffo run defender, racking up 102 tackles last year. He wasn't as active in pass coverage, breaking up just two passes and intercepting none. The best way to keep him from screaming upfield against run plays is to hit over his head on play action. And if Ash can do that, the Longhorn offense should have a big day.
Texas linebackers versus Brett Smith, Wyoming quarterback
Manny Diaz's scrape fire zone defense is outstanding against the zone read. Just ask Collin Klein, who finished with four yards rushing on 26 carries (even if you take out sacks, it was 36 yards on 21 carries). Denard Robinson fared a little better, but other than a 24-yard run, averaged less than four yards per carry himself. That sets up Texas well for its matchup with Wyoming's runner at QB. Having said that, Smith isn't just dangerous on designed QB runs. He's dangerous in scrambling situations as well, either scramble-to-pass or scramble-to-run. The linebackers will have to keep their eyes open in those situations and stay disciplined, while at the same time snuffing out any run attempts.
Texas defensive tackles versus the Wyoming interior offensive line
Simply put, this is strength on strength. One of the best parts of the Texas defense is the depth at defensive tackle … Ashton Dorsey and Desmond Jackson would be starters on pretty much any other Big 12 team, but they're backups for the Longhorns. That group, headlined by starters Chris Whaley and Brandon Moore, will go against an experienced and talented interior offensive line for Wyoming. Center Nick Carlson is on the Rimington Watch List and has 33 starts under his belt. Left guard Tyler Strong is a mobile guy who has done well with the move from defensive tackle. The new guy is Jake Jones, a redshirt freshman from Lakeland, Colo. That should be a salty group for the Cowboys, but they'll be facing the best defensive tackle group they'll face all year.
Texas tight ends versus Wyoming linebackers
Luke Poehlmann is back at offensive tackle. And that means that Texas doesn't have a proven blocker at tight end heading into the opener. Poehlmann's impact at the position, from a run-game standpoint, was tremendous. So where does Texas go from here? Do the Longhorns have a tight end capable of winning his blocks? And can a very good set of Wyoming linebackers — the outside guys are WILL Korey Jones and SAM Zack Berg — take advantage of that? If Greg Daniels is going to emerge as the Longhorns' blocking tight end, now would be a great step in that direction.
Wyoming's up-tempo spread attack means that Texas will have to rotate through some defensive backs by default. And the default number — based on when Texas played Oklahoma State and Texas Tech last year — is six. That means that beyond the Longhorns' proven four of Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs, Kenny Vaccaro and Adrian Phillips, somebody relatively new is going to play major roles. And according to the depth chart and the Texas coaches, those two are Turner and Thompson.
X-Factor: Opening Jitters
It's a football cliche, but not an untrue one: crazy things happen in the opener. You take teams with new players in key spots, in their first real games in eight or nine months, with coaches who have had a wealth of time to prepare surprises for the other team, and it makes for an unstable position. Add in that Wyoming has a new defensive coordinator, and a head coach with a tendency to get creative, and it could make for a more challenging opener than many think.
Wyoming presents an interesting first game challenge, a team with a playmaking quarterback and returning starters at receivers, while bringing back seven experienced players on defense. Having said that, the Longhorns should roll in this one. Not only does Texas have more talent, but if you were drawing up a team that would give the Longhorns trouble, it wouldn't be Wyoming. It would be a team with more explosive wide receivers, a better running game and a quarterback more capable of testing the Longhorns through the air. Other than receiver Chris McNeill, Wyoming doesn't appear to have those guys. They're good enough for it to not get totally out of hand, but Texas doesn't get challenged here.
TEXAS — 38
Wyoming — 10