Matchups: BYU running backs, linebackers to give Texas the most trouble

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Quarterbacks

Sophomore Taysom Hill was shaky in his third career start against Virginia, completing just 13 of 40 passes, but showed his dual-threat ability rushing for 57 yards and a score. The stormy weather in Virginia masked Hill’s potential. Junior David Ash showed maturity in the season opener, responding to two early interceptions with four touchdown passes and a 55-yard touchdown run.

Advantage: Texas

 

Running Backs

Freshman Jalen Overstreet was a nice surprise for Texas with 92 yards and two scores. But the trio of Gray, Brown and Bergeron totaled just 110 yards all together against a rushing defense ranked 113th in 2012. Along with a failed fourth-down run and missed third-down conversions, a lack of consistency in the conventional hand-off was evident. BYU has the edge in sophomore Jamaal Williams, who rushed for 148 yards on a flooded field. Senior Michael Alisa will provide the power. Both are Doak Walker Award candidates.

Advantage: BYU

 

Wide Receivers

The passing game of BYU suffered with the absence of senior Cody Hoffman, who is three touchdowns away from breaking the school record for most touchdown receptions. Hoffman is expected to return this Saturday. Texas junior John Harris showed Ash has options with a 54-yard touchdown. Texas also possesses the most explosive player in the Big 12 in sophomore Daje Johnson, who scored on a 66-yard catch and run.

Advantage: Texas

 

Offensive Line

BYU returns three starters that allowed 2.6 sacks a game in 2012. Protection is still an issue for the Cougars, giving up three sacks against Virginia. Penalties are also an issue, with three false starts in the season opener. Texas returns all five starters from 2012, with seniors Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters making the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy. The Texas line committed only one false start and gave up no sacks.

Advantage: Texas

 

Defensive Line:

BYU senior nose tackle Eathynh Manumaleuna is a preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy, and had a career-high 10 tackles against Virginia. But BYU has yet to record a sack this season. For Texas, Bednarik Award candidate senior Jackson Jeffcoat came up with seven tackles in his season debut, his first since missing seven games with a torn pectoral last year. Reggie Wilson, Desmond Jackson and Shiro Davis proved they were sufficient relief for the starters with seven tackles and a sack between them.

Advantage: Texas

 

Linebackers

The Longhorns linebacker unit looked more improved, aiding to allow 88 less rushing yards than the 2012 average. The return of junior Jordan Hicks may have been the major factor in the improvement. BYU has a major edge at these positions. Three Cougar starters are candidates for the Butkus Award, including senior Kyle Van Noy, who is a contender for just about every award a linebacker can win. All are returning starters from a defense that ranked third overall last season.

Advantage: BYU

 

Defensive Backs

Three-year starter senior Daniel Sorensen is the biggest threat in the BYU secondary, leading the team with three interceptions in 2012. Junior Craig Bills is a returning starter after being on a mission trip in the 2010-11 seasons. Quandre Diggs looked adequate as Kenny Vaccaro’s replacement at nickel. Without being tested against an elite offense, it is hard to tell whether they are back to “DBU” form.

Advantage: Texas

 

Special Teams

BYU conducted efficiently considering they were playing in what was basically a monsoon. Although senior Justin Sorensen completed a 36-yard field goal and averaged 41 yards a punt, Virginia blocked a punt on a bobbled snap. Texas has the edge with no special teams turnovers and a beautiful 68-yard punt from senior Anthony Fera that placed NMSU inside their own one-yard line.

Advantage: Texas