Is there a way for Texas football to apply pressure on Bryce Young?

Bryce Young
Bryce Young /

Texas football and head coach Steve Sarkisian face a massive challenge next weekend when they take on head coach Nick Saban and the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Sark and his squad will face what promises to be the most difficult matchup since he took over as the head coach during the 2021 offseason.

One of the biggest reasons why the Longhorns have such a difficult matchup when the Crimson Tide comes to town on Sep. 10 is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and junior quarterback Bryce Young. As maybe the best quarterback in the entire country, Young could be a problem for the Texas defense next weekend.

What makes Young such a difficult matchup for really any team that he faces has to do with how quickly he’s able to read and dissect defenses and then use that high-level velocity he can put on the ball to get it to his top targets. Young has good arm talent as he is also one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the SEC.

The escapability and underrated elusiveness that Young brings to the table also makes him a difficult quarterback to prepare for. Young doesn’t run the ball very often, but when he does he can be very effective.

Keep in mind that Young was still able to run a sub-4.20 second shuttle time coming out of high school. He is certainly a gifted athlete and his dual-threat ability shouldn’t be taken lightly, despite him not using his legs as a weapon all that often.

So, if Young is such a gifted athlete that can consistently beat you with his arm, how will Texas be able to effectively limit what he can do next weekend?

I will say that there isn’t a straightforward answer to this question given the lack of a groundbreaking pass rusher for the Longhorns this season. Combine that with the overall potency of the Alabama offense this fall, and it’s difficult to find one way for Texas to effectively get to Young in the pass rush in this game.

But there are some ways that Texas and co-DC/LB coach Pete Kwiatkowski can try to draw up new looks and get some real pressure on Young.

One way that the Longhorns might be able to drum up some pressure on Young is by getting some layered looks off the edge. If Alabama is lining up with 11 or 21 personnel in this game, that could create some opportunities for Texas to get senior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown matched up against a smaller blocking tight end or a less agile offensive tackle.

Overshown might have a difficult time getting pressure on the quarterback if he were consistently setting the edge against a bigger offensive lineman. But Texas now looks to have the linebacker depth that could allow Overshown to spin down and generate some pressure off the edge more often.

There is also the potential for Texas to generate some pressure with sophomore edge rusher Barryn Sorrell from the jack end position. Sorrell came up with a career-high two sacks in Texas’ win over the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks last weekend. It looked like Sorrell had a quicker burst to him off the line of scrimmage and greater closing speed when getting after the quarterback in the win over ULM compared to what we saw from him last season.

Yet, we’ll figure out a lot about where Sorrell is really at against this vaunted Alabama offense on Sep. 10.

I do believe there will be a few opportunities for Sorrell to get home to the quarterback next weekend. The offensive tackles are the most questionable part maybe of the entire Alabama offense, meaning that Sorrell will likely get to take ample reps as a pass rusher against an inconsistent lineman off the edge.

This still begs the question, though, as to whether Sorrell will actually be able to bring down Young if he is able to get past one of the Alabama offensive tackles. I mentioned the escapability of Young earlier in this article.

Young is one of the more elusive quarterbacks that you will find. He is extremely difficult to bring down, even when pass rushers are able to get a read on him.

Texas football must find a way to successfully generate pressure on Alabama QB Bryce Young

In fact, Young ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in the FBS last season with the lowest pressure to sack rate when under pressure from the opposing defense (15.5). That essentially means that even when Young was put under pressure by opposing defenses last season, he was only brought down 15.5 percent of the time.

Young also completed nearly 50 percent of his passing attempts under pressure last season, good for a whopping 1,320 yards, 17 passing touchdowns, and just three picks.

That just goes to show how effective this Alabama offense could be last season even while Young was under pressure.

What this essentially means for Texas is that when they are able to generate some pressure on Young, they must be able to contain him with a spy or someone fast enough to close on him before he’s able to get outside and kick on the burners.

But there were a few situations last season that showed how Young can be contained at times. One team that did a decent job limiting Young’s effectiveness on passing plays was the Cincinnati Bearcats.

In Alabama’s College Football Playoff Semifinal win over Cincinnati last season, Young was put under pressure 15 times and threw for just 181 yards and three scores, with one pick. That was well below the usual standard that Alabama fans were used to watching Young perform at last season.

Against Alabama last season, Cincinnati was most effective in getting pressure on Young when they either had a linebacker coming up the middle on a delayed blitz or by getting pressure off the edges and collapsing him in the pocket. It didn’t work very well for the Bearcats to get pressure up the middle as Young would just scramble to the outside and either pick up a lot of yards with his own legs or find an open wideout and hit the throw on the run.

Cincinnati occasionally used a spy to other come up the middle on a delayed blitz or to chase down Young when he was attempting to evade a collapsing pocket. It was also effective when Cincinnati was getting pressure off the edges, allowing either the defensive ends or the defensive tackle to try and clean up the play with the sack in the middle of the pocket.

This is where I believe Overshown and senior edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo will be imperative to Texas’ efforts next weekend. Overshown is the only linebacker/edge rusher that has the ability to both consistently beat some of the Alabama offensive tackles and/or tight ends while still keeping up with Young if he escapes the pocket. He’s got great closing speed that can keep up with the very best of them.

I also believe that Oghoufo has the closing speed to at least contain Young. The problem for Oghoufo tends to come from some of the poor angles and slow reads he can make at times off the line of scrimmage.

Yet, he will still have to be pretty fast at diagnosing plays from the moment after the snap if Texas wants to find success along the front seven in this game. Oghoufo will be asked to get after and occasionally contain Young while also keeping an eye on star Alabama running back and former Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs. There will be a lot that PK and the Longhorns ask Oghoufo to do against maybe the best offense in the entire country.

We can also see plays where Overshown is the spy that is assigned to either come after Young on delayed blitzes or to chase him down in situations where he’s attempting to evade a collapsing pocket.

There is also a key role that sophomore nose tackle Byron Murphy can play in regard to Texas drumming up an effective pass rush on Young next weekend. In situations where the pocket is closing in on Young, Murphy will need to be able to get himself free from the opposing offensive linemen to bring down the Alabama quarterback. Murphy will be the final piece to the puzzle in this scenario to finish off sack plays for the Longhorns.

Moreover, I’ve mentioned it before, but I believe there are really only two Longhorns players capable of drumming up pressure on Young with any sort of consistency and effectiveness. Those two players are Overshown and Sorrell.

There is a chance that Texas could get some pressure up the middle from the likes of senior nose tackle Keondre Coburn and Murphy. But I do believe that the Alabama interior offensive line is just too good to allow pressure up the middle too often, especially when Texas doesn’t have a proven bull rusher to anchor the line.

This will place a heavy onus on the duo of Sorrell and Overshown.

It also goes without saying that Overshown will be the most important defensive player in this game for the Longhorns by a mile. He needs to be a game breaker for Texas that can generate at least a few quarterback pressures.

dark. Next. 4 reasons why Texas can pull off the shocking upset of No. 1 Alabama

Texas heads into this high-stakes meeting with Alabama sporting a record of 1-0 (0-0 Big 12) following their dominant win over ULM on Sep. 3. Meanwhile, Alabama also comes into this game with a record of 1-0 (0-0 SEC) following their impressive 55-0 win over the Utah State Aggies in Tuscaloosa on Sep. 3.