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Missouri can render Texas’ offense one-dimensional

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Merry Christmas! Texas’ offense has literally no standouts!

NCAA Football: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a good news, bad news situation for Texas heading into the Texas Bowl.

Bad news: quite a few players from the two-deep are either hurt, suspended, or sitting out in preparation of the draft.

Running backs Toneil Carter and Chris Warren III, wonderfully named receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey, left tackle Connor Williams, nearly every damn tight end on the roster. This is very much not going to be a full-strength Texas offense on display.

Good news: Williams aside, there’s almost no difference in talent/production between the guys who are out and the guys who will play more instead.

Carter and Warren combined for 586 yards, but Kyle Porter and Daniel Young have combined for 556. Humphrey has 446 yards, but fellow H-receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps has 400. And no tight end was particularly productive anyway. And while Williams is a hell of a player, he also missed half the season with injury, so Texas certainly got used to playing without him.

Bad news: “no difference” doesn’t mean the lost or remaining players were all that successful.

Carter and Warren were averaging a paltry 4.7 yards per carry; Porter and Young have averaged just 3.9. Humphrey was averaging just 7 yards per target, and Hemphill-Mapps and Armanti Foreman, the other H in the rotation, have combined to average 7.4.

Texas ranks a ghastly 97th in Off. S&P+, worse than Missouri’s defense (93rd in defense). Interchangeability, with no standouts whatsoever, has held the Horns back this year. While that means they won’t be hurt by these absences all that much, it’s also a sign that they aren’t that good to begin with.

Let’s walk through the depth chart.

Backfield

Oklahoma v Texas
Kyle Porter
Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images

QB

  • Shane Buechele (6’1, 205, So.) — 131-for-199 (66%), 1,350 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT, 22 sacks (5.6 yards/attempt, inc. sacks); 37 carries, 202 yards (5.5), 2 TD
  • Sam Ehlinger (6’2, 230, Fr.) — 147-for-260 (57%), 1,803 yards, 10 TD, 7 INT, 10 sacks (6.3 yards/attempt, inc. sacks); 94 carries, 457 yards (4.9), 2 TD

On Sunday, it was announced that Shane Buechele would start against Missouri. I’m not completely sure I get that — by the eye test, I feel like Sam Ehlinger has more potential and upside — but with the decision, it appears that Tom Herman is choosing steadiness over ceiling.

Though Ehlinger averaged more yards per pass attempt (including sacks), Buechele completes a far higher percentage of passes and throws fewer interceptions. He plays things safer and runs the ball a little better, though he also takes twice as many sacks.

RB

  • Kyle Porter (5’10, 220, So.) — 72 carries, 231 yards (3.2), 4 TD; 6 targets, 5 catches, 33 yards (5.5), 1 TD
  • Toneil Carter (6’0, 205, Fr.) — 53 carries, 252 yards (4.8), 3 TD; 8 targets, 6 catches, 31 yards (3.9), 1 TD (suspended)
  • Daniel Young (6’0, 230, Fr.) — 69 carries, 325 yards (4.7), 3 TD; 11 targets, 10 catches, 89 yards (8.1)
  • Chris Warren III (6’4, 250, Jr.) — 73 carries, 334 yards (4.6), 6 TD; 23 targets, 18 catches, 229 yards (10.0), 2 TD (out)

“Balance” can be either good or bad. For Texas’ offense, it’s been more latter than former. Four backs ended up with between 53 and 73 carries, and nobody took advantage of their opportunities.

Porter ended up with the most carries and the worst production of the bunch, gaining at least five yards on just 22 percent of his carries (nearly half the national average). He was the primary ball carries in September, and it just didn’t work out — he rushed 46 times in the first four games but averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.

Young, meanwhile, finished the year as the go-to guy, but his 58 carries in the last four games gained just 4.1 per carry. He was excellent against WVU (12 for 85) but extremely mediocre in the other three (46 for 153).

In other words, it would be disappointing if Texas ran the ball well against Mizzou. The Tigers’ defensive front improved down the stretch as Terry Beckner Jr. both found himself and found help. Nobody’s run for even 150 yards against Mizzou since the Georgia game. If Texas ends that streak, that probably means very good things for the Longhorns.

