Josey, Franklin a different challenge

Running back Henry Josey appears to have returned to form this spring after missing all of 2012 with a major knee injury. AP Photo/L.G. Patterson

AUSTIN, Texas -- It's safe to say Henry Josey has been under the radar.

So much so that even Texas, this week's opponent, wasn't really aware of what Josey has done this season.

"I just now found out that he is a top-five rusher in the nation," Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho said.

Josey has rushed for an average of 128 yards per game. His team has rushed for 245 a game. That latter stat is a mirror image of Texas. The Longhorns are 11th in the FBS in rushing. Missouri is 12th. But there is one notable exception when examining these two offenses -- the Tigers know how to throw (255 yards per game passing) and do it well.

Texas? It's safe to say the jury is out.

That's not the Texas defenses' problem right now. Figuring out how to stop the Missouri attack is. And it begins, as it always does for Texas, with stopping the run.

"The number one challenge, though, like it is every week, is we have to make them one dimensional," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.

But what happens when there are several dimensions to that run game? Josey is a breakaway threat every time he touches the ball. He has 43 carries of 10 yards or more. That's more 10-yard carries then 52 teams in FBS. He averages nine yards per carry.

"The issue is, if you make a mistake and somebody ends up not in their gap -- and they do a lot of things that cause you to think about where you should be, and if you guess wrong -- he can go all the way," Diaz said.

On top of that is quarterback James Franklin. Only Kansas State's Collin Klein, next week's opponent, has more rushing yards from the quarterback position in the Big 12. Franklin averages 67 yards rushing per game.

"That's just another element that is added to the game that you have to account for, his legs," safety Blake Gideon said. "You can't just worry about flushing him out of the pocket, because a lot of times that's when he's most dangerous. The play is not over just because the pocket has broken down."

That means Texas will have to be wary of the edge and get more pressure up the field from Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, while maintaining integrity inside.

"You always have two contain guys on either side of [Franklin]," Gideon said. "And you're not letting him run free in the backfield. It's going to be a main stress for us this week, to be able to contain him and push the pocket and be able to keep him corralled."

"You got to make sure you keep the pass rush lanes balanced," Acho said. "You got to make sure you do that just so he can't escape. But on top of that, you got to get after him. You got to harass him. Maybe we can confuse him a little bit."

Confusion is just what has brought the Texas run defense to its knees. Because of mental errors and communication breakdowns, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, even Iowa State and UCLA to a degree, were able to split gaps for runs up the middle of the field.

Texas will have to keep its wits before the snap as well.

"Schematically, they cause you a lot of problems before the ball is even snapped by the way they line up and motion guys into and out of the backfield," Diaz said.

Texas' defense, because of where it has been -- back-to-back losses to OU and OSU -- and what it has built itself into -- a combined 28 rushing yards allowed in the past two games -- is more focused, sound in the scheme and better equipped to stop the run.

"I do think our guys are playing with more confidence," Diaz said. "The more confident you are in what you're doing, by nature the more physical you can play, because you can be more aggressive.

"Someone that knows what they're doing does it more aggressively than someone that doesn't, and I think those things are showing up on the field."

Now the Longhorns must show up against Missouri, Josey and Franklin, the best running team Texas has faced this season.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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