3 storylines to watch against TCU

30 Sep By
Text Your Texas Longhorns Sports Knowledge
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will have yet another target at his disposal if receiver Jake Smith returns to the lineup; Smith was listed on the first-team offense on a depth chart released by the UT athletic department (photo courtesy of texassports).

The Texas Longhorns survived their first Big 12 test, rallying on the road to defeat an underrated Texas Tech squad. Now the Horns return home to continue the conference schedule against another opponent, TCU, that is a question mark in 2020. The Horned Frogs showed what they can do could do against Iowa State last Saturday, and head to Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium with the goal to get back on the winning side of things in Saturday's 11 a.m. tilt. Here are three storylines to keep an eye on as the Longhorns take on TCU:

The Duggan Effect
Prior to the 2020 season, it was unclear when TCU quarterback Max Duggan would be back in action ... if he returned to the field at all this fall.

When TCU ran Covid-19 tests for all of its players and personnel prior to the beginning of fall practice, it was discovered that Duggan had been living with a rare heart condition since birth.

Duggan underwent surgery in August, but because TCU's season began just last Saturday against Iowa State, he was able to return to the field for the conference opener after nearly four weeks of recovery. In the Horned Frogs' 37-34 loss, Duggan completed 16 of 19 passes (84.2 percent) for 241 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Duggan did not get the start against the Cyclones. Matthew Downing started the game, completing 11 of 21 passes (52.4 percent) for 158 yards and a score.

The Texas defense should be prepared to face Duggan, a quarterback whom Texas defense coordinator Chris Ash called, "the closest thing to Sam Ehlinger that there is in this league." He was TCU's starter as a freshman last year and returns with more experience and a goal to guide the Horned Frogs to their first win of the season Saturday.

The effect of Duggan's presence also means the Longhorn defense will need to get familiar with two quarterbacks. Duggan reportedly is not 100 percent yet, so it certainly is possible he and Downing both will play.

Expect TCU to use the two-quarterback system on Saturday, in an attempt to keep Duggan fresh and confuse the Texas defensive front with two different styles of quarterbacking.

Jake Smith's speed
After missing the Longhorns' first two games of 2020, Jake Smith is back in the starting lineup. According to the depth chart released Tuesday through the UT athletic department, Smith is listed with the first team at slot receiver; assuming he plays, he will join an offense that leads the Big 12 in total yards.

Smith demonstrated blazing speed last season as a freshman, catching 25 passes for 274 yards (11.0 yards per reception) and six touchdowns.

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When he returns, Smith will add to Sam Ehlinger's list of consistent targets including Joshua Moore, Brennan Eagles, Tarik Black and Brenden Schooler.

TCU secondary vs. Joshua Moore
It is no secret that Moore is Ehlinger's go-to-and most reliable- target. A simple look at his season stats will tell you just that. Through two games, he leads the receiving corps in receptions (11), yards (200) and receiving touchdowns (4).

While Ehlinger has a plethora of reliable wideouts, Moore will be the TCU secondary's toughest opponent ... besides Ehlinger himself, of course.

It is unclear as to which cornerback TCU defensive coordinator Chad Glasnow will put on Moore. He certainly has some options.

One is Noah Daniels, a redshirt junior who missed all of 2019 with an injury. However, he returned in full force against Iowa State, registering three solo tackles.

Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is also a leading candidate. The sophomore was active against the Cyclones, tallying four tackles, two of them solo.

TCU also boasts a strong safety group, led by Trevon Mohrig, a 2019 All-Big 12 First Team honoree.

Moore is so tough to guard it might take two, possibly three, Horned Frog defenders to limit Moore's ability to contribute.

The Ehlinger-to-Moore connection certainly will not be gone Saturday, so the question becomes, how prepared will the TCU secondary be?

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Riley Zayas is a high school sophomore and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, College Baseball Nation and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports website. Twitter: @ZayasRiley