Brandon Weeden

The Dallas Cowboys have had a lackluster offseason. Due to its salary cap issues, Dallas couldn’t do too much to bolster its roster. In order to create cap space, the Cowboys parted ways with their all-time sack leader DeMarcus Ware during free agency.

In an attempt to replace Ware, Dallas added defensive tackles Henry Melton and Terrell McClain and defensive end Jeremey Mincey. The Cowboys also addressed their concerns at quarterback by picking up former first round draft pick Brandon Weeden.

While Dallas’ offseason wasn’t as successful as some hoped it would be, America’s Team still has an opportunity to improve its roster through the draft, which is less than a month away.

Here is our second Dallas Cowboys mock draft for the team’s first five rounds:

Mock Draft 2.0

Pick No. 16: S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (Alabama)

The Cowboys have a definite need for a defensive back in this year’s draft. Clinton-Dix would be an immediate starter for the Cowboys if selected with the 16th pick.

Clinton-Dix’s biggest strength is his ability to cover the whole field. He’s a tough, physical tackler who can make all the necessary tackles in the open field.  During the 2013 season, Clinton-Dix accumulated 30 tackles and 2 interceptions for the Alabama Crimson-Tide.

Pick No. 47: WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)

With the departure of wide receiver Miles Austin, the Cowboys are now in need of depth at receiver. While most of the Cowboys draft needs are on the defensive side of the ball, Jerry Jones’ loves to make a big offensive splash when he can.

Jordan Matthews would be a nice second round selection. Matthews is a great route runner with amazing hands. He has a great work ethic and would fit into Dallas’ pass-happy scheme.

Pick No. 78: DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)

In our first Dallas Cowboys mock draft, the Cowboys selected Jeffcoat with 78th pick and I’m still sold on this move.

The Cowboys addressed some needs along the defensive line during free agency but Jeffcoat would fit into defensive line coach Rod Marinelli’s scheme.

If Jeffcoat is still on the board at pick 78, Jeffcoat would be a steal.

Pick No. 115: RB Jeremy Hills (LSU)

Running back DeMarco Murray has great success as a Cowboy when he is healthy but when he’s not healthy Dallas suffers.

The Cowboys have a solid backup in Lance Dunbar but Dunbar suffered a knee injury which sidelined him for half of the season.

Dallas selected Joseph Randle in last year’s draft but he didn’t produce as expected during the 2013 season.

It is speculated that the Cowboys are considering drafting a running back late in the draft, if Dallas chooses to, Jeremy Hills would be a solid pick. During the 2013 season, Hills ran for 1401 yards and 16 touchdowns for LSU.

Pick No. 146: QB Aaron Murray

While I tend to believe the Cowboys draft should focus on defense, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dallas were to choose a quarterback in the draft.

Although the Cowboys added Brandon Weeden in free agency and Kyle Orton is still on the roster, Dallas should draft a young quarterback to groom for the future.

If Aaron Murray is available in the fifth round, he would be a great pick for Dallas. Prior to injuring his ACL, scouts were raving over Murray but now there is concern over his knee.

It would be a risky pick but Murray has first round potential, as a fifth round pick he would be steal.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

After redshirting, Clint Chelf stood on the sideline with a clipboard in his hands for two years learning from one of the greatest quarterbacks in school history — Brandon Weeden.

He saw Weeden lead the Cowboys to national prominence. Many felt they deserved a shot at the 2011 BCS championship game. So when Weeden got drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Chelf felt like it was his turn to lead the team he grew up watching from nearby Enid.

But head coach Mike Gundy brought in the country’s No. 4 and 7 quarterback recruits, according to, and declared an open competition for the starting quarterback job.

“Go win the job,” Weeden texted Chelf, endorsing his back-up and best friend.

But he didn’t.

True freshman Wes Lunt won the job. The other freshman and highest-rated recruit of the three, J.W Walsh, was named the back-up.

“Clint probably knew the offense better than anybody in the room,” Weeden told The Sporting News this February. “His heart probably broke.”

In the third game, Lunt went down with a leg injury. He was replaced by Walsh.

