The Texas Longhorns opened what felt like a new era last weekend. After a 5-7 season, Mack Brown reshuffled much of his staff, including his coordinators. He put his veterans on alert that no job was safe, and he made clear that freshmen could earn spots. The first result was a somewhat uninspiring 34-9 win over Rice that felt eerily like Texas' early wins against Rice, Wyoming and Texas Tech last season.
There was one big difference: young playmakers. True freshmen Malcolm Brown and Jaxon Shipley looked like two of the Longhorns' most explosive options, along with sophomore Mike Davis, and true freshman David Ash brought a different element with him when he saw the field in plus territory. True freshmen showered the defensive secondary and managed to hold Rice under 100 yards passing.
Of concern should be that offensive and defensive fronts did not manage to dominate the line of scrimmage, much like they struggled to in 2010. We did see an entirely different scheme from Bryan Harsin, though, as Texas pushed the run game to set up Garrett Gilbert in the pass game. While Gilbert wasn't explosive, he did throw for 239 yards on 23 passes despite some dropped passes. As the game went on, Texas did seem to wear down Rice and ended with a 506-224 yardage advantage (they outgained them 369-219 a year ago).
The challenge this week should be greater with BYU in town. The potential Big 12 member looks different on paper after grinding out a 14-13 win over Mississippi last week. The Cougars held the Rebels to just 204 yards and won the game with a Kyle Van Noy forced fumble/two-yard fumble return in the last six minutes. They scored their other touchdown with ten minutes remaining, so it was a relative late scramble despite statistical advantages throughout the game. Sophomore Jake Heaps earned the starting QB role during the season in 2010 and opens this season with experience under his belt. BYU doesn't look to be their usual explosive selves, but they've adapted their offense, and their defense matches up well against offenses that are not stacked with talent.
Texas received a boost this week when speedster Marquise Goodwin announced that he was leaving the running track for football season to return to the team. Goodwin will provide Texas with more ability to stretch defenses vertically. Malcolm Brown showed well in the second half of his debut, ranking among the best for Longhorn freshman backs.
For more on the game, check out Peter Bean's review of BYU's offense and their matchup with Texas' defense, as well as a look at BYU's defense and their matchup with Texas' offense from Barking Carnival.
The game kicks at 6:00 CDT on ESPN2 and can also be seen on ESPN3 and ESPN3D. Keep up with the Longhorns' army of underclassmen during the game with their depth chart (see BYU's roster here), and join in the conversation during the game on Burnt Orange Nation.