Here are five things to watch for the Longhorns in their Big 12 opener at home against Oklahoma State
No. 24 Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Texas Longhorns (1-2, 0-0 Big 12)
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. CT
The Series: Texas leads 24-5 and won last year’s meeting in Stillwater, 28-7
#1 ... I'm looking for some WANT-TO
I'm not trying to get all hokey by talking about intangibles right off the top here as Texas prepares to open Big 12 play at home against Oklahoma State.
But I'm looking to see the want-to of this Texas defense improve against Oklahoma State because of the belief and confidence that rode into DKR in the form of redshirt freshman QB Jerrod Heard
I'm looking for the offensive line and running backs to show more want-to for the same reason.
Add in the fact that the 2005 Texas national championship team is being honored after the first quarter Saturday (with Vince Young and Michael Huff going into the Hall of Honor with a great class that also includes Fred Akers and Randy Peschel), and the juice should be flowing in DKR ... and it should be flowing right through every Longhorns player.
#2 .... Sharpen the focus up front on defense
Texas has some problems on the defensive line that go beyond mental, such as Desmond Jackson and Poona Ford not commanding a double team when playing NT and Hassan Ridgeway
not commanding a double team at the 3-technique.
That's allowing offensive linemen to scale to the second level and block linebackers Malik Jefferson and Peter Jinkens
, who need to do a better job of getting off blocks.
Knowing those things, the mental focus and attention to detail of the front seven on defense has to be better than it's been. If 280 yards rushing by Cal didn't inspire everyone to get in the film room and double down on scouting Oklahoma State this week, I don't know what will.
#3 ... I'm ready to see more aggressiveness at the cornerback position
Charlie Strong said Monday Holton Hill and Kris Boyd
wouldn't be afraid to man up on a receiver at the line of scrimmage.
Then play them both.
Cornerback is a confidence position - maybe more than any other position on the field other than QB, because they are often the last line of defense.
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph is completing 69 percent of his passes (5 TDs, 1 INT). Cowboys' WR David Glidden is averaging a staggering 23.6 yards per catch (12 rec 283 yards, 3 TDs). But that's been against Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA.
If Holton Hill and Kris Boyd are the most confident of the bunch, then play them and find out.
#4 ... Give me some Daje Johnson in the two-back set introduced last week
You have to give some love to Jay Norvell and Jeff Traylor
for a game plan last week totally tailored to Jerrod Heard that allowed him to spread the defense out with his arm, thus creating huge running lanes for him when he took off running.
One of the best new wrinkles was the two-back set that had Chris Warren and Johnathan Gray
on either side of Heard in the shotgun with Warren serving as the lead blocker on both of Gray's second-quarter TD runs. And Warren totally flattened a defender on Gray's first TD run.
How about putting Daje Johnson in that set with either Gray or Warren serving as HIS lead blocker on the zone read?
I think it's lethal. Would love to see it.
#5 ... Stop the run and get after Cowboys QB Mason Rudolph
Texas led the Big 12 in sacks last season.
So far this season, Texas has 4 sacks, among the lowest totals in the Big 12.
Why? Because the Horns haven't been able to stop the run.
Quarterbacks haven't been in third-and-long. They've been in second-and-short and third-and-short.
This week, against a shaky Oklahoma State offensive line, it's time for the Texas defense to stop a competent OSU RB in JUCO transfer Chris Carson and force Rudolph into obvious passing situations - and then take him down.
Rudolph is not a threat to run.
If ever there was a chance for Texas to make a statement defensively up front and everywhere else, it's this week - as Big 12 play begins!
The strength of the Oklahoma State team is the defense.
It's very possible that OSU defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean and MLB Ryan Simmons and an experienced secondary are going to make life difficult for the Texas offense early on.
The Longhorns' defense can't get down if UT has an early turnover or a few three-and-outs to start the game.
Jerrod Heard and company, with the help of adjustments from Jay Norvell and Jeff Traylor, will find a way eventually. But the defense can't go into "sag" mode like it did in the third quarter of the Cal game last week.
This defense has to know it has a QB that will eventually make things happen.