Opponent Outlook: A burnt orange look at Notre Dame-Texas

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

Young talent, a shaky quarterback situation, and a burning desire to make amends for last year's disaster will greet Notre Dame's football team Sunday.

After last year's 38-3 debacle in South Bend last year, Texas has a major score to settle in college football's first week.

The Longhorn youngsters who endured that loss are a year older and focused on payback.

Kirk Bohls, veteran columnist for the Austin Statesman, takes a look at some of the intriguing situations from a burnt orange perspective.

• What's your take on the top-secret quarterback situation?

Charlie Strong is playing games with the position. He missed a real opportunity to name true freshman Shane Buechele after the spring game, let him build rapport with the receivers and gain confidence as the named leader of the team. In the minds of fans and media, Strong has to start Buechele against Notre Dame or risk mass hostility about the decision. Tyrone Swoopes will play, but has a 6-8 record as a starter, is not accurate, and has had more than enough chances to win the job.

• In the context of the personnel around him, will the quarterback need to be an impact player or a game manager?

A game manager will suffice so long as he’s accurate and can get the ball to receivers on schedule. He doesn’t have to be Vince Young but a little of Colt McCoy would go a long way. He may not have to be special, but he has to be consistent and not a turnover machine.

• How has standout sophomore middle linebacker Malik Jefferson's role been defined?

They will keep him in the middle for now because Strong wants his best players in the middle of the field. A weak front inside with no established playmakers and a ton of freshman candidates at tackle scares him. Jefferson will also line up on the edge and rush the passer. He may be best-suited for that role.

• How different will the Texas defense look compared to the one that gave up 38 points to Notre Dame last year?

It had better be a 180. Last year’s defense was horrific, missed a ton of tackles and was terrible on third down. Texas should have a crackerjack secondary and improved linebackers, but the defensive line is a big worry. I look for big improvement on defense, but it may take half a season to get there.

• How has head coach Charlie Strong held up through two tough years (11-14) in Austin?

Fine. Strong remains positive and upbeat even though he knows he’s under fire. He gets it. But he doesn’t want his players to see him crack. He’s been good with the media and is well-liked, but it’s all about results in Year 3. He’s great in living rooms as evidenced by his terrific back-to-back recruiting classes, but his judgment and decision-making on the sidelines and involving staff hires both remain in question.

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly, right, greets Texas Head Coach Charlie Strong at midfield following the 38-3 win over Texas on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN