EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 19th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Date with WVU: Saturday, Nov. 8, time TBA
Site: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (100,119, FieldTurf), Austin, Texas
Series: WVU leads 2-1
Last meeting: Texas defeated WVU, 47-40 in overtime, on Nov. 9, 2013 at Mountaineer Field
Coach: Charlie Strong (1st year; 5th year overall, 38-15)
Checking them out
There’s no question the Texas team that Charlie Strong inherits is a talented one. Four- and five-star recruits don’t litter the roster, they dominate it. There are teams in the country with more talent, but not more than a handful.
So why is Strong jettisoning players right and left (and least six have been dismissed and more suspended, including two receivers charged with sexual assault last week)? Well, because they don’t meet his no-nonsense requirements. Strong will remake the Longhorns in his own image, and if that means sending talented players like running back Joe Bergeron on their way, so be it.
Here’s the thing about having a roster so talented, though. For every Joe Bergeron there are two others just as talented. Will the Longhorns miss Bergeron when Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray were already ahead of him? Not hardly. The only real variable is how Strong and a new staff will put it all together.
If they can, expect Texas to be what Texas has been more often than not throughout its history — strong on defense and with an overpowering running game. Offensively, Brown and Gray give the Longhorns one of the best 1-2 running back punches around. The offensive line must replace three starters, but there is talent there and the new offensive co-coordinator, Joe Wickline, is a terrific line coach.
If the running game does click, there are also plenty of receivers, including Jaxson Shipley, to whom a quarterback can throw. That quarterback? Well, it would be easy to say David Ash, but will Ash ever stay healthy long enough to really contribute? There are younger options in sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Jerrod Heard, but a healthy Ash is probably the best option.
On defense, it’s hard to find a weak spot. The front four is deep, Jordan Hicks leads a promising linebacking corps and the secondary is as talented as ever, led by cornerback Quandre Diggs. Kicker and punter Anthony Fera must be replaced.
Offense: RB Malcolm Brown, RB Johnathan Gray, WR Jaxson Shipley, OL Dominic Espinosa
Defense: DL Cedric Reed, CB Quandre Diggs, LB Steve Edmond, LB Jordan Hicks
Special teams: PR Daje Johnson
Here’s an oddity: Strong has been a head coach four years, but is 4-1 in bowl games. That’s because his head coaching record includes an interim head coaching stint at Florida in 2004 when the Gators won the Peach Bowl after Ron Zook was fired. … Texas has two games in Kansas and one in Oklahoma. Those are the only times the Longhorns leave Texas, the second year in a row UT has left its home state for just three games.
Date Opponent 2013
Aug. 30 North Texas DNP
Sept. 6 BYU L 21-40
Sept. 13 UCLA (Arlington, Texas) DNP
Sept. 20 Open
Sept. 27 at Kansas* W 35-13
Oct. 4 Baylor* L 10-30
Oct. 11 Oklahoma (Dallas) W 36-20
Oct. 18 Iowa State W 31-30
Oct. 25 at Kansas State* W 31-21
Nov. 1 at Texas Tech* W 41-16
Nov. 8 West Virginia* W 47-40 (ot)
Nov. 15 at Oklahoma State* L 13-38
Nov. 22 Open
Nov. 27 TCU* (Thur.) W 30-7
* Big 12 Conference games
n 2013 record: 8-5 overall, 7-2 Big 12 (lost 7-30 to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl)
n Dropped: New Mexico State (W 56-7), Mississippi (L 23-44)