Receiving Corps

Maryland v Texas
Reggie Hemphill-Mapps
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

WR-H

  • Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (6’1, 185, RSFr.) — 50 targets, 36 catches, 400 yards (8.0)
  • Lil’Jordan Humphrey (6’5, 225, So.) — 64 targets, 38 catches, 446 yards (7.0), 1 TD (suspended)
  • Armanti Foreman (6’0, 210, Sr.) — 39 targets, 27 catches, 261 yards (6.7), 4 TD

WR-X

  • Collin Johnson (6’6, 220, So.) — 94 targets, 51 catches, 725 yards (7.7), 2 TD
  • Jerrod Heard (6’3, 205, Jr.) — 29 targets, 18 catches, 150 yards (5.2), 1 TD

WR-Z

  • Lorenzo Joe (6’3, 215, Sr.) — 32 targets, 19 catches, 240 yards (7.5), 1 TD
  • Devin Duvernay (6’0, 205, So.) — 19 targets, 9 catches, 124 yards (6.5)
  • John Burt (6’3, 200, Jr.) — 15 targets, 10 catches, 170 yards (11.3)

TE-Y

  • Kendall Moore (6’6, 250, Sr.)
  • Garrett Gray (6’4, 240, Jr.) — 6 targets, 4 catches, 18 yards (3.0) (suspended)
  • Cade Brewer (6’4, 230, Fr.) — 13 targets, 9 catches, 80 yards (6.2), 2 TD (out)

First string to third string, there’s been very little difference among Texas receivers this year. Again, that’s both good and bad. Among the seven players targeted more than 15 times, six averaged between 6.5 and 8 yards per target, and the seventh (converted QB Jerrod Heard) was far worse. Fifteen-target guy John Burt averaged a robust 11.3 yards per target, but that was because of a single 90-yarder against Oklahoma State — he averaged 5.7 per target over his other 14 chances.

Collin Johnson is the leader, but most of his production came early. In the first five games of the year, he had 25 catches for 485 yards; in the last seven: 26 for 240. Humphrey was probably the best receiver down the stretch, but he’s out. Lorenzo Joe had five catches for 98 yards against Kansas but three for 15 in the last two games.

The passing game will be a product of the play-calling and the quarterback, in other words. And that could be enough to have success against a Missouri defense that improved over the second half of the year but could still be punctured at times.

Offensive Line

San Jose State v Texas
Sam Ehlinger (11) and Patrick Vahe (77)
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

LT

  • Connor Williams (6’6, 315, Jr.) — 28 career starts, 5 in 2017 (out)
  • Tristan Nickelson (6’10, 315, Sr.) — 12 career starts, 6 in 2017

LG

  • Patrick Vahe (6’4, 320, Jr.) —30 career starts, 11 in 2017 (probable with MCL injury)
  • Alex Anderson (6’4, 305, Jr.) — 1 career start

C

  • Zach Shackelford (6’4, 295, So.) — 16 career starts, 7 in 2017
  • Terrell Cuney (6’3, 310, Jr.) — 8 career starts, all in 2017

RG

  • Jake McMillon (6’3, 305, Jr.) — 15 career starts, 10 in 2017
  • Garrett Graf (6’2, 285, Sr.)

RT

  • Derek Kerstetter (6’6, 285, Fr.) — 9 career starts, all in 2017
  • Denzel Okafor (6’4, 310, So.) — 4 career starts, all in 2017

It goes without saying that there are former four-star recruits just about everywhere on Texas’ two-deep, but that’s not necessarily the case up front. The projected starting five on the line — Nickelson, Vahe, Shackelford, McMillon, and Kerstetter — include just one four-star recruit (Vahe), a former two-star (Nickelson), and three three-stars. Considering Beckner, it’s conceivable that Missouri’s defensive line has a better recruiting profile than Texas’ OL. It’s had better production, too.


In terms of the unit vs. unit battle, Texas might be able to find some success via the air, but Missouri should expect to win the fight in the trenches and on the ground. And if Buechele’s the guy behind center, then the pass rush potential is pretty high, too.

But Texas still has athletes that can beat Mizzou’s defenders one-on-one, and Herman is not completely averse to trick plays. Texas could scheme its way into success, but in terms of matchups, Mizzou has to like its chances here. It’s strength versus strength in one way (Texas’ defense vs. Mizzou’s offense) and weakness vs. weakness in the other.