Then Walsh went down with an injury. He was replaced by a banged-up Lunt.

“My morale was obviously hurt,” Chelf said. “I wanted to play for Oklahoma State, but it didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen for me.”

Chelf thought about transferring for his fifth year. He was tired of watching. Luckily for Gundy, though, Chelf stuck with it, because when Lunt went down with a head injury against TCU and Walsh wasn’t healthy, Chelf was ready.

In the final six games, Chelf threw for 14 touchdowns, including a three-touchdown performance against Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Walsh and Lunt were healthy for final two, but Gundy stuck with Chelf. He went from third-string to MVP of the bowl win.

“I’m very happy he decided to stay with us,” Mike Gundy said after that game. “It’s not been easy for him this season.”

So finally, for the first time in his five years in Stillwater, it looked as though he wouldn’t have to worry about starting on the sideline. He clearly outplayed Walsh in the prior year. Lunt opted to transfer to his hometown team, Illinois.

“The way I look at it? It’s my job,” Chelf said after the bowl game. “It’s my spot right now.”

And when this season started against Mississippi State, Chelf trotted out there as the starter.

But, as planned, Gundy made the switch and put Walsh in at quarterback. Chelf didn’t play again in the season-opening win over the Bulldogs. 

Fast forward five weeks, and after Walsh threw two interceptions in three drives against TCU, Chelf once again worked his back to under center. And just like last year when he finally got a chance, he never looked back.

Despite the coaches still not backing him fully as the best quarterback on the team, he’s started every game since, winning all three. The Cowboys have scored more than 42 points in all of them. He was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.  

And the Longhorns know that, just because he was at one point a third-string quarterback, it doesn’t mean they can take him lightly.

“The Chelf kid, he’s a talented quarterback,” senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said.

Cleveland under new management: What does that mean for Colt McCoy’s future?

Colt McCoy flees from a Titans lineman during the 2012-2013 season. His future in the NFL remains unclear at this point.
Colt McCoy flees from a Titans lineman during the 2012-2013 season. His future in the NFL remains unclear at this point.

Entering the fifth week of the offseason, NFL rosters already have had some significant changes. Atlanta released three former Pro Bowl players in Dunta Robinson, John Abraham and Michael Turner, and Kansas City has already called dibs on Alex Smith to come and compete for the quarterback position under newly hired Andy Reid. But not all changes have occurred on the roster.
The Cleveland Browns coaching and managerial staff has been broken down and rebuilt since Jimmy Haslam purchased the franchise last October. Mike Holmgren retired from the team presidency while general manager Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur were fired.
Since then the front office hired Michael Lombardi as vice president of player personnel and named Rob Chudzinski head coach, Norv Turner offensive coordinator and Ray Horton defensive coordinator.
After going 23-57 in the past five seasons, it seems obvious that some changes need to be made. But what does this mean for the roster?
With the large struggles the team has had both offensively and defensively, the new staff will have to figure out which players will best fit their system in an effort to turn the organization around.
So what will become of Colt McCoy?
The name that hangs from the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in architectural eternity has almost been completely forgotten in the NFL. Ever since his concussion-filled career sent him to the bench, he has yet to break through as a starter in competition with Brandon Weeden.
Weeden struggled in his first season at the helm, but will the UT all-time passer have a chance to compete in a Norv Turner-style offense? The real question may be whether or not McCoy will still be around when training camp begins.
Trade rumors circulated around McCoy at the beginning of the 2012 season, but with the available market they may decide to keep him around. 
With limited quarterback talent in this year’s draft, it is likely that the Browns will address other needs with their sixth overall pick. With Jason Campbell and Matt Moore as the plausible available free agents (there’s no way the Ravens are letting Joe Flacco go), they don’t seem to be players that could take the job from Weeden, either.
With the managerial and coaching staff only a month into their new positions, there is little clarity in what plans they have for the quarterback position.
McCoy may just end up getting another shot in Cleveland. If not, he can always rely on his Dunkin’ Donuts stores for his revenue.

