There is an informative interview on the ESPN Big 12 blog with Greg Davis where you can find a few nuggets that seem to point towards what I already expected from his offense in it's next form.
We’re going to go back under center with the quarterback some more. We played the last two years almost exclusively out of the shotgun. We will continue to play a lot of the game from the shotgun, but we’re going to go back under center to try and help the backs run more downhill.
Uh huh, well the Greg Davis offense is actually as well suited to the quarterback operating from under center as from in the shotgun so this was a change that was going to happen if Davis found someone more comfortable there. As far as downhill running I believe this to be an urban myth in football these days. Coaches I've read from that timed their backs found that the running back hit the line of scrimmage as quickly from the shotgun as they did from either the pistol or under-center sets. Anyways any effective running game will look "downhill" because that means the backs are finding holes and bursting up field. Next,
With the zone read dropping off the radar, we’re going to play with the running backs’ alignment in the gun. When we are running the ball out of the gun, they can run more downhill. We can be tighter on our zones with the offensive line because of the landmarks with the backs.
Here's the really informative part. First of all, I'm glad the coaches realize the need to re-work the running game without relying on the inside-zone that is typically aided heavily by the quarterback as a backside running threat.
I can only assume that "playing with the alignment" means using the pistol like OU attempted to do against Texas in the Cotton Bowl this last season. The advantages of the pistol are presumed to be these:
1). The running back gets moving "downhill" towards the line of scrimmage: Well, if he can get there just as fast from the shotgun I'm not sure how valuable this will really be.
2). The quarterback keeps the shotgun perspective/stance: One of the advantages of the shotgun is that it puts your quarterback in a 3-step drop almost immediately and offers a good view of the field. The pistol doesn't take away from that as much as being under center does while still offering the "downhill" RB angles I'm not sold on.
3). Better play-action: The play-action move turning away from the line towards the back might be more deceptive and ultimately more effective from this formation. It's a more natural motion for typical play-action moves, of course still relying on the threat of the run being anything to be concerned about.
4). Where is he going?: If anything about the pistol helps Texas it's this, that the running back's alignment (previously right next to the quarterback) doesn't have to dictate the direction of the play. Now the location of the tight-end might be a big clue but it should be easier to disguise the direction of the runs and stop defenses from slanting hard and blowing up the initial double-teams. If Texas employs a halfback like, say, Barret Matthews they have afforded themselves more versatility in attacking the field. Of course they could do that without the pistol.
What does interest me is Davis explaining "tighter zones" for the OL to block and the running back to read. He seems to be assuming a faster developing running game from under-center and the pistol formation that will have smaller target areas and not involve so much reaching by the OL. However, stretching the defense out of their gaps is exactly what the zone-running game is supposed to accomplish so ultimately getting the running to the LOS quicker is a dubious goal to begin with.
Really I only see this having value in allowing the quarterback to get the runner the ball moving laterally and towards the LOS in the outside-zone or in disguising the direction of the play. In that case Davis is still asking Huey, Hix, etc, to reach block guys so my optimism for the running game is tempered.
Chris Brown breaks down Nevada's pistol offense here and you'll notice that they still rely on the quarterback as a runner for their veer play he diagrams. Overall, playing under center and from the pistol is fine and well if Davis intends to incorporate some power or trap plays with man-blocking but I'm not sure if this group will zone-block as well as wished from any formation. Everyone cross your fingers that Allen makes the starting lineup, Snow discovers the potential he showed as a freshman and Huey finds some mobility (here's a hint, it's not at the bottom of that pudding bowl).
Texas signed another big time Linebacker in Steve Edmond yesterday so I took advantage of my snow day and watched some of the available junior film from him. He's already 6-3 225 so GhostofBigRoy speculates he could be a buck-linebacker but I don't see it. His ability to play between the tackles, change direction, fight off blocks and drop into coverage (multiple INTs as a junior) scream middle linebacker to me and his signing could be the beginning of the end of "the sheriff" Chet Moss' chances at seeing the field.
Even if he ends up at 240 or more I'd rather see him try to emulate Rolando McClain then see him rot on the depth chart behind all the pass-rushing talent that will see the field before him at the vaunted "Buck" position. BTW, our old friend Greg Robinson uses that position at Michigan and calls that player the "deathbacker". If Texas moved to the Big 10 I say they should up the ante and publicly name the Buck blitz from the strongside the "the wolverine trap" to see what kind of terminology war could be started with our Northern alter ego.
Everyone is turning their attention towards the Pac-10 now and horninexile wrote up the reasoning behind that move while Vasherized explained the benefit of such a potential move in simpler terms. However likely or unlikely I prefer the move towards super-conferences and the Pac-10 sounds more fun so why not?
Scipio made a great find and enriched us with his description of the deadly Durantula from ancient lore spotted hunting in its natural habitat. Either you are captivated by the amazing abilities and potential and excited about the possibilities of the coming playoffs for Durant or you are a delusional Portland fan.
On less pleasant topics Trips Right prescribes a good dose of freshman and dribble-drive game sans Pittman to help ball-movement and floor spacing for Texas. Trips, and myself, have actually signed off on this prescription before but here it is described fully in more technical terms. Hopefully the absence of Turkish Delight will push Brown towards doing the things Barnes' demands (getting back on defense, attempting to stay in front of people, protecting the ball) and the team will began to roll moving towards the tournaments. They'd better catch on quick though because the remaining tests are stiff and time is shorter than Jai Lucas' reach.
I bet this next game (OSU in the drum at 8) is a promising victory but we won't really know until @Aggy on Saturday if the team is moving in the right direction. If Anderson destroys Texas in a loss I might throw in the towel.
In other news Tony Kornheiser is suspended from PTI after insulting the wardrobe of Hannah Storm, a worthy target. Now seems like a good time to mention that Scipio's recent hiatus was actually a forced leave of absence after Scipio made a similar joke at the Barking carnival Christmas grill-off about HenryJames trying to match a pink blouse with a plaid skirt.