Highs, lows of Texas Longhorns' strong start, including biggest surprise for team

Longhorns will enter bye week with 3-1 record

By Jake Meltzer
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Sam Ehlinger #11 of the Texas Longhorns throws a pass in the fourth quarter defended by Trace Ford #94 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas - Four weeks into the season and the No. 11 Texas Longhorns will enter the bye week with a 3-1 record, tied for best in the Big 12.

Their 36-30 win over Oklahoma State last week was probably their most impressive thus far, as their counterattack to the Cowboys' lethal offense bought them a third win heading into their bye.

As we approach the trenches of the 2019 college football season, let's take a look at some of the highs and lows of Texas' strong start.

Most pleasant surprise

Entering the season, wide receiver Collin Johnson was primed to be "the guy" for Sam Ehlinger. Devin Duvernay was expected to produce at a level similar to his 2018 performance, and some of the younger athletes, like Jake Smith, were looked at as extra talent. Nobody thought that this Texas wide receiver bunch would have the depth and the talent to tear up secondaries for the first four weeks of the season like they have been.

The Texas receiving core has been, by far, the biggest surprise for this team. Texas is one of two teams in the country with at least three players with four or more touchdowns. Leading the pack is Devin Durvernay. There is not a receiver in the country with more receptions per game than Duvernay, as he has been Ehlinger's go-to. The speedy receiver leads the team in all receiving categories. When it comes to Duvernay making big plays, it has been a matter of when, not if.

Brennan Eagles and Smith are also tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches. Smith, a freshman who seems to catch another big touchdown every week, is already drawing Jordan Shipley comparisons with his hot start.

With a healthy Collin Johnson back in the lineup, opposing defenders sure do have a lot to worry about when lining up against these Longhorn receivers.

Biggest weakness

Through one month of football, the Texas Longhorn secondary has allowed 314.5 passing yards per game, which ranks 122nd in the country. One thing that has been consistent for these Longhorns has been their inability to slow down their opponents' passing game. While their performance against Oklahoma State last week was promising, as they held OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders to zero passing touchdowns, this secondary still needs a lot of work.

With defensive backs DeMarvion Overshown and B.J. Foster expected to return after the bye week, they can provide the extra experience that this defensive backfield needs. However, the loss of Caden Sterns, Josh Thompson and Jalen Green to injuries will certainly put a dent in this secondary.

Texas cannot expect to come away with a win against Oklahoma with a weak secondary, as Jalen Hurts will eat this defense alive. While they certainly have the talent, these young defensive guys for Texas will have to find the discipline to win.

Current injured player with most to contribute

Out of all the guys in burnt orange who have yet to suit up for a game this season, 6-foot-2-inch sophomore defensive back B.J. Foster will have the most to bring to the table when he finally slips back into his pads and hits the field.

As I mentioned earlier, this team's biggest weakness is their coverage. Foster played 12 games as a freshman last year and was seventh on the team in tackles, third in passes defended and also led the team with two forced fumbles.

The return of Foster, a mammoth on the defensive side of the ball, will certainly help shift this Texas defense into second gear.

Top unit

The running game, the receivers, the play of Ehlinger -- none of this would be possible without the Texas offensive line.

In a press conference a few weeks ago, Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck did not hesitate to say the word yes when asked if this is the "biggest group" he has coached so far at Texas, and the players on this unit have continued to prove themselves week in and week out.

The Texas front is led by Samuel Cosmi and Zach Shackelford, guys who both have already drawn interest from NFL scouts, according to local media outlets. Transfer Parker Braun has made a name for himself on this offensive line, as well. This group has done a phenomenal job of creating huge gaps for the running game and has given receivers virtually all day to get open for Ehlinger.

Most improved player

He only ran for 78 yards on 11 carries in the first game of the season and his wide-open dropped touchdown pass against LSU will certainly linger in the minds of fans, but Keaontay Ingram has provided this team with a force on the ground that only makes it easier for Texas' passing game to function. He's averaging 5.6 yards per carry and had a solid 100-yard performance in a win over Oklahoma State last week.

With the early season injury bug hitting the Texas backfield, the success of the Longhorns' run game was in the hands of Ingram. He certainly has showed his worth and should be a huge factor in Texas' success for the remainder of the season.

The bye week will give Texas some much-needed time to let their team heal from injuries as they approach their first road game of conference play. The Horns will travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Oct. 5 to take on the Mountaineers, who are also 3-1 with a bye this week.

With Overshown and Foster likely to return, the defensive backfield will get a much-needed boost, as Texas will still be without defensive backs Sterns, Thompson and Green.

According to coach Tom Herman, running back Jordan Whittington is expected to be activated for the game against West Virginia. Will the injury plague slow down the Longhorns, or will they continue to ride their momentum as they hit the road?

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