Colt McCoy, who served as an honorary captain before Texas’ win over Iowa State last month, went 45-7 as a starting quarterback for the Longhorns. He’s currently backing up rookie Brandon Weeden as a member of the Cleveland Browns. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Browns players file into the locker room, heading down in defeat after a crushing overtime loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 18.

The majority of the team heads directly to the showers to wash away the stains of yet another close defeat, but backup quarterback and legendary former Longhorn Colt McCoy is one of the exceptions.

McCoy, who hadn’t seen a snap in the game, didn’t break a sweat in his return to Texas. Instead of racing toward the soothing drops of warm water, he stood stoically next to his locker, piling on layers of clothing to combat the biting winds of a cool November Dallas afternoon.

There wasn’t a teammate within 10 feet of him, and he faced away from the crowd of players on the opposite side of the room, where the young running backs and wideouts hammed it up, laughing and joking around, despite having victory snatched from them only minutes earlier.

McCoy took no part, taking the loss as hard as any starter.

“We always find a way to lose,” McCoy said, disheartened by yet another defeat. The Browns are 4-8 on the year, and lost the previous four games by a combined 18 points.

McCoy hasn’t played a role in any of these contests. He’s stood on the sidelines holding a clipboard, relaying signals to 29-year-old rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden.

McCoy is active in his role. Arms churning to send out the right call, helping Weeden make any adjustments needed at the line. But under it all, he’s frustrated. It can be seen in his clenched jawline after a close loss, the same outline that used to display his 10-volt smile as he roamed the field at DKR. 

“It’s a hard deal, especially when you feel like you should be playing,” McCoy said. “You just got to stay positive. It’s a marathon and not a sprint.”

McCoy’s first two seasons in the NFL were a whirlwind. After becoming college football’s all-time winningest quarterback at Texas — he’s now been surpassed on the list by former Boise State Bronco Kellen Moore — and leading the Longhorns to an appearance in the 2009 BCS Championship game, the Browns drafted McCoy in the third round.  

In 2010, McCoy quickly ascended to the starting role, replacing an aging Jake Delhomme to play eight games in the year. He found a reasonable level of success that season despite his team’s lacking talent. In 2011, McCoy elevated his play, throwing for 2,733 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He only participated in 13 games however, as a vicious helmet-to-helmet blow by Pittsburgh’s James Harrison gave him a concussion, knocking him out for the remainder of the season.

Despite only having a little over a year under center, Cleveland’s new coaching staff decided to move in a different direction in the 2012 draft. The Browns selected Weeden at No. 22 to be the team’s quarterback of the future, leaving McCoy behind before he had a chance to establish himself.

“I got drafted by a different coaching staff, and they’re going to bring new guys in,” McCoy said. “You don’t want to make any excuses or anything, but you just have to live to fight each day, and I’m in that position right now.”

He’s battling to stay relevant in Cleveland, but the coaching staff hasn’t given him much of an opportunity. Head coach Pat Shurmur said that both quarterbacks would participate in an open competition during training camp, but it seemed to be a mere token gesture, as Shurmur named Weeden the starter only a week and a half into camp.

McCoy hasn’t sniffed the field since, and his body language made it evident that the combination of not playing and the Browns’ struggles are weighing on him. His teammates commend the job he’s done dealing with the situation.

“Colt’s a pro’s pro,” said Phil Dawson, kicker and former Longhorn. “He doesn’t need a pep talk from me. He’s handled all of this tremendously.”

McCoy’s situation parallels his brother’s, Case, a junior who’s been the backup for much of the season at Texas. However, sophomore David Ash started and stumbled against TCU, leaving the door open for Case to seize the job.

The story ended well for Case, but it may not be the same for Colt. The Browns have invested a significant amount in Weeden, and they see him as the future of the franchise. McCoy has one year remaining on his rookie deal, but when asked to look toward his future in Cleveland, McCoy is vague, spouting words about hard work and perseverance.

But his expression says it all. His blue eyes are cold, numbed by frustration. He just wants a chance.

“I want to win,” McCoy said. “I’ve always won. I want to be part of an environment that’s winning. That’s the frustration of not being able to play.”

