Ryan Broyles hadn't had a chance to scan the résumés of his competition on Saturday. Three Texas defensive backs made the preseason watch list for the Thorpe Award, and all three should have futures in the NFL.
"Hopefully, one day I’ll be playing on Sunday, too," said the Oklahoma receiver, a member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list himself, with a laugh. "I’m looking forward to this challenge and so is this team."
Want to watch a high-stakes matchup in Saturday's Red River Rivalry? Keep an eye on Broyles as he navigates the Texas secondary, featuring three award listers at corner in Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown and Chykie Brown, alongside safeties Christian Scott and Blake Gideon.
"Our coach calls plays and you’ve got to make plays, it doesn’t matter who you’re going against or our team’s going against," Broyles said. "You’ve just got to go out there and compete."
They'll be plenty of competition there against a Texas secondary hungry to make big plays. After intercepting a national high of 25 passes a year ago, it has just three through four games this season. Texas coach Mack Brown chalks that up, in part, to not playing any teams with the explicit goal of throwing against the Longhorns. The one team that tried, Texas Tech, left with 158 yards on 36 attempts with two interceptions. For their lack of interceptions, the Longhorns have given up just three passing touchdowns. Only 10 teams in college football have allowed fewer.
"They’ve done really well," Brown said. "We still have to get our hands on the ball more."
Texas may get plenty of chances on Saturday against Oklahoma, who has thrown the ball at least 36 times in every outing this season. Rest assured, plenty of those will come Broyles' way. He's got at least nine catches in every game this season and he leads the nation in receptions with 41.
"He does such a great job after he catches the ball. He can get open, he’ll catch it, but he’s a guy that can beat you when he gets the ball in his hands," Brown said. "All you can do is try to keep the ball out of his hands because when he gets it, he’s real good."
How to do that is something few have figured out. Broyles has topped 100 yards in each of his past seven games.
"You try to change it up, obviously. But if I knew [how] on Monday, I wouldn’t tell you," Brown said.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is busy making sure limiting Broyles doesn't mean beating Oklahoma. Broyles played Texas last year two weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his shoulder blade and wasn't 100 percent. He still managed to catch a short pass, make a defender miss and race into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown in the second half of Oklahoma's 16-13 loss.
He'll be at full strength this week, but quarterback Landry Jones obviously won't be looking his way every play.
"It isn’t just Ryan. You’re not going to get it done with one guy," Stoops said, complimenting the early play of his other receivers, Cameron Kenney and freshman Kenny Stills, among others. "If each of them makes 2-3 plays, it’s harder to focus on just one guy and we plan to spread it around and use them all."