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Get to know Kansas State: Defense/Special Teams

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Photo: Jim Coswert, USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns (2-2, 1-0) will welcome the Kansas State Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) to Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Wildcats are headed to Austin after a 33-20 win over Baylor last weekend in Manhattan, Kansas. Let’s take a look at what Kansas State has on defense and special teams.

Defensive Line

Texas is going to have a tough time getting the running game back on track against a stout Kansas State defensive front. Defending nose tackle Will Geary may the toughest assignment that Zach Shackelford will draw this season. The senior was First Team All-Big 12 the past 2 seasons and has not slowed down in 2017, leading the Wildcats in tackles for loss (4.5) and sacks (3). Sophomore Trey Dishon will hold down the other defensive tackle spot. Dishon has had a quiet year in the stat column, recording 5 total tackles with one tackle for loss, but holds the point of attack well. Dishon and Geary are both listed at over 300 pounds and will give the interior offensive line all they handle.

Defensive ends Reggie Walker and Tanner Wood are both disruptive forces on the outside. Walker was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2016 and will line up opposite of Tristan Nickelson. Wood is in his first full year as a starter and has 13 total tackles with 1 for loss. Neither player has recorded a sack, with the Wildcats getting much of their pass rush from the interior of the line, but both are solid against the run. Expect a lot of pressure to come from the edges, attacking Derek Kerstetter and Nickelson, while Geary and Dishon do what they have been doing all year on the inside.

Linebackers

Kansas State began the year with 3 linebackers who were in their first year as full time starters. Former walk-on Trent Tanking starts at the middle linebacker spot and leads Kansas State in tackles with 26. Texas natives Sam Sizelove and Jayd Kirby start at the other two linebacker spots. Kirby has had a very good season, ranking second on the team in tackles (25), while collecting 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

In the biggest game the Wildcats have played this season, a loss at Vanderbilt, the linebackers played very well. Tanking and Kirby helped the defense hold the Commodores to 65 total yards rushing. This is the type of game where I would love to see Texas try to test these linebackers in space and force them to play sideline to sideline, but that’s simply not realistic with how the Texas offense is performing right now.

Defensive Backs

The Wildcats secondary is solid, lead by cornerback D.J Reed. The junior college transfer was named First Team All-Big 12 in 2016 and the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year. Reed has already recorded 1 interception on the season and will match up against Collin Johnson. The one advantage Texas will have is that the 6’6 Johnson will have 9 inches on the 5’9 Reed. If there was ever a game for the Longhorns to introduce fades and jump ball opportunities to Johnson, this is it. Junior Duke Shelley will start at the other corner position. Shelley has 22 career starts under his belt and had 3 interceptions a season ago. Nickelback Cre Moore is in his first year as a full time starter and has 7 tackles to go along with a sack and an interception.

Kendall Adams and Denzel Goolsby form a good safety combo. Adams, a Fort Worth native, already has 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery on the season. Goolsby also has a fumble recovery and is not afraid to come up and support the run. The secondary for the Wildcats basically portrays the overall philosophy of the defense. Kansas State is not going to make many mistakes or mental lapses, and when their opponent makes a mistake they are ready to pounce. Texas can not turn the ball over on Saturday like they have been prone to do so far this season, or else it is going to be a frustrating night for the Longhorns.

Special Teams

As could be expected with any Kansas State squad, the special teams unit is rock solid. Kicker Matthew McCrane is a senior who has made 44 out of 50 field goals in his career. McCrane is 8 for 10 so far in 2017, with a long of 53 yards. Former walk-on Nick Walsh handles the punting duties, and was Third Team All-Big 12 in 2016. Walsh has averaged 39.5 yards per punt in 2017, with 6 punts landing inside the 20.

D.J Reed is the primary return man on punts and kickoffs. Reed has already returned a punt for a touchdown this year, and is averaging 19.6 yards per return. On kickoffs, Reed has already had a 96 yard return and is averaging 36.80 yards per return. Texas has had some problems on coverage units, especially on kickoffs, and Reed is one of the most electric return men they will face this season.