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: Losses, benching brother McCoy

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy talks on his headset as he watches from the sidelines in the fourth quarter of the game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Stillwater, Oka. on Sept. 15. Oklahoma state won, 65-24.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Oklahoma State’s game against Texas on Saturday will be a measuring stick for OSU coach Mike Gundy and the program he’s built.

Sometimes it’s an overused term, but in this case it fits. Oklahoma State’s football team was hit hard by graduation after the 2011 season, losing two first-round NFL draft picks in Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. The Cowboys also lost defensive captain Markelle Martin in the fourth round and both of the team’s starting defensive ends.

Since the departures, Gundy has constantly had to answer two questions: Will he reload or rebuild, and who is his quarterback?

The latter was announced at the end of spring practices when freshman Wes Lunt won the starting job. His 6-foot-4 frame and electric arm was exactly what Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken wanted for Weeden’s replacement.

Lunt’s play this season was initially strong, and included him breaking the Big 12 single-game passing record for a freshman against Arizona when he threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns. It seemed as though Gundy had answered both of the offseason questions with ease — at least until the first quarter of the Louisiana-Lafayette game.

Lunt was tackled as he rolled to his right and remained on the turf while grabbing at his knee in obvious pain.

Just like that, the second question came back into play. Will the Cowboys reload, or will they rebuild?

Gundy has said several times that his goal is to have a two-deep depth chart, a situation that would provide flawless transitions between the starter and backup in an injury situation.

It’s a recruiting plan much like Texas coach Mack Brown has in place, though Oklahoma State doesn’t quite have the power that the Longhorns have in their offseason acquisitions.

“There’s a number of advantages in playing or coaching for Texas,” Gundy said. “If you started writing down the big-time guys they’ve had, you’d take up an entire notebook ... We’re starting to get into that geographical region more than we have in the past, but we’re obviously not on their level.”

But Gundy is moving in the right direction, and it showed two weeks ago when former Denton Guyer quarterback J.W. Walsh lined up behind center in Lunt’s absence.

Walsh, a redshirt-freshman, torched the Ragin’ Cajun defense for 420 total yards, which was good for the eighth-best single-game total in Oklahoma State history.

The backup looked strong but it was also against La.-Lafaeyette, who’s obviously not a Big 12-quality football team.

Now, Walsh faces a bear of a challenge in a Texas defense that boasts two of the best defensive ends in the nation in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, and the talent doesn’t stop there. The Longhorn secondary is just as loaded, and is so athletic that they play man defense a majority of the time. That game plan is something that has given OSU some trouble against the Longhorns in their last two match ups.

“This will be a good test for both of us to find out where we’re really at, at least in my opinion,” Gundy said. “I don’t know that we’ll play anybody that will be as athletic as these guys.”

This game will show where Gundy stands. Is he where he wants his program to be, a two-deep football team capable of sustaining their level of play even when the injury-bug bites? Or is the team still trying to get there, trying their hardest to rebuild after the mortar of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon was removed from their brick wall?

Saturday’s match up against the best defense in the Big 12 will tell you all you need to know.

Rebuilding, or reloading?

Do something, anything other than watch the first 20 minutes of the NFL Draft.

Surf YouTube, start whatever research paper you’ve neglected for the semester, figure out your summer plans, but just don’t sit through the inevitable, because if you don’t know by now I’ll just tell you. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be bang-bang No. 1 and No. 2 picks.

Sorry Minnesota through Miami (picks 3-8) fans. Any of you hold-outs that think your team could have snagged one of those top prizes in a steal is sorely mistaken.

But don’t be sour that the top two quarterbacks are already taken. In fact, the third quarterback that should come off the board has a shot at providing as much as Luck or Griffin at the NFL level because of his talent and accuracy. And yes, I’m talking about Brandon Weeden.

Forget his age. In this case, Weeden is like a fine wine. He’s better as he gets older, and is immediately palatable for a team seeking instant wins. In fact, the case that he is too old is almost nonsense given that the average starting age of NFL quarterbacks is just about 28 years old — Weeden’s current age.

