Who needs to step up vs. UTEP

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Defensive Line

The defensive line faced a tall order last week against Notre Dame. The Irish’s offensive line is one of the best Texas will see all season. DeShone Kizer is one of the best, most elusive quarterbacks the Longhorns will see this season, too. Although it wasn’t a great performance, the front four managed to help get some critical stops throughout the game to keep Texas in it. The defensive line is still the weak link on this Longhorn’s squad, but it’s improved from last season when it failed to stop anything with two legs and a football. This week’s matchup with a non-power five opponent presents an opportunity to give this group some confidence. Redshirt sophomore tackle Chris Nelson led the team with eight tackles last week. Senior tackle Paul Boyette Jr. and junior tackle Poona Ford need to help set the tone up front early. Also, it remains to be seen if the Longhorns can get a legitimate pass rush going. Junior Naashon Hughes and sophomore Charles Omenihu each have potential, but both need to start
showing it.

Defensive Backs

The Texas secondary is stacked with depth, but it still needs to shake out the cobwebs. The Longhorns gave up a few big pass plays for scores against Notre Dame. Senior safety Dylan Haines sustained a concussion in the second quarter and did not return. Haines may miss some time, which would require senior Kevin Vaccaro to continue to fill in for him. Overall, this unit should only continue to improve over the course of the season. Saturday presents a good chance to play a lot of these young defensive backs and get them some game reps.

Special Teams

The Longhorns weren’t terrible on special teams last week, but they certainly didn’t do anything great. The inexplicable blocked PAT in the fourth quarter that was returned for two points nearly dashed Texas’ hopes of beating Notre Dame. Senior wide receiver Jacorey Warrick possesses a lot of speed but couldn’t find any open space in the punt return game. Freshman running back Kyle Porter somewhat surprisingly handled kick return duties. But his longest return was only 19 yards, and included an imprudent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play that backed Texas up 15 yards. This week, the special teams unit has a chance to be much better.