Jameson McCausland is originally from Frisco, Texas, where he grew up a Longhorn fan. His two favorite sports are football and baseball, both of which he covers for HornSports. He enjoys spending time with family and friends in his spare time. Jameson is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

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Commitment Spotlight: Tyler Owens

Texas has landed a commitment from highly coveted safety Tyler Owens. What does he bring to Todd Orlando’s defense?

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Following the “Stars at Night” camp in July, Texas extended several offers to prospects who impressed the coaches throughout the evening. One of those offers went to 2019 Plano East safety Tyler Owens, who won the fastest man competition. The Longhorns quickly became the front runner in his recruitment, and the intriguing prospect ultimately chose to shut down his recruitment and pledge to Texas.

Owens joins a secondary class that already has commitments from Mayfield (CA) S Chris Adimora, Grayson (GA) CB Kenyatta Watson II and Alvin CB Marques Caldwell. The 6’2, 202 pounder currently ranks as the 44th best safety in the country and the 631st player overall, according to the 247sports composite rankings. Owens chose the Longhorns over offers from 14 other schools, including Baylor, Houston, Nebraska and UCLA.

Player Information

Name: Tyler Owns
Position: S
High School: Plano East
City & State: Plano, Texas

Measurables

Height: 6’2
Weight:  202
40-yard time: 4.48
Shuttle: 3.29
Vertical: N/A

Statistics

No stats available.

Film

Tyler Owens Junior Season

Pros:

  • Very reliable tackler. Wraps up and takes good angles to the ball carrier. Good technique.
  • Has a knack for squaring ball carriers up and laying some pretty solid hits.
  • While his straight line speed isn’t as noticeable as it may be when he is in shorts, Owens definitely shows the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly.
  • Shows a good football IQ. Diagnoses plays well and knows where to be on the field.
  • Very good special teams player. Uses his speed to get down the field on kickoffs and always seems to find the ball.
  • Played very good competition. Had highlights against 6A state champion Highland Park and plays in the same district as state powerhouse Allen.

Cons:

  • Needs to continue to develop his ball skills. Shows the ability to defend the pass, but will need to work on getting his head around and finding the ball.
  • Positional fit. Owens best fit could be at linebacker after he spends a season or two in a college strength and conditioning program.
  • Tests extremely well, but you don’t see those athletic traits translating much to his tape.
  • Seems a little stiff on tape, so that will be something to take monitor when his senior tape comes out. Could factor in to where he projects long-term.

Summary

When you turn on the film for Owens, the first thing to stick out is how projectable he is. He could easily add weight and spin down to linebacker, which wouldn’t be bad at all considering his reliability as a tackler and how well he defends the run. It is easy to see why Todd Orlando and Craig Naivar like Owens. He has a nose for the football and his athleticism will allow him to be utilized in multiple ways. 2018 signee DeMarvion Overshown had a similar build to Owens coming out of Arp (6’3, 200 pounds), and there are definitely some similarities in the way the two  play.

If Owens sticks at safety, he will need to continue to work on defending the pass. His speed helps him tremendously when tracking down the ball in the air, but there will be a learning curve as he adjusts to the passing game at the college level. Owens possesses great athleticism, as seen by his testing numbers, but it is a bit concerning that you don’t see that explosiveness and twitch on tape much. Is he a combine warrior or does he just need more time in the incubator to unlock his potential? It will be interesting to see what the senior film beholds because it could be a solid indicator for what his development curve is.

Final Verdict

After hearing how Owens performed in the camp setting and watching his film, there should not be any doubts about whether he is a take for Texas. The loaded 2018 defensive back class should allow almost all the 2019 signees in the secondary to be eased into action. Owens has a very high ceiling, and the Texas coaching staff feels confident they can tap into his potential.

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: TCU

The Longhorns had many positives and some negatives to analyze after a big win over TCU on Saturday

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Photo via: Bethany Hocker, USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight week, Texas physically outplayed a ranked opponent. The Longhorns opened Big 12 play with a 31-16 win over TCU. Similar to last week, the win featured a lot of good and not a lot of bad, but let’s take a look at some takeaways from an impressive victory over the Horned Frogs:

The Good

The Secondary

Entering Saturday’s contest, there were a lot of questions about how the Texas secondary would hold up against a TCU passing attack that featured several talented playmakers. The Longhorns defensive backs ended up surrendering only 197 passing yards to Shawn Robinson, and came away with two interceptions. Kris Boyd, Brandon Jones, Caden Sterns and Devante Davis all had big moments. Sterns in particular continues to shine as a freshman, recording both interceptions and playing well in run support. Boyd and Davis each had a few plays they would like to forget, but the duo played well overall.

