UTEP Football Scouting Report: Texas Longhorns
When the Miners take the field at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium tomorrow night, they will take on the best team they have faced on their schedule in years. The Texas Longhorns are ranked 14th in the country and they have their sights set on a Big 12 Championship and a spot in the college football playoffs. Obviously the 2020 season is unique, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences not playing their football season in the fall.
Don't tell that to Texas head coach Tom Herman, who wants to build off of their Alamo Bowl victory over Utah last December. Coach Herman revamped his coaching staff this offseason and he added new offensive and defensive coordinators in Mike Yurcich and Chris Ash. Coach Herman met the media earlier this week and spoke about UTEP at the 21:25 mark of his press conference.
Longhorns fans will notice a big change on offense. Yurcich arrived in Austin from Ohio State, where he was the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. He preaches a fast, up-tempo offense which will test the new-look UTEP defense tomorrow night.
Leading the way on offense for the Longhorns is senior Sam Ehlinger. Over the last two seasons, the Austin native threw for nearly 7,000 yards with 57 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He added another 867 rushing yards with 18 touchdowns, but just two on the ground in 2019. Ehlinger was asked about his goals for the 2020 season. "I hope that this year can bring back a sense of normalcy to America and show people that we're still a very strong country," the Longhorns quarterback said earlier this week when he met the media. "I also hope that college football and our team can show America what happens when people from different backgrounds come together for one goal."
The Texas running game is loaded, led by junior Keaontay Ingram who gained 853 yards and 7 touchdowns. Former quarterback Roschon Johnson was converted into a running back because of his athleticism and he rushed for 649 yards and 7 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2019. Joining the group is true freshman Bijon Robinson, who arrived in Austin as a five star prospect from Tucson. Robinson was considered the best 2020 running back recruit in the nation and the 15th best high school player in the country according to 247 Sports.
When Ehlinger drops back to pass, he will have plenty of options to choose from. Former Michigan starter Tariq Black beat out junior returnee Brennan Eagles for a starting spot, while Jake Smith hauled in six touchdowns grabs as a freshman. Keep an eye on freshman Jordan Whittington, who missed most of 2019 because of an injury. Redshirt sophomore Joshua Moore is another projected starter, but he was suspended for the 2019 season after being arrested for carrying a loaded gun without a license. Although Texas lacks a true go-to option like they had the last few seasons in Devin Duvernay, they have more than enough options to throw the ball downfield against the Miners.
Coach Ash also comes to Austin from Rutgers where he spent the last few seasons as head coach. He brings a rugby style of tackling to the Longhorns, which is a shoulder technique designed to reduce the number of blows to the head. "We do a ton of tackling drills, but not enough to say who is consistently going to be the best tackler," Ash said in his weekly press conference. "I think we are in a pretty good spot with our overall team tackling." He will use a position called the "jack", where a hybrid defensive end plays out of a two-point stance instead of a three point stance. Junior Joseph Ossai will start at the jack against the Miners. Ash said that his jack will do things that a defensive end will do but other things a linebacker will do. Ossai led the defense with 90 total tackles and five sacks in 2019.
The Longhorns are strong up the middle, and Coach Ash sees his group as a unit that can stop the run but also rush the passer. Sophomore defensive tackle Keondre Coburn and senior Ta'Quon Graham are the projected starters. If the Horns will have success on defense, they will need to put more pressure on the quarterback than they did in 2019.
Sophomore safety Chris Adimora will start in the "spur" position in the defensive backfield, where he will play both man-to-man and also zone coverage. He will be joined by a veteran group of upper classmen in the cornerback and safety spots. D'Shawn Jamison returns and the junior cornerback led the team with three interceptions last season.
Although the Longhorns struggled defensively last season, which led to the hiring of Ash, the new defensive coordinator likes what he has seen so far this fall from his unit. "Confidence is fragile but I think we have a lot of confidence right now and I want to see how strong that confidence is when we get hit in the mouth and something bad happens," Ash added.
The Miners and Longhorns kick off tomorrow at 6pm and our coverage begins at 5 p.m. Don't forget to join Adrian Broaddus and Sal Montes with MinerTalk, presented by Longhorn Distributing immediately after the postgame show.