When the Texas Longhorns take the field on Saturday, unfavorable Vegas odds won’t be the only obstacles the team will need to overcome.
Youth. Youth everywhere
This is a young team with many players making their college debuts. Nothing like getting your feet wet against one of the more storied programs in the country – Notre Dame.
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How well the youngsters perform under the bright lights in South Bend will show us just how far this team has come in Charlie Strong‘s two years on campus. Remember that last year’s big early season game was BYU at home. That didn’t go very well.
Strong and his coaches must keep their first year players focused, and not lost in the atmosphere. The Irish have enough offensive weapons to blow this game open.
Speaking of youth, John Bonney and Antwuan Davis versus the Notre Dame receivers
Bonney and Davis get the start at the boundary corners as Duke Thomas slides into the nickel spot. Davis played in nine games last season, mostly on special teams. Bonney was a redshirt. The duo will have their hands full on Saturday.
Will Fuller leads the Irish receiving corp. Fuller had 76 receptions for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s not exceptionally big at 6-foot and 184 pounds, so Bonney and Davis can certainly match him size-wise. Experience is clearly in Fuller’s corner, so this battle will be worth watching all night.
Notre Dame also has a lightning-quick slot receiver in Torii Hunter Jr. Hunter is the son of major league baseball player Torii Hunter. he had an very good offseason and appears ready to burst upon the scene.
Corey Robinson gives the Irish a distinct height advantage. Robinson is 6-foot-4 and hails from San Antonio. I bet he would love to put points on the scoreboard against his home state’s biggest school.
Needless to say, Bonney and Davis will get their baptism by fire on Saturday.
Texas receivers go up against a very good secondary
Notre Dame sports two of the best corners in the country with KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke. Russell isn’t tall, but he has NFL scout’s attention with his athleticism. He could be a 2016 first round draft pick. Luke had four interceptions last season.
Don’t be surprised to see Brian Kelly stack 8-9 players in the box and force Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard to throw the ball. You can afford to gamble when you have gifted corners like Russell and Luke.
Marcus Johnson and John Burt are going to have to bring their ‘A’ game Saturday. Burt, especially, since he is making his collegiate debut. He has looked the part in practice, now it’s time to translate that into meaningful play in the regular season. Texas has the athletes at wide receiver to test the Irish secondary. Longhorn receivers cannot be intimidated by the veteran Irish secondary.
Swoopes must show improvement
Does Swoopes need to look like Vince Young when Young was a junior? Absolutely not. He does, however, need to take a big step forward. That means standing tall in the pocket and delivering throws on time and only where his player can catch it. He cannot revert back to the player who gave up on the pocket too early and dropped his eyes. That Swoopes will dig Texas a big hole. It’s time for the junior to make his own name among past Texas quarterbacks.
Heard must play within himself against a stout defense
He probably won’t be on the field for many plays, but when he is he needs to take what the defense gives him. If this were New Mexico State or North Texas at home I would say open the playbook up for the redshirt freshman. But on the road in a hostile environment Heard needs to run the offense sets that give the offense the best chance of winning. His day will come, but it would be unrealistic to say that day happens Saturday against Notre Dame.