Collin Johnson

It is no secret that Collin Johnson has the skill set to take over games at the receiver position, but #9 turned in one of his most memorable performances in a Texas uniform. Johnson recorded his 3rd 100+ yard game in his career, finishing the night with 7 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his big game catching the ball, Johnson also had a huge block to help spring Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s  game-clinching 38-yard touchdown reception in the 4th quarter.

Johnson’s talent has never been in question, but Saturday’s performance proves that the junior can be a matchup nightmare and has what it takes to be Sam Ehlinger’s #1 receiver.

Turnover-Free Sam

For the third consecutive game, Sam Ehlinger played a turnover-free game. Don’t look now, but the sophomore has now thrown 8 touchdown passes compared to just 2 interceptions. Tom Herman commented after the game that a lot of Ehlinger’s progress is due to the offensive staff calling plays he is comfortable with and not asking him to do too much. There may not be a play that describes Ehlinger’s development more than his touchdown pass to Humphrey, where Ehlinger stood in the pocket, thought about bailing, but took a few steps back before finding Humphrey over the middle of the field.

The Bad

Slow Start

In 3 of the 4 games for the Longhorns this season, their opponent has scored on their first possession. Yesterday, the Horned Frogs drove down the field with relative ease before having to settle for 46-yard field goal by Jonathan Song. Although the sample size is still relatively small, the Texas defense needs to do a better job of settling down early in games and not letting their opponents draw first blood.

Short Yardage Situations

Facing a 4th and 1 in the second quarter, Texas did something that I haven’t seen since 2016: playing under center. The result? A pitch play on the short side of the field to Daniel Young that resulted in the loss of a yard. In real time, I agreed with the decision to go for it, but the play call and personnel that matched it were very questionable. It didn’t end up hurting Texas in the long run, but the offensive coaching staff needs to do a better job of sticking with what makes sense.

The Ugly

Special Teams

A week after nailing all 3 of his field goal attempts, Cameron Dicker came back down to Earth by making only 1 of 3 field goals, missing very badly on his final attempt. Ryan Bujcevski averaged 39 yards on 5 punt attempts, but it is obvious that Tom Herman does not have a ton of confidence in his punter. Herman chose not to re-kick following an offsides penalty on a punt, likely because he didn’t want to risk a possible block or a shank from the freshman. D’Shawn Jamison made a mistake on during a kickoff return, bringing out a kick that went 3 yards into the endzone, resulting in a short return and a holding penalty, forcing Texas to start a drive at their own 5.

Special teams mistakes have not cost Texas a game to this point in the year, but if the Longhorns plan on competing for a Big 12 title, they must make corrections. 

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Sights from the Texas win over #17 TCU

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Photo: Andrew Dieb, USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns snapped a 4-game skid against the 17-ranked Horned Frogs on Saturday for their 3rd straight win. Texas defensive back Caden Sterns had 2 interceptions, and quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another. With his effort on Saturday night, Ehlinger became the first Texas quarterback since Colt McCoy (2008) with at least two passing TDs and one rushing TD in three consecutive games.

The Longhorns will travel next to Manhattan, Kansas to face the Kansas State Wildcats, where they haven’t won since 2002.

View sights from the Texas victory over TCU below.

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Texas drops #17 TCU 31-16

Tom Herman got his first signature win over Gary Patterson and TCU on Saturday

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Photo: Bethany Hocker, USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns entered Saturday’s game looking to put an end to a nasty trend of losing to TCU — a team they have historically had their way with.  Recent history has proven this task difficult, with TCU winning five of six since joining the Big 12, including four straight against the Longhorns. As a Big 12 member, TCU has a perfect 3-0 record in Austin. On Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns emphatically ended the losing streak to Gary Patterson and TCU in front of 95,124 fans, proving they are a legitimate contender for the Big 12 Championship this season.

TCU began on offense after Texas won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Horned Frogs worked quickly behind quarterback Shawn Robinson, marching 46 yards on 8 plays. The drive was capped with a 46-yard field goal by Jonathan Song which gave TCU an early 3-0 lead over Texas.