Weeden has outdueled opposing defenses throughout his time at Oklahoma State like a teenager bullying children on the playground. He’s amassed nearly 10,000 yards as a Cowboy and tossed 75 touchdowns. He’s so pro-ready that he makes watching him toss the pigskin look almost boring.

Scouts know he’s good and he’s got the wins and numbers to prove it, but they just gauge his age as too much of a risk.

Analysts would bark at such an endorsement as they’ve been quick to jump on the Ryan Tannehill bandwagon as the No. 3 guy. Tannehill did have impressive numbers at Texas A&M this season. He shattered records during his career under center, including single game passing yards (449 vs. Texas Tech, 2010), single season passing yards (3,744, 2011) and completion percentage (65.0, 2010). He ran his offense with pro terminology and understands how the West Coast system works. Not to mention that at 23 years old, he can be molded. On the surface it seems all there, so much so that people are willing to take a risk on a guy that spent most of his time as a wide receiver.

But dig a little deeper and teams should take notice that he’s a wild card of a pick. The intangibles, in this case, do matter between Weeden and Tannehill. Weeden has outdueled opposing defenses in high pressure situations. He had an incredible Fiesta Bowl performance, throwing for 399 yards and three touchdowns and went on to beat the consensus No. 1 pick, Luck. The game came down to the wire, but Weeden was poised in the pocket the whole time.

Tannehill played games with a fire under his behind in the first half of games, but couldn’t make throws down the stretch when he needed to. He was noticeably rattled and sometimes throws came out of his hands that made fans scratch their heads. Weeden, no matter how many times he was picked off or made an errant throw, was able to dig his offense back into the ground and forge forward.

Texas safety Blake Gideon has played both of the possible third selection quarterbacks. He thinks they are talented in their own ways, but his praise for each differs. He said Tannehill is a great first round quarterback, but not a top-10 get for any team. But he sees Weeden entirely differently.

“He’s one of the best quarterbacks I faced in four years with how he diagnoses the game and how fast he makes his reads.” Gideon said. “It’s unfortunate that he’s fallen into the situation he has ... just because he’s an older guy.”

Are you listening, Miami?

Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: Weeden makes case for third-best QB in draft

11 weeks in and here’s how we rank them.


Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma State
Week 11 at Texas Tech- 31/37 (83.8%) for 423 yards, 5 TD
Season Stats- 313/428 (73.1%) for 3,635 yards, 31 TD 9 INT

Weeden’s message to the Red Raiders last week: Respect your elders. With surgical precision, the 28-year-old threw for five scores and no interceptions for the second time this season. He’s heating up at precisely the right stage in the season, although his numbers the entire year have been nothing to scoff at. Currently ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings, the Cowboys are two games away from a national title appearance. If Weeden and the Cowboys win out, he’s got to be the favorite for the Heisman.

Trent Richardson RB Alabama
Week 11 at Mississippi State- 32 carries for 127 yards (4.0 ypc), 1 TD
Season Stats- Rushing: 204 carries for 1,205 yards (5.9 ypc), 18 TD Receiving: 25 catches for 318 yards, 1 TD

The Tide made it pretty clear that in order for them to be successful for the remainder of the season, their offense must run through Richardson. He followed through with last week’s game plan, gaining more than 100 yards on the ground for the seventh time this season. He also made it into the endzone after being stuffed by LSU two weeks ago. Richardson and the Tide are still a favorite to compete for the national title and that’s why his Heisman chances are still on the rise. Expect ridiculous numbers from “T-Rich” this week as Georgia Southern comes to “T-Town.”

Andrew Luck QB Stanford
Week 11 vs. Oregon- 27/41 (65.9%) for 271 yards, 3 TD 2 INT
Season Stats- Passings: 221/313 (70.6%) for 2,695 yards, 29 TD 7 INT Rushing: 34 carries for 134 yards, 2 TD

Bad Luck? Not necessarily. Oregon is a strong team, and they certainly proved as much with their emphatic 53-30 road win last week. In Luck’s defense, one of his two interceptions was a case of a Ducks’ defender being in the right place at the right time following a deflection off a Stanford receiver. However, Luck failed to succeed under the lights and his Heisman chances will take a dip because of his performance. He’s thrown four picks in the last three games and his accuracy is steadily declining. He’ll need to right the ship this week against California in order to regain the confidence of Heisman voters.


