The Texas Longhorns are having a tough week.
Starting quarterback David Ash is out with concussion symptoms and coach Charlie Strong once again had to lay down some discipline, this time suspending both of his starting offensive tackles. That means backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will play against BYU on Saturday night behind a patchwork offensive line that has a total of five career starts.
And if that's not rough enough, remember that it was BYU (1-0) and Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill who rolled up 550 yards rushing in a 40-21 romp over Texas (1-0) last season.
BYU was supposed to be a litmus test for Strong and Texas, a chance to see just how far he'd taken the Longhorns after nine months and one game. But the latest wave of injuries and suspensions has Texas fans in a panic that if Texas loses, the Longhorns could be in for more struggles.
"It's not like it's the end of the world," Strong said week this of Ash's injury before he suspended tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle for team rules violations. "We know we have got to go play a football game and that's what we're going to go do."
Ash played all but the final snaps of the season-opening 38-7 win over North Texas. He didn't alert Texas officials of any problems until about 90 minutes after the game when he complained of headaches and dizziness.
Texas had no choice but to sit Ash down for a while. The suspensions are just the latest example of Strong's "get tough" approach that have a huge impact on the field for the coach in the first season of a five-year, $25 million-plus contract.
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Harrison already missed the first game under suspension and had only been reinstated as of Monday. Estelle joining him means strong will have at least four potential starters on the sideline under suspension.
For BYU, the Cougars can make another national statement with another win against Texas, whether the Longhorns are depleted or not. BYU plays as an independent and Texas is one of only three opponents from the so-called power conferences.
"Our mindset is we can compete with anybody," Hill said.
What to watch for when BYU plays Texas:
SWOOPES: Once hailed as a potential star, Swoopes seems to have regressed into a project. Former coach Mack Brown burned his redshirt freshman season in 2013 for just handful of plays and he struggled in the Texas spring game. It may speak volumes that before training camp, Strong declared Ash, who hadn't played in nearly a year, as his clear No. 1 without even hinting at a quarterback competition. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 250 pounds, Swoopes is big. He'll have to be mobile if a rebuilt offensive line struggles to protect him.
"Ty is ready," Texas quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson said. "He can hurt you at running the football, he's got a very strong arm."
TEXAS OFFENSIVE LINE: This unit was a question mark before the season began and now looks like a complete mystery. Freshman Jake Raulerson is tall but thin at 6-5, 281 and takes over at center after season-ending ankle surgery to senior Dominic Espinosa. Cameron Hughes slides in for Estelle and Marcus Hutchins likely starts for Harrison. Espinosa had 40 career starts. The unit that lines up against BYU will have five total.
HILL'S OPTION: Hill romped through Texas' defense with 269 yards rushing in BYU's option offense. He turned broken plays into scrambles for touchdowns. Hill was right on form last week, passing for three touchdowns and running for two more against Connecticut.
TEXAS RUNNING BACKS: Given the change at quarterback, Texas is likely to turn the ball over to the running back tandem of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. Those two combined for 147 yards against North Texas and Gray showed a burst of his old speed after Achilles tendon surgery. But even that strength has been turned into a question mark considering the troubles in the offensive line.
TEXAS DEFENSE: Last season's collapse at BYU was an embarrassment of missed tackles, missed assignments and a highlight reel of Longhorns players getting pushed all over the field. If Texas has a strength this year, it's on the defensive line with end Cedric Reed and tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson. If the players up front can get a big push into the BYU backfield, Hill may have little room to crank up the option.