Texas failed to answer Songs’s field goal on their first offensive possession, with freshman kicker Cameron Dicker missing his first field goal of the season on a 42-yard attempt.

The Longhorns would make up for it on their next possession, with quarterback Sam Ehlinger engineering a 65-yard scoring drive which was capped off by a five yard touchdown run by Tre Watson. Texas led TCU 7-3 at the 4:09 mark of the quarter, their first lead over the Horned Frogs in four years.

After two rushing plays on the next possession, Robinson would complete a 50-yard pass to Jalen Reagor, setting TCU up for a first and goal at the Texas 4 yard line.  The Texas defense held steady, forcing the Frogs to settle for a 23-yard field goal, Jonathan Song’s second of the day.

The Longhorns maintained a 7-6 lead after one quarter was in the books.

Cameron Dicker’s 34-yard field goal represented the first points of the second quarter, extending Texas’ lead to 10-6 over TCU.

TCU would take a 13-10 lead into the locker room at the half, on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Jalen Reagor.

Texas started the third quarter on offense but quickly went three-and-out.  On the next possession Robinson was intercepted by Brandon Jones, but the Longhorns would fail to capitalize.

Song extended the TCU lead to 16-10 at the 8:44 mark, making good on his 3rd field goal of the night, this time from 29 yards out.

Texas regained its lead with less than a minute left in the quarter after Sam Ehlinger found a stretched-out Collin Johnson in the end zone for the score. Texas led TCU 17-16.

On TCU’s next possession, Caden Sterns intercepted Shawn Robinson for the second time on the evening and returned it for a touchdown. After review by the officials, Sterns stepped out of bounds at the TCU 2 yard line.  Sam Ehlinger finished the short drive by taking the first down snap and running it in untouched for a touchdown.

Headed to the fourth quarter, Texas held a 24-16 lead over the Horned Frogs.

The fourth quarter belonged all to the Longhorns, who scored a lone touchdown courtesy of Sam Ehlinger to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and played solid defense en route to a 31-16 win.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the win and rushed for one touchdown. Collin Johnson led the Longhorns with 124 yards receiving and one touchdown. The Texas offense totaled 367 yards of total offense compared to TCU’s 372.

Cade Sterns and Brandon Jones each had interceptions against TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson, who threw for 197 yards in the loss.

The Longhorns improve to 3-1 overall and are riding a three-game win streak, something they haven’t accomplished since the 2014 season.  Additionally, Texas defeated it’s second consecutive ranked opponent in two weeks.

While the win over TCU was important, Tom Herman knows he has a lot of work ahead if his team wishes to leave the Manhattan with a win next Saturday:

“We’re going to celebrate it, enjoy it, and we’re going to wake up tomorrow knowing we got to go on the road for the first time in a month against a Kansas State team that’s always, always tough to handle and especially when they’re playing at home. That is a tough, tough place to play. ”

Texas will travel to Manhattan, Kansas to take on the Kansas State Wildcats next Saturday at 2:30 PM.

INJURIES

  • True freshman running back Keaontay Ingram returned to the field against TCU after missing the USC game with a knee injury. Ingram left the game in the first half after suffering a hip pointer. In his postgame presser, Herman said he doesn’t expect Ingram’s injury to be anything long-term.
  • Defensive back Jarmarquis Durst sustained a severe shoulder sprain.
  • Offensive lineman Calvin Anderson played through some knee issues in the game and will be evaluated on Sunday.

GAME NOTES

  • Texas improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12 Conference with the win
  • The Longhorns are now 3-1 for the first time since 2012
  • Saturday’s win marks the first time UT has beaten Top 25 teams in consecutive weeks since 2008
  • The Texas defense forced four turnovers in the win
  • Collin Johnson’s 100-yard receiving performance marked the second straight season, and seventh time in school history, that a Longhorn receiver has eclipsed the century mark against TCU.
  • Sam Ehlinger has 2,893 career passing yards, surpassing his high school coach Todd Dodge’s career passing mark for 15th all-time in school history.  Ehlinger also becomes the first Longhorn QB since Colt McCoy in 2008 with at least one passing and one rushing TD in three consecutive games.

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