As the Oklahoma Sooners try to beat the Texas Longhorns for the 10th time in 13 tries, we’re joined by Gerald Goodridge of Burnt Orange Nation to talk about the current state of the UT football program, the move to the SEC, fair food and more!
Let’s start with the best player on the field. Texas has had some great backs in my lifetime (Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles to name a few), but is Bijan Robinson the most talented back you’ve seen at UT in your time following the program?
That’s hard because I am older than I look and I was one of the lucky people that was on campus for both Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles. Watching those dudes live was absolutely insane. I was on-hand for the 35-7 comeback where Cedric Benson ran for five touchdowns against Oklahoma State and when Jamaal Charles basically ran for 300 yards against Nebraska as a junior, so my perception of those guys is very skewed. Benson was a force basically from the second he walked on campus, which I honestly am curious if we could say the same thing about Bijan had he seen the field more early last season. Bijan is such a unique mix of talents and it’s really fun to watch. He has flashes of Jamaal’s ability to put a foot in the dirt, change direction and take off, while he also flashes incredible physicality like Cedric and Ricky. It’s hard to say if he’s the most talented, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone that says that he is.
In what ways has the UT offense changed since Casey Thompson was inserted as a starter?
I’ve said it before, but the biggest difference between Casey Thompson and Hudson Card in this offense is decisiveness. The weirdest thing to me in the change is that the things that called for the change are normally good things in a quarterback, Hudson Card wants the ball in his hands and he wants to make a play. However, Steve Sarkisian’s system really rewards decisiveness and knowing the matchups - which is where Thompson excels. He progresses quickly through his reads and seems to make a quick decision when it’s time to take the easy yardage of a check-down or a four-yard scramble - both are winning plays on Saturdays. The biggest thing to me, however, is seemingly how the players have responded to him. The biggest indicator on who the starter should be is who the players rally around and following the switch Bijan Robinson and Xavier Worthy, the two most-talented players on offense were vocal in their support of Thompson.
Speaking of Thompson, which of his targets should OU fans be most aware of entering this weekend?
Easily the biggest offseason addition for Texas was snagging wide receiver Xavier Worthy. Prior to the December signing period, Worthy flirted heavily with both Texas and Sarkisian at Alabama, before ultimately signing with Michigan. The Michigan admissions office reportedly botched some paperwork with his early enrollment, which frustrated him enough to ask for a release from his NLI and he landed at Texas. There was a lack of depth at wide receiver and he is a receiver that fits the mold of what Sarkisian wants in a receiver, so it was a match made in heaven. He struggled a bit against TCU, something I chalked up to the inconsistency you see sometimes with true freshmen, but he is a player that is more physical than his frame indicates and also happens to have elite speed.
The offensive line has had an up-and-down season thus far, but where do things seem to stand for this unit entering the season’s biggest game?
The offensive line seemed to be finding its rhythm, but a season-ending injury to senior Denzel Okafor forced them to shuffle the lineup and insert sophomore Andrej Karic at right tackle. They’ve shown steady improvement, but OU will easily be the best offensive front they’ve seen since the Arkansas game so my danger meter is high. They’ve had some communication struggles that resulted in busted protections, which can turn into a nightmare against a defensive front that likes to employ movement and stunting as much as the Sooners do.
Texas has allowed 170 yards per game on the ground, but a really bad performance against Arkansas inflated that number. With Oklahoma finally getting a little bit going on the ground, does the ability to defend the run concern UT fans this week?
The defense against Arkansas is a bit of a conundrum because Pete Kwiatkowsi’s defensive system is really built to try and limit big plays through the air and try to keep players in front of you. In spite of the blown assignments against Texas Tech that resulted in a change on the depth chart at safety, Texas has done a decent job limiting receivers on big plays. I say all of that to say, the Arkansas offense is built to do the exact opposite of what the Texas defense is built to do and it seemed like Kwiatkowski was either unprepared for it or unwilling to adjust mid-game. The Texas defensive line and linebackers are honestly playing really well in space against the run and unlike in years past remember that it is fully within the rules of football to use your arms when trying to make a tackle. If Texas can limit the missed tackles we’ve seen in years past against Oklahoma, I feel cautiously ok about the run defense.
Speaking of the defense, who has been the standout performer on that side up to this point?
The guy you have to talk about when you talk about the Texas defense is linebacker DeMarvion Overshown. He was a part of that ridiculous defensive back haul in 2018 but never really materialized into what was expected from the No. 56 player in the country and I was convinced from day one it was because he was meant to be a linebacker rather than a safety. When he finally made that transition in 2020, it was shaky but with a full offseason of work behind of him he has turned into a legit player with a bonafide NFL upside. He’s got great closing speed and can make open-field tackles along the edges of the defense, but isn’t afraid to mix it up and fill a gap when necessary. He’s not only the performance leader along the defensive side of the ball, but he really is one of the guys the team looks to for the emotional current as well.
In the past, I’ve asked you about your favorite OU athlete of all time, but I’m going to mix it up. Who is your favorite OU coach of all time in any sport?
Any sport is tough. I had the opportunity to meet Lon Kruger and he was somehow nicer than I expected and I expected him to be REALLY nice. I’m also a huge softball fan and from an excellence standpoint, nobody holds a flame to Patty Gasso.
Here is the list of new fair foods (https://bigtex.com/plan-your-visit/food/new-food/). Pick your poison.
I hate the name but the idea of smoked turkey nuggets - aka Gobble Balls - sounds delicious. But really, all I need is a Fletcher’s Corny Dog and I’m good.
Other than OU and A&M, which fan base from our new conference will you loathe the most?
Arkansas has the historical rivalry that I never got to experience, so that’ll be fun. Also Tennessee. Your orange is weird and you should feel bad about it.
What’s your go-to football-watching beverage?
I’ve got two young kids and Texas is staring down the barrel of its third 11am kickoff, so iced coffee has been my life as of late.
What does Texas have to do to win this game?
As much as I’m going to sound like every person whose ever commented on a football game, this is a game that will be won at the line of scrimmage. If the Texas offensive line can give the cadre of backs room to work and keep Thompson upright, the offense will find success. This year has proven that the OU offense goes the way of the running game, so if the Texas defensive line and linebackers can limit OU’s backs, the defense will find success.
What’s your score prediction?
I suck at predicting scores, so keep that in mind. I think this one rests on the foot of either Gabe Brkic or Cameron Dicker and because I’m a Texas fan I have to pick Dicker. I say Texas wins this one, 38-35.