Going into the weekend, Texas was sitting at 5-5 and having to travel to face a 7-3 West Virginia team in Morgantown with one of the best passing attacks in the nation. Texas’ superstar CB Holton Hill was suspended for the remainder of the season and bowl eligibility didn’t look like a sure bet. Thanks to a rain storm, a broken Will Grier finger, and a physically dominant performance on both sides of the ball everything looks different for Texas.
They now sit at 6-5 and will host a Texas Tech team that was blown out at home vs TCU over the weekend to wrap up the Big 12 regular season. The Red Raiders bowl eligibility will be on the line in this game. After all the close losses and heartbreaks and injuries in 2017, Texas is still looking at an 8-win season in Year 1 under Tom Herman. They also have the #2 recruiting class in the nation right now, so things are trending up in Austin. Here are some takes on where things stand for the Longhorns right now.
Sam Ehlinger is the QB1: One thing that is clear right now is that this is Sam Ehlinger’s team. Is it because he’s a better fit as a runner in Herman’s offense over Shane Buechele? Or the fact that he plays with some extra swagger and energy? Or that he just finds ways to make something out of nothing? Some people might say it’s one of those things or a mix of both, but this is his team. Now the one thing the Texas staff must plan around right now and going forward is this. And that is to keep Sam Ehlinger healthy at all costs.
Ehlinger didn’t play much in the first quarter, but he finished with only 9 carries for 68 yards. I’m completely fine with getting him some carries but I’d set the limit of carries for him at a number around 10. It’s much more important to have him out on the field than for him to have 20 carries a game. There are some other factors that will take some pressure on Ehlinger in the run game that I’ll talk about next.
The Connor Williams Impact: Future first round pick in OT Connor Williams returned to the field for Texas after missing the past 7 games. The Texas offense rushed for 233 yards in the win. The positive impact of Williams was undeniable. And at the least he was going to add a confidence boost to the line as a whole. As they’ve been in shambles for the majority of the season. Saturday was definitely a bright spot for that unit on the season.
Daniel Young Is Finally Earning the Spotlight: Early in the season all the talk was about Chris Warren and his lack of carries. Then it moved to freshman Toneil Carter and his lack of carries. Warren just wasn’t getting it done and Carter had some big gains but has also been a bit inconsistent with holding onto the football and working in pass protection.
That’s where Daniel Young comes into play. At 6’0 225 pounds, he is a bigger RB like Warren but hits the hole very hard similar to a speed guy like Carter. He’s also been solid in pass protection. Kyle Porter will continue to see the field a lot for his ability to be a really good pass blocker. But after his 85 yard and a TD performance on 12 carries on Saturday, more and more are learning Danny Young’s name.
Bottom Line: The bottom line is clear, Texas has a chance to finish up a rocky 2017 season with 8 wins and a chance to go 6-3 in conference play. Going into the year a lot of fans would be happy with that result. And after the Longhorns started the season 3-4 with some really close losses, I thought 8 wins was off the table. If anything, Tom Herman has a mentally strong team on his hands.