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Midseason review: Offense

Editor's note: Texas has reached its second bye week and has six games remaining. HornsNation will analyze each of the Longhorns' position groups on offense and look ahead to the rest of the season.

Progress is what Mack Brown is most interested in.

OK, wins are nice too. Texas has four of those in six games, so progress will have to do.

"I feel like the coaches made progress together, because they have to work together," Brown said. "We're sitting here six games through the season, and we know a lot more about ourselves than we did six weeks ago. And we're really lucky to have an open date, so we can pull everything together and get ready to play Kansas in two weeks. It's unusual to have two open dates this early, but I think for us it's really needed."

With that in mind, here is a look back and a look ahead at the Texas offense.

Quarterback

Texas has finally settled on a starter. Wait, check that. Texas has settled on its third starter. David Ash, who split time with Case McCoy against Iowa State and Oklahoma before being named the starter against Oklahoma State.

So is Ash the solution?

Maybe not this season. Ash is a true freshman with way too much to learn in far too short a time. But what he has is upside. The decision to play Ash now is a smart one because Texas does not want to be in this same situation next season.

Ash has the better arm, the better frame, the better legs and a better chance to be successful at this level of college football. That is why Texas is going with Ash.

If Ash turns out to be successful, Texas could even redshirt 2012 recruit Connor Brewer next season and allow for two years' separation between the quarterbacks so that the Longhorns do not find themselves in this same situation with an inexperienced/young quarterback down the road.

Running back

Malcolm Brown is on pace for a 1,000-yard season. Fozzy Whittaker is more versatile than ever, taking the ball in the "wild" formation. Texas is running the ball 60 percent of the time. The Longhorns are averaging 181 rushing yards even after putting up just 36 yards against Oklahoma.

Brown had the biggest game of his career against OSU when he rushed for 135 yards. Still he only carried the ball 19 times. As Texas moves through the second half of the season it would be hard to fathom not getting the ball to Brown at least 20 times a game. Texas A&M and Kansas State have top-20 rushing defenses and the Longhorns may have some trouble pounding the ball there.

But with the variety Texas possess in Whittaker, Brown, Ash and even Jaxon Shipley and D.J. Monroe, there are a ways to get players into open running lanes. One of those probably should not be on double reverses. Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin tried to get tricky with a few such running plays against Oklahoma but quickly found out Big 12 defenses are too fast for slow-developing plays.

Monroe has to become more a part of the package as well. The speedy junior is averaging nearly eight yards per carry. He is effective on the option sweeps with Ash, and that should be a staple for Texas in the next six games.

Really all of Texas' opponents are going to see a steady diet of the run game. Only Oklahoma has been able to effectively stop it. In fact, Texas' top three rushers, Brown, Whittaker and Monroe, all average five or more yards per carry.

Wide receivers

Texas has two wide receivers -- Shipley and Mike Davis. That's it. Darius White has been a bust. John Harris is injured. DeSean Hales has not made a significant contribution. Miles Onyegbule is too young. And Marquise Goodwin doesn't know the entire playbook yet.

Texas needs more from Goodwin to get the passing game going, or for Harris to get healthy. Harris, however, is still in a boot and on crutches, with an injured foot.

It was clearly evident against OSU that a third option has to surface. Shipley, the Longhorns' top receiver, was taken out of the game by the Cowboys' defense. That meant Davis could no longer be a deep threat. Instead, he had to catch all the underneath stuff. Davis is not strong enough or elusive enough to turn a five-yard hitch into a big gain. He is at his best beating his guy one-on-one and grabbing the deep play-action pass.

What Goodwin could give the Longhorns is a player who can catch bubble screens and make something happen. That could also open the middle of the field for Shipley or a tight end, and allow Goodwin to get deep.

Goodwin has two weeks to get into his playbook. Look for him to become a more viable option as the season progresses.

Offensive line

Against Oklahoma State, true freshman Josh Cochran started in arguably the most valuable position on the offense: left tackle. While Texas did give up five sacks, Cochran's athleticism was evident on Malcolm Brown's 27-yard touchdown run. Cochran blocked at the line, ran down the field and made another block at the 3.

It's clear Tray Allen, a senior, is going to have a tough time getting Cochran off the field.

What is also is that Texas is willing to go with younger players along the line. The Longhorns will use this week to get another one ready to go against Kansas. Sedrick Flowers, a true freshman, probably won't start against the Jayhawks, but he should see some significant playing time. The good news is that Texas has survived to date with this line, and might thrive in the future. Flowers, Cochran and center Dominic Espinosa all have three-plus years of eligibility left. That is a strong core on which Texas can build.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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