Texas Football: 3 major concerns for UT vs. Texas Tech in finale

CJ Baxter Jr., Texas football
CJ Baxter Jr., Texas football /
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CJ Baxter Jr., Texas football
CJ Baxter Jr., Texas football /

Texas Tech’s ability to stop the outside zone run game

Texas is not the only team with an effective run defense in this game. Texas Tech is pretty good up front, especially when it has super senior defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings healthy along the defensive line. Hutchings missed most of the last game against UCF for the Red Raiders after suffering an injury in the first half.

McGuire said he expects Hutchings to play this week against Texas.

When Hutchings is healthy, Texas Tech boasts a stout defensive tackle duo with him and fellow redshirt senior defensive lineman Tony Bradford Jr. Texas Tech likes to shuffle Hutchings and Bradford up front to give opposing offensive linemen confusing looks pre-snap. Tech bouncing those guys around pre-snap along the defensive line makes it more difficult for opposing offensive linemen to find and win their run-blocking matchups.

The confusion these two can create for opposing offensive lines has made it easier for Texas Tech’s solid group of young linebackers to clean up plays in run defense by bringing down the ball carrier for short gains.

Texas Tech has some really good young linebackers in run defense this season. Underclassmen linebackers Jacob Rodriguez and Ben Roberts are two of the five-highest-graded linebackers in the Big 12 in run defense this fall.

The combination of Tech boasting two solid interior defensive linemen in Bradford and Hutchings that can effectively fill gaps and bounce runs outside for the capable young linebackers to clean up has resulted in this defense being extremely effective in defending zone runs. Texas Tech ranks in the top five in Big 12 play in run defense (81.1 yards per game against), yards per carry (3.8), and yards after contact per attempt (1.9).

True freshman running back CJ Baxter Jr. will have his work cut out against this stout Texas Tech front in run defense. Baxter was solid for the Longhorns in last week’s win over Iowa State, posting 100 rushing yards in a game for the first time in his career.

Yet, Texas Tech poses a more difficult matchup for Texas running the zone ground game with Baxter than Iowa State last week. Iowa State is less experienced and explosive up front than Texas Tech, which allowed for the Texas offensive line to get a good push in run blocking for Baxter last week.

The good news for Baxter and the Longhorns is that some of Texas Tech’s defenders up front are banged up or could be out due to redshirt reasons this week.

Tech is trying to preserve the redshirts of its young linebackers (per 247Sports), which means Rodriguez could be held out vs. Texas since he’s already played in four games.

If Baxter and the Longhorns can find a way to run the ball successfully against Texas Tech, that would wear down a thin Texas Tech defensive front that has some injuries they’re dealing with and a depth shortage due to them trying to preserve redshirts this season.

Next. Why No. 7 Texas can dominate Texas Tech. dark