Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Texas already upping tempo
By Carter Strickland HornsNation
AUSTIN, Texas -- For two years Texas tried to keep its offense wrapped in nice little packages.
And while that worked to an extent -- Texas was 40th nationally in total offense in 2012 -- all too often those packages would be opened to reveal nothing inside. So a change was made.
Johnathan Gray's touches should expand as Texas' offense goes faster and runs more plays.
"I think what we felt is that what we got from Boise [State] was really, really good for the two years," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It helped us get back on track. We got more physical. We are attempting to run the ball better than we did three years ago.
"And at the same time, we felt like that by packaging so many things that sometimes you had to take Marquis [Goodwin] out of the game or maybe Johnathan Gray out of the game."
Now tempo has been ushered back into the Texas offense -- well, really, back into the Texas program. It started in the offseason in the conditioning program. Everything was done at a more rapid pace to get players into the right frame of mind and let them know they have to move with precision and speed not unlike a piston.
"We have created a tempo environment in the offseason," Brown said. "Everything we did in the offseason was for both groups to be around tempo and we also feel like that we have better players."
An added benefit to that tempo being pressed in the offseason and during the drills in practice is better overall conditioning. It's not that Texas was out of shape last season, but the Longhorns were not in the right shape to take advantage of the athletic edge they possessed over each opponent. That goes for the starters as well as the backups. And those backups cannot be overlooked when talking about preparing for tempo.
While Texas will not substitute as much or at all during series, because the Longhorns are picking up the pace, they will have to pick up some depth. Linemen simply cannot be asked to play 85 snaps in the heat and be effective for each and every one of those snaps.
To that end, there has been an increased emphasis this offseason on creating the depth necessary to sustain the same speed and punching power, no matter what offensive personnel enters the game.
"We do have a better chance to be two-deep, but we would like to create a two-deep with no dropoff between the ones and the twos," Brown said. "That doesn't happen very often.
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"But we are getting at a point where we'll have a better chance to do that, and we have got to force ourselves to play them. We would like to play them, but we have to force ourselves to do that."
To make it to that mark, Texas might have to wait on a few offensive linemen to join the fold in the fall. Junior college transfer Desmond Harrison is seen as an impact player at tackle. And incoming freshman Darius James could be a guard in the rotation.
Texas will have most of the other essential pieces for spring practice. And while those players are taking steps toward playing with tempo, they do not have to deal with learning a new playbook. Sure, there will be adjustments, but Texas made the wise decision not to scrap the entire offense from 2012 and install a new one. Such a step could have been disastrous, as it would have forced the players to learn completely new steps -- at a much faster rate. This way Texas can just speed up the old steps, which helps keep the learning curve less steep.
"We'll still run the same plays," Brown said. "We will still want to be very balanced. We will have fewer formations, and we will substitute less."
So, in the end, all those packages brought to Texas will be returned to sender. Or Arkansas State.