I like to say that the truth isn’t always your friend, but you should never let it be your enemy.
By that, I mean that there will always be tough times, and it’s not productive in such times to deny the existence of your problems or to turn a blind eye to the causes because you don’t want to deal with them. With that said, let’s look at 2010 Texas football, and answer some uncomfortable questions. I’m going to offer my answers, but I freely admit I’m no expert. If you have a different answer, let’s hear it.
Question- What is the Texas offensive scheme? My answer- We have a spread that we pass out of 80% of the time, and an under-center formation we run out of 80% of the time. We use the spread 70 – 80% of the time against quality opposition. We call very few running plays for the QB- just a couple of called QB draws per game. We don’t run zone read or lead option, which were core plays for us the last several years. Our offense has an H-back that can block on running plays or be a receiving option on pass plays.
Note- We run less this year. Through four games last year, we had 167 runs and 155 passes. This year, in “emphasizing the rushing attack”, we ran 136 times and passed 145. Yes, last year’s schedule only had one credible opponent through four games, and this year we played two. I’m sticking to my point. If we were really emphasizing the running game, wouldn’t we at least be even to last year’s split? If you want to see what it looks like when a team is trying to protect its inexperienced QB, go back and look at the first four games of 2006.
Question- Is this a good scheme? It could be, but it would need exceptional running backs and offensive linemen to be a good scheme the way we do it. Let’s put it this way- do you see anybody else in D-1A trying to run this scheme? Honestly- I don’t know. Has any other team surveyed the buffet of modern offenses and selected this one- the one we actually run, not the one we talked about all off-season which sounded so much like USC’ offense.
What does this scheme need to be effective? Answer – an exceptional talent at QB and/or RB would help a lot. An exceptional RB (Ricky Williams?) might open things up, as noted before. An exceptional passing QB (Sam Bradford?)might be able to hit the receivers downfield that are barely open. Oh, if we only had an experienced Heisman-quality player, we would be all right.
Question- Is Texas a talented offense? Answer – No. I don’t see anybody making All Big 12. Maybe an OL, because the voters don’t know who any are, and they might vote for the guy with “Texas” next to his name. Talent-wise, this offense is very mediocre, and there are no talented underclassmen waiting to be plugged in. I used to think the 1999 team was the low-water point for offensive talent in the Brown era. No more. I would love for us to have players like Hodges Mitchell and Kwame Cavil to plug into this.
What to make of Garrett Gilbert? Answer – Right now, he is more potential than production. He was touted for his throwing arm, and it isn’t quite as accurate as advertised. Our receivers in this scheme are only barely open, when they are open at all, so accuracy and timing is paramount in importance.
He doesn’t throw downfield. I think that’s mainly because his receivers aren’t open in the (limited) time he has in the pocket. He looks for the dumpoff really quickly. I think Gilbert might be the most talented player on offense, but not talented enough to make this scheme work with the other pieces in it. I don’t think he’s talented enough that you stop competing the position, and write him in as our QB for 2011 and 2012. Or even 2010, really.
Question- What offense should Texas run? Answer- There are two answers- the offense that Texas should run in 2010 to give us the best chance of winning this year, and the offense that we should run going forward. I’ll ignore the long term question for now (while recognizing that the question is still begged), and answer the short term. To maximize our offensive potential given our talent makeup, we should keep the same offense, but incorporate zone reads and option runs. I understand that this upsets all the prior work done with the OL, but I’m hoping that can be overcome by our experience with such plays in prior years. We should play the QB who has the best mix of running and throwing abilities. We have four guys I’m aware of that are eligible for this- Gilbert, McCoy, Wood and Chiles. Yes, the QB might get hurt and we might have to play somebody less talented in their place. Do you prefer our current system?
Such an offense will not be explosive, probably. It will be more difficult to shut down completely. It’s not the offense Davis and Brown want to run. They showed what kind of offense they want when they tried to recruit the strong-armed but immobile Ryan Mallett in 2006, after winning a MNC in 2005 with exactly the offense I described above. They want a NFL offense, and believe the first step is to get a NFL QB.
Question- What about the defense? No worries there, right? Answer – The defense played very well in the first half, and was worked over in the second half. This is not a strong defense against teams committed to running. It can hold off running teams for a while, and if the offense takes the lead that is probably good enough. This defense is hell on passing teams, and even more hell on running teams forced to pass. It turns out that we need more than one quality DT. Here is a place where we might need to play more of our freshman DTs and LBs. They won’t replace Kheeston Randall and Keenan Robinson, but they might be able to spell them.
Anything else? Yes. Our offensive coaches don’t understand our identity. We are a team with a good defense and crappy offense. We need to be conservative. We need to protect the ball and run the clock. Scipio said that if we had a good offense, we would have been up 14 – 0 at the half. I think if we just ran the ball and played conservatively (knowing that we would be punting a lot), we would have been up 6 – 0 at the half. Let UCLA have their 3rd quarter TD. We keep running (futilely of course), and protecting the ball. We get another FG. We take a 9 – 7 lead into the 4th, and let the UCLA players start cramping (as they actually did, with no impact because they had a 3 score lead). We win the game 12 - 7 or 16 – 7. Jim Tressell knows how to win with this team. Does Mack?