The Texas pass defense slowly but surely, has continued to improve ever since head coach Charlie Strong took over as defensive coordinator.
Last week against Texas Tech, the Longhorns did a good job in slowing down the Red Raiders’ air raid offense. The “bend, but don’t break” Texas defense made many critical stops throughout the game. The most important one came with nine seconds left as sophomore cornerback Kris Boyd intercepted Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II’s pass in the end zone to clinch the Longhorns’ 45-37 win.
This week against West Virginia, the Longhorns will be tested yet again. But unlike the offense of Texas Tech, the Mountaineers are much more balanced though still headlined by a strong quarterback. West Virginia ranks fourth in the Big 12 in total offense, including third in rushing offense and fifth in pass offense.
Senior quarterback Skyler Howard is a dual-threat who throws the ball well and is very active in the run game. The Mountaineers have many playmakers in their offense and they utilize multiple running backs, including senior Rushel Shell, junior Justin Crawford and freshman Kennedy McKoy.
Senior Daikiel Shorts and junior Shelton Gibson are Howard’s favorite receiving targets. The two have combined for 1,314 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Against this very balanced West Virginia offense, the secondary will need to play especially well with the front seven focusing on the Mountaineer ground game. Texas must be sound at all three levels and will need to tackle well.
Strong appears to have this defense making significant strides. This week presents an enormous opportunity for Texas to not only continue its defensive progress but to keep its season moving in the right direction.
What a turnaround a benching can make.
After initially being benched at the beginning of the Baylor game, sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson has had a tremendous turnaround. Jefferson finished the Baylor game with nine tackles and a sack. Against Texas Tech, Jefferson had eight tackles, 1.5 sacks and was successful in containing Patrick Mahomes II as a spy.
Jefferson must continue the dominant play against the Mountaineers by making plays and wreaking havoc. Whenever Jefferson plays well, the Texas defense feeds off of it.
Breckyn Hager, Charles Omenihu and Malcolm Roach
West Virginia’s offensive line does a good job of protecting Skyler Howard, as it’s only given up 14 sacks all season.
Sophomore defensive ends Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu and freshman defensive end Malcolm Roach face one of their toughest tests this season, and collectively they will need to help get after the quarterback. All three have shown at various times this season to be capable pass-rushers but they will need to have one of their best outings of the season if Texas wants to slow down this West Virginia offense.