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Monday, December 10, 2012
Offensive inconsistencies were issue

By Carter Strickland
HornsNation

Texas continues to produce seasons that warrant backward glances, if only to make sure the past stays put. No one wants to relive that again. But the time has come to look over the shoulder and the damage that 2012 hath wrought, where it all went wrong and why it might get better in 2013.

Over the next four days, HornsNation will take a look at the 2012 program. Up first is the view from the top and how expectations cleverly disguised an 8-4 team, how the staff did nothing to stop it from happening and the introspection required to make sure it doesn't happen yet again.

Tuesday, the offense, which vacillated between inept and unstoppable, will be in focus. Wednesday the worst defense in Texas history hits the chopping block. On Thursday, room will be saved for punter Alex King, arguably the most consistent and reliable player on Texas, and the special teams unit.

AUSTIN, Texas -- The sum of all of Texas' offensive parts didn't add up to 10 wins.

That's not to say there were not moments when it looked as if they could -- Ole Miss, the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State -- but, in the end, the Longhorns were left with eight wins and another offseason of what-could've-beens to ponder.

This was, after all, an offense that featured four returning linemen, the No. 2 running back from the 2011 recruiting class, the No. 1 running back from the 2012 recruiting class, an Olympian at wide receiver, a Shipley at another and quarterback who, while maybe not veteran, at least had some mileage in the program.

So to go 4-4 in the last eight games with home losses to 7-5 TCU and 7-5 West Virginia, bench the starting quarterback and average 3.1 yards per rush in the four losses is a pretty clear indication that Texas did not meet expectations.

Quite possibly those expectations had been set too high given what 2011 had been. And when measured against 2011, this offense was better than its predecessor. The Longhorns averaged nearly a full yard more per play, put up 40-plus points in five straight games, saw the reemergence of wide receiver Mike Davis and, at least for long stretches, appeared to have a quarterback in David Ash who could run the show.

While Ash might have been benched twice, his numbers suggest significant development -- 17 touchdowns this season as opposed to four in 2011, 154 pass efficiency rating as opposed to 107 and a 68 percent completion rate as opposed to 57. As a sophomore, Ash improved in every statistical category possible including the most important -- wins. He had eight wins and three losses as a starter in 2012. He was 3-3 as a true freshman.

It's numbers like those that had Mack Brown throwing his support behind co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin at last week's Valero Alamo Bowl press conference. It's clear the second-year assistant has Brown's support as the team moves forward.

But to retain that support, Harsin still must make strides in utilizing all that is given to him on offense. He did not accomplish that task in his second season.

David Ash
David Ash was entrenched as Texas' starting quarterback until he was benched twice for poor play. Now the bowl-game starter is up in the air.

Daje Johnson, D.J. Monroe and Marquise Goodwin, three of the fastest and most explosive players in college football, were not used with consistent effectiveness.

Johnson and Monroe averaged 7.5 and 9.6 yards, respectively, despite only touching the ball a combined 43 times in the run game. In Texas' four losses they only touched the ball a combined 10 times.

Goodwin, who nearly single-handedly beat Cal in the Holiday Bowl and led the team in receptions over the last four games of 2011, only had 11 catches the last eight games in 2012.

Harsin will not have Monroe or Goodwin with which to work next season. He will still have Johnson and a crowded running back position with Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown.

Gray emerged as the leader of those backs and led all freshmen in the Big 12 with 683 rushing yards. But, again, the lack of production against the conference's upper-echelon teams -- Texas failed to gain 100 yards rushing in games against Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU -- is something that will have to be addressed at the running back spot as well as along the offensive line this offseason.

But then it all returns to the quarterback. Neither Ash nor Case McCoy performed well down the stretch. To further confirm that fact, Texas has made inquiries into three different junior college quarterbacks since the season has ended.

So for the third straight offseason, Texas will not have an unquestioned offensive leader on the team. That will undoubtedly hamper the individual development of McCoy and Ash as well as the development of the offense as a whole. But given the propensity for turnovers -- the quarterbacks were directly responsible for six in the last two games  it's clear the Longhorns have to get a quarterback who values the ball. Clearly, given the recruiting tactics, it remains up for debate if Ash or McCoy is that person.

What's not up for debate is that the offense, while improved, will have to continue to improve if Texas wants to once again compete for a conference title let alone make it to a BCS game.