LaMichael James RB Oregon
Week 11 at Stanford- 20 carries for 146 yards (7.3 ypc), 3 TD
Season Stats- Rushing: 153 carries for 1,207 yards (7.9 ypc), 12 TD Receiving: 13 catches for 175 yards, 1 TD

After seemingly falling off the face of the Earth at the season’s start, James is right back in the Heisman conversation. He made an emphatic statement against Stanford last week, as the junior found the end zone three times against what was supposed to be one of the Pac-12’s best defenses. James missed two games because of injury but still remains one of the most productive running backs in the nation. He has led the Ducks back after a season-opening loss to top-ranked LSU, which doesn’t look bad at all now that we know how good the Tigers are. If James and the Ducks can slip into the national title, James is sure to be a frontrunner for the Heisman.

Case Keenum QB Houston
Week 11 at Tulane- 22/29 (75.9%) for 325 yards, 3 TD
Season Stats- Passing: 279/376 (74.2%) for 3, 951 yards, 37 TD 3 INT Rushing: 37 carries for 35 yards, 2 TD

It’s become somewhat of a tradition to watch Keenum roast C-USA opponents on Thursday nights. This week, the Cougars host SMU on Saturday and should continue their reign as the nation’s highest scoring offense. If Keenum is unknown in the national spectrum, his top receiver Patrick Edwards is merely a speck in the college football universe. Keenum and Edwards have hooked up for 14 touchdowns thus far, catapulting Edwards to the top of many offensive categories. A few more losses from schools currently ranked in the BCS top-five and the Cougars could find themselves in the national title hunt. It’s still a little far-fetched, but crazier things have happened.

Brandon Weeden, Senior QB:

After tossing the pigskin 367 yards in the air last week, the Texas pass defense doesn’t catch a break this week with Weeden coming to Austin. The 28-year-old senior has experience to spare and enough arm strength to make every pass seem like a casual flick. He threw for a season-low 288 yards against Kansas on 24 of 28 passing. He threw five touchdown passes against the Jayhawks and has 15 on the season. He does have six interceptions this year, but all of those came in the first three games of the season, with half of them coming in game one against Louisiana-Lafayette. Last year, he had one of his three 400-plus yard games against Texas, passing for 409 in Austin.

Justin Blackmon, Junior WR:

The Cowboy’s have began to form a bit of a reputation for producing NFL talent at receiver. Following Dez Bryant, Blackmon won the Biletnikoff award last year as a redshirt junior. Along with being named the best receiver in the country, he was a unanimous all-American and received Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. He lit up Texas last season, catching 145 yards on just nine receptions, including a 67-yard catch and run in second quarter. He had at least 100 receiving yards in 12 games last year, and has three so far this year. Against the young Texas corners, he has a chance to have a big game on Saturday.

Joseph Randle, Sophomore RB:

With so much attention being paid to the Oklahoma State passing attack, Randle has quietly put together a good season having rushed for almost 500 yards so far. His 484 yards this season is already higher than his entire season total last year at 452. After rushing for 378 yards in the first three games, he has been held to 106 in his last two, including just 23 against Kansas. He may be the most important “X-factor” in the game this weekend. With the Texas defense preoccupied with stopping the high-powered Cowboy’s passing attack, he could take advantage of the lack of attention to get some yards on the ground against the Longhorns.

