The Longhorns (3-3, 2-1) will welcome Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1) to Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium this weekend. The Cowboys head to town coming off a 59-16 win over Baylor, and both teams are looking to keep their Big 12 Championship hopes alive with a win on Saturday. Let’s take a look at the Oklahoma State defense and special teams:
The Cowboys will mainly operate out a 4 man defensive front. Junior Darrion Daniels and senior Dequinton Osborne will hold down the two defensive tackle spots. A Dallas native, Daniels is in his first full year as a full time starter and has recorded 17 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. Osborne is also in his first year as a starter and has responded well, collecting 17 tackles to go along with 6 tackles for loss and is the team leader in sacks with 3. Defensive ends Vili Leveni and Jordan Brailford have both also had productive seasons. Brailford has 32 tackles, with 3 going for loss and 2 sacks. Leveni has totaled 1 tackle for loss and 1 sack.
Oklahoma State had to replace 3 out of the 4 defense starting defensive lineman from 2016, and it has shown at times this year. TCU had major success running the ball against the Cowboys, and while that does not play into the current strengths of the Texas offense, the Longhorns will probably spend more time trying to establish the run than they did last Saturday against the Sooners.
The linebackers unit is lead by middle linebacker Chad Whitener, who was named to the All-Big 12 team in 2015 and 2016. Whitener ranks second on the team in tackles with 30 and has is one the best linebackers in the conference. Justin Phillips stepped into a starting role in 2017 and has had a monster season, recording 27 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 2 interceptions.
Oklahoma State could be without junior starting linebacker Kenneth Edison-McGruder after he suffered an injury against Baylor. If Edison-McGruder is unable to go, it would open the door for Calvin Bundage to receive a significant increase in playing time.
Oklahoma State has a mixture of youth and experience in their secondary. Starting Corners AJ Green and Rodarius Williams are both in their first year as a starter. Green is a sophomore who has 23 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss this season. Williams is a redshirt freshman who has 20 tackles. Both corners have yet to record an interception, but both have been very good in coverage and have the benefit of having two excellent safeties behind them.
Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards man the two safety positions, and have combined for 66 career starts. Flowers, a senior, was a Second Team All-Big 12 member in 2016 and is one of the best safeties in the Big 12, He leads the team in tackles with 31 and has also totaled 2 interceptions. Richards is also a senior and has collected 26 total tackles with 2 tackles for loss.
It will be interesting to see how Texas chooses to attack the secondary in the passing game. Collin Johnson is due for a big game and Tom Herman seems to have tried to light a fire under him by placing him 2nd on the depth chart this week. Texas was unable to take any shots down the field last week, but that was mainly due to protection issues. Reggie Hemphill Mapps seems to get better every week, and this is the type of matchup where Texas will probably choose to attack the middle of the field and get chunk yardage with underneath routes to protect the offensive line.
Redshirt Sophomore Matt Ammendola is 9 for 13 on field goals with a long of 53 yards. Redshirt Junior Zach Sinor handles the punting duties and is one of the better punters in the Big 12. The 2016 Ray Guy semifinalist is averaging 43.3 yards per punt, with a long of 57 yards.
In the return game, Jalen McCleskey handles punts and has turned 5 returns into 16 yards, with a long of 13 yards. Tyron Johnson serves as the kick returner, and is averaging 20.8 yards per return.