Posted October 17th, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Football

The University of Texas faces the Missouri Tigers Saturday night in primetime on ABC. ESPN Gameday will be in town for the first big game in the new and improved DKR. The Longhorns are ranked at number one in the nation after their upset win last week in Dallas. Everybody knows the Colt McCoys and the Brian Orakpos, but football games usually come down to the play of few unsung players. Here is five, technically six, to look for this Saturday.

[tag]Brandon Collins[/tag]

The Longhorn offense is still searching for a third option in the receiving game. Against the Sooners Collins made a few plays and looked like a good option out of the slot. The sophomore ended his day with three catches, which was the most by a receiver not named [tag]Jordan Shipley[/tag] or [tag]Quan Cosby[/tag]. With Texas moving into more four receiver sets Collins’ role should increase as defenses adjust to Shipley playing in the tight split. Yes Texas is 6-0, and yes they’re number one in the nation, but this offense will not achieve maximum production until a third receiver surfaces. People have been waiting for freshman [tag]Dan Buckner[/tag] and [tag]Malcolm Williams[/tag] to be that guy, but it seems like that will not happen this year. It is easier for smaller, slot receiver types like Collins and [tag]James Kirkendoll[/tag] to earn a quarterback’s trust mid-season. Last week Cosby proved he can get deep. One of the slot guys needs to step up and take heat off the top two guys.

[tag]Peter Ullman[/tag]

Don’t watch what he does, watch what he doesn’t do. Last weekend, for the first time this season UT’s base offense was four receivers and a running back. The tight end position was all but eliminated from the game plan save for jumbo package situations. It will be very telling for this team’s game plan going forward in the year if Greg Davis’ offense comes out running this formation for the majority of the snaps. Ever since the injury to [tag]Blaine Irby[/tag] earlier in the year, the offense has searched for a way to attack the middle in the passing game. Injuries and a lack of production from the reserve tight ends caused the staff to search for a new way. They found it last week in Jordan Shipley. If you see a lot of number 86 on Saturday (that is Ullman’s jersey number), we’ll know the formation had more to do with match ups than philosophy. But if Ullman and back up [tag]Greg Smith[/tag] are only seen near the goal line, everybody will know the Horns have a new base offense.

[tag]Henry Melton[/tag]

The front four of the Texas defense is playing at a different level, and so far most of the attention, rightfully so, has gone to [tag]Brian Orakpo[/tag] and [tag]Sergio Kindle[/tag]. Quietly Melton, the senior starter and former running back, is having a very solid year. He is not going to wow anybody with his pass rushing ability, but he plays hard at the point of the attack and has shown the ability to chase down and make a play on a scrambling quarterback. As Orakpo continues his All-American play more and more focus will be shifted to his side in terms of running back and tight end help. Coordinator [tag]Will Muschamp[/tag] has used Kindle as his pass rushing specialist opposite Orakpo, but does not like to leave the speedy linebacker on the line on downs when a pass is not certain. That duty goes to Melton, and if he can add more pressure from his position on first and second down there is nothing this defense can not accomplish.

[tag]Aaron Williams[/tag]

The true freshman from Round Rock McNeil high school has been outstanding. Last week in the Oklahoma game senior starting cornerback [tag]Ryan Palmer[/tag] went down with a hamstring injury. Williams was the first guy off the bench. With Williams in the game UT’s secondary was playing three freshman out of a five man secondary against one of the best passing offenses in the nation. The group played well, only allowing seven points after the 10 minute mark of the third quarter. This week’s game sees another top passing offense on the other side of the field, and with Palmer’s status in doubt the secondary may get to play a whole game with three freshmen (two true freshmen) in the secondary of a number one ranked team. [tag]Deon Beasley[/tag] will likely get the start if Palmer can’t go, but Texas has relied on a five defensive back for most of the snaps. It seems clear that Williams has passed up sophomore [tag]Curtis Brown[/tag] for now, so a serious amount on snaps will likely go to Williams even if Palmer can go. A hamstring injury lingers and many times a player can start but have a hard time finishing ballgames. The colder weather expected for the game can’t help.

[tag]John Gold[/tag] and [tag]Justin Tucker[/tag]

Don’t kick it to Jeremy Maclin. Please don’t kick it to Jeremy Maclin. There are only a few ways Missouri can pull the upset. One of them is big plays in the return game. Last week the Longhorns proved that points on special teams can turn a game around, and if Maclin takes one back early in this game it could be the spark that lights the fuse for Missouri’s upset. The loss for the Tigers last week against [tag]Oklahoma State[/tag] has made people forget how good this Missouri team can be. Two weeks ago outsiders favored Missouri. This all changed because of one win and one loss. Texas won last week because of the kicking game and turnovers. The Longhorns could easily lose this one because of the same things if Gold or Tucker punts to Maclin through out the game. There is an argument to just kick it deep and rely on your coverage, but why chance it? I’d put my faith in Will Muschamp and the defense over the kick coverage every game. What about you?


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