Three Big 12 commitments will grace the Tiger Field grass tonight, even if only two of them are within the sideline boundaries.

Arlington Bowie senior quarterback Sherrod Harris — an early Texas commitment — is expected to miss the game with an abdominal injury, and therefore won’t be able to display the speed and throwing ability the Longhorns are interested in.

The Tiger’s Big 12 commitments, however, will.

Volunteers head coach Anthony Criss is very familiar with Cory Brandon, the Tigers’ 6-foot-6, 265-pound left tackle. Brandon has pledged his collegiate services to the University of Oklahoma, but not before he’s pledged at least 10 more games in a Tigers jersey.

“Going up against Cory Brandon will be a monumental task for us,” Criss said earlier this week.

Lining up against Brandon will likely be one of Bowie’s top seniors, defensive end Chris Buford. Buford, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder, is a key part of the Vols’ blitz-first, ask questions later defense. Last season he made 70 tackles and six sacks for them.

But Brandon won’t only have the task of protecting junior quarterback Keith Leerskov from going down. He’ll also need to make way for senior running back Jay Finley, an early commitment to Baylor.

Finley, who gained 745 yards for six scores on 93 carries, is the type of tailback coach Dave Henigan drools over. With his stand-up style and ability to move laterally, he’s a player that Henigan has already said needs to touch the ball at least 25 times a game.

“Jay needs to touch the football,” he said. “We’ll take what (Bowie’s) defense gives us. We don’t want to run him up into the teeth of the defense, but he needs to touch the ball.”

Last Friday in a scrimmage against Denison, the Tigers ran several pitches to Finley off Brandon’s left flank. More often than not, they went for gains of 5 to 10 yards, with runs of 29 and 14 yards sprinkled in.

When the same play was called on third-and-short, a missed blocking assignment led to Leerskov being hit prematurely, which then led to an errant pitch and a 13-yard loss.

Visibly steamed at the time, Henigan said he’s looking for more consistency out of the young offensive line. Brandon and right guard Courtney Green are the only linemen with varsity experience.

“We made some mistakes, but nothing that’s not correctable,” he said.

“We knew we were going to make mistakes, but hopefully we can keep improving there.

“We’ve got to get better every day. If we can do that, we’ve got a chance to be great.”


oel Weckerly may be contacted via e-mail at


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