Quarterback: Oklahoma State has the definite edge in this game under center. Texas saw some improvement after switching to the two-quarterback system, but that system was abused last week by Oklahoma. David Ash threw two interceptions, and Case McCoy was sacked and fumbled twice, with one of each of those turnovers being returned for scores. Meanwhile, Brandon Weeden is averaging almost 380 yards per game through the air, and although he has thrown six interceptions this season, none of those have come in the last two games. He has completed 80 percent of his passes during the last two games and has completed 79 percent of his passes since the first game of the season, where he completed a paltry 61 percent.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Running Back: Oklahoma State has a strong running game, but it is by no means a dominant attack. The Cowboys have been outrushed in each of their two conference games and were held to 46 yards rushing against Texas A&M. The strength of the Texas offense had been the rushing game going into last week’s butchering. Texas gained 153 yards rushing against the Sooners but lost 117 yards for a net total of only 36. The Cowboys will be looking to pass first, so most of their rushing yards will be supplemental, but Texas has to establish the run in order to have a chance to win the game. Texas has a little more talent at the position and will be relying on it to win.

Advantage: Texas

Wide Receiver: A week after facing one of the best receiver tandems in the conference, Texas will now face one of the best receivers in the nation. Justin Blackmon is the primary target on the Cowboys’ offense. He has caught for more than 100 yards in three games this season including receiving for 128 and 121 yards in tight games against Arizona and Texas A&M, respectively, and 13 percent of his catches have gone for touchdowns. Texas’ one consistent target this season has been true freshman Jaxon Shipley. Last week, he caught nine balls for 89 yards and the only offensive touchdown for the Longhorns. He is the only consistent target on the team with Mike Davis having an inexcusable turnover against Oklahoma. Blackmon alone gives the Cowboys the edge in this one, but Oklahoma State has had at least one 100-yard receiver in three games this season, and two against Texas A&M.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Offensive Line: Last week, the Sooners spent as much time in the Texas backfield as the Longhorns did. The Texas offensive line gave up eight sacks against Oklahoma and an additional seven quarterback hurries. The Sooners turned all that pressure into four turnovers, and 117 yards for loss. Kansas was only able to get one sack, and one QB hurry on Weeden as he passed for almost 300 yards. The Cowboys averaged 3.9 yards per carry against Kansas and are only averaging 3.1 yards per carry over the last three games. If Texas is going to pull the upset this weekend, then the offensive line has to do a significantly better job than it did last week because the Oklahoma State line is going to give Weeden ample time to throw.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Defensive Line: While Oklahoma was able to set up base camp in the Texas backfield, the Longhorn defensive line was not able to get any pressure on Landry Jones. It only recorded two hurries and one sack against Oklahoma. Oklahoma State’s line fared a little better against the Jayhawks, with 3.5 sacks and a hurry, but gave up 4.6 yards per carry to the Kansas running backs. The one bright spot from the Red River Rivalry was that Texas was able to limit Oklahoma to just 86 yards rushing and didn’t let through a lot of runs up the middle. Neither team will be taking in a dominant defensive line, but the Cowboys may have little more going for them in pass rushing, though Texas is a little better at defending the run.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Linebackers: Texas’ linebackers were only able to muster up 13 tackles against Oklahoma, with most of the work being done by the defensive backs. The most troubling stat is that the linebackers combined for one quarterback hurry and no sacks. Most of the blitzes done by the linebackers got stopped at the line of scrimmage and could not apply pressure on the quarterback. Oklahoma State’s linebackers are solid but don’t make a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage, nor do they account for a lot of sacks. They are a decent group but none of them are exceptional. A backup, Tyler Johnson, led the team in tackles last week with seven. Texas has more talent at the position but it has to start producing, especially on blitzes in order for the team to have success.

Advantage: Texas

Secondary: Texas’ secondary got torched by Landry Jones and the Oklahoma receivers, but some of that may be on a defensive front seven that was not able to get any pressure on Jones. But the defensive backs were only able to get their hands on three balls for pass breakups and no interceptions. They made a lot of tackles, but there were too many instances of Oklahoma receivers running open down the field and too many poor angles taken by the entire backfield. The Cowboy’s secondary has picked off 10 passes this season, with most of those coming in the last three games, including three in the comeback win against Texas A&M. Texas’ corners are young, but talented, but the OSU defensive backs have a lot more experience, and have been more consistent at getting their hands on passes.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Special Teams: Texas hasn’t gotten much out of its punt return units this season, but its kick return game came alive against the Sooners. Texas racked up 248 return yards on nine returns averaging more than 27 yards per return. Fozzy Whitaker had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown, and D.J. Monroe had a 90-yard kick returned called back on a penalty that would have given the Longhorns more than 330 yards on kick returns for the day. Oklahoma State averaged 18.5 yards per return on four kicks, and was a perfect 10-10 on PAT’s against Kansas. If the game is close, Texas’ newfound advantage in special teams could mean the difference in this game.

Advantage: Texas

Cornerback Carrington Byndom tries to pull down an Oklahoma receiver. The secondary will take on another Heisman-caliber quarterback this week.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Defensive backs have short memories. That will come in handy this week.

The Longhorns don’t have any time to sulk over last week’s implosion against Oklahoma. Not with the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation coming to town on Saturday.

Texas entered the OU game with the country’s seventh-best pass defense. They left the Cotton Bowl ranked No. 55. If Oklahoma and Landry Jones were good, Oklahoma State and Brandon Weeden
are better.

“They’re throwing it as good as anyone in the country,” said head coach Mack Brown. “This offense might be better than the one we just played. This one’s the real deal.”

For the second-straight week, the Longhorns will face a top-five passing offense manned by a top flight signal-caller.

“We’re playing two Heisman candidates back to back here at quarterback,” Brown said.

The young Longhorns cornerbacks underwent a trial by fire last week against Jones and his talented group of Sooners receivers. And it won’t get any easier this week against Weeden and elite wide out Justin Blackmon. Still, sophomore starter Carrington Byndom says the secondary is up to the challenge.

“We’re ready to show that last week was just our fault in the back end and we’re going to step it up and bring our game to another level,” Byndum said. “We pride ourselves on being good in the back end. We’re just going back to basics and we’re going to play our game.”

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz says it takes more than just a good defensive backfield to have success against the pass. It takes 11 players, from the front seven to the deep safety.

If the Longhorns want to slow down the Cowboys aerial attack, they must limit the running game first.

“Then we can squarely focus on hammering the pass, hammering the quarterback, making him unsure of his reads,” said senior linebacker Keenan Robinson. “We need to make the quarterback feel uncomfortable and that way we can force turnovers, force interceptions, force him to hold the ball. And maybe somebody can come up from behind him and slap the ball out and get a fumble.”

But to do that, Texas must find a way to pressure Weeden. It’s been a struggle this season for the Longhorns to get sacks and disrupt the quarterback’s timing.

Texas has just six sacks through five games. An inconsistent pass rush has hindered the sack totals. The onus isn’t squarely on the defensive line or front seven, though.

“When we get a great rush going, we have to have great coverage in the back end,” said senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “And when we have great coverage in the back end, that allows us to get a great rush going. It’s a total collective effort.”

The Longhorns struggled in coverage against the Sooners, partly because of poor communication. The speed of the game also factored in. The Cowboys call plays at a blistering pace, meaning the defensive backs must be clear on their assignments against a no-huddle look.

If Texas has breakdowns in pass coverage like it did against Oklahoma, they will pay a similar price in this game.

“If you do things 85-percent right against a quarterback like this, it is punished,” Diaz said.

Blackmon and the rest of the Cowboys receivers are going to get their catches. The Longhorns understand this. Oklahoma State throws for over 431 yards per game, so the yards will come. Texas just needs to limit the explosive plays that swing momentum and put points on the board.

The Longhorns will have to tackle better than they did a week ago, though, in order to reduce OSU’s game-breakers. Blackmon is the type who can take a swing pass for six points from anywhere on the field.

“We need to tackle well once they do catch the ball,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “You can’t let a team like that get extra yardage. You can’t let them catch and run. That’s always going to be a stress for us.”

Few teams face prolific offenses like these on consecutive weeks. But the Longhorns aren’t complaining.

They’ve moved on. The last game was a forgettable one for the secondary. And they’re pretty good at wiping the slate clean.

They’ll have a shot at redemption Saturday and another chance to prove their worth against a record-setting offense.

“It’s another challenge for us and one we’re looking forward to,” Byndum said.