Troubleshooting 2011: Offense

None of us want to relive the experience of watching the 2010 Texas Offense handle the football like a Monkey trying to peel a banana while tripping on acid. Greg Davis and Mack's attempts to build something effective out of the pieces we had was comparable to our current government trying to avoid credit default by ordering more credit cards.

General incompetence and lazy work habits ruled the day as both our coaching staff and the upperclassmen had apparently been leaning on leaders like Colt McCoy and Lamarr Houston in the past to make everything happen without growing as leaders themselves who could duplicate that effort.

We all remember the one game in which our staff actually effectively gameplanned for an opponent. Evidently the stench of losing to OU, the general desperation after 2 losses, and the obscene pleasure Mack gets from beating Nebraska resulted in actual strategic thinking that went as follows:

Nebraska has great defensive backs and solid pressure packages but a small front 7 and a below average Nose Tackle. We have terrible Wide Receivers and lapsing pass protection but an interior OL and Left Tackle who can run block and a half dozen guys who can run sorta alright, including the QB.

10 yards of David Snow mauling Steinkuhler later and we had our victory.

The situation this year isn't terribly different. Our wide receivers may actually become the team strength but our situation at tackle is atrocious, our quarterback's confidence is likely shot, and it's hard to picture how the pieces fit together to build an offense that can do enough things well to maintain a consistent attack.

Fortunately we are now coached by a man who prefers to build multiple attacks with different pieces, but many of the primary issues are the same. Let's talk about the assignments and tasks players will have in the HarsinWhite 2011 "End Deficit play-calling" campaign and how our personnel can execute them:

Goal Number 1: Get the ball downfield in Davis, White, Goodwin, whoever's hands. We need to throw it deep and that requires people being reasonably open deep, the quarterback finding them, and the quarterback having time to deliver the ball. This is our offense, everything we do will exist to make this more likely.

Really that's it. I guess also,

Goal Number 2: Run the ball when necessary. Really this is going to mean all the time. With Paden Kelly or whomever we stick in there at left tackle Play-action is going to be a preferred option to buy time. Then there's protecting leads, converting short-yardage and goal-line, and opening up opportunities to get explosive runs on sweeps or screens. Think of the 2010-11 Pittsburgh Steelers as our analog, we may spend considerable time running power sets but our bread is buttered by deep lobs to Mike Wallace. You just have to take measures to do that safely with Jonathan Scott in at LT (in the NFL I mean, we would kill to have Scott here).

Alright, assignments:

QB: Protect the ball and make the reads. What I gather of the Boise System is that it requires only familiarity with the reads and the ability to make deep throws. The NFL hasn't been lining up to draft quarterbacks out of this offense, they've been more like Tedford's Cal Bears QB's (other than Rodgers) who were products of the system.

Now, that means the QB has to be on the same page as Harsin and understand the scheme and the prepared responses to how the defense reacts to our motion and shifts, but in terms of the throws we aren't going to be asking too much. Oh yeah, Harsin loves the speed option so there's that as well.

I think everyone on campus save maybe for Case (arm strength) has the physical tools to be a good quarterback in this system. It's going to be more about leadership and intelligence.

Interior OL: Harsin uses screens, play-action, sweeps, outside-zone, inside-zone and power. What is required of the offensive line is effort, competency, and some mobility. We are set at Center with Snow who gets downfield and to the 2nd level as well as anyone I've seen here in several years, and we're set at one guard spot if Walters stays there.

Allen is the next best fit for the scheme and you can probably count on more and more HS tackles converted to Guard with HarsinWhite since mobility will be a defining feature for the zone runs, screens, and pass protection. I think we're going to be strong here in the short term and definitely in the long term. Ashcraft is less of a natural fit for what we're doing now but perhaps after a few laps with Wylie he'll be ready to go.

Tackle: The requirement to be dominant at the point of attack on outside runs and screens means we really need some athletes here and I wouldn't be shocked if we ended up moving Walters outside for that reason. Kelly is a willing pass-blocker but I'm not sure if he's physically ready to take on defensive ends in this league one on one. Hopkins is more promising, Poehlmann, Porter, Allen and the freshmen round out the possibilities. Wylie is going to have to work some magic and a move by Walters should be in consideration. Kriegel is a dark-horse, God only knows how long his transition could take.

Extra Blocking Surfaces: Don't laugh, these guys are actually important now. As all of the motion and leverage in the running game is generated by these guys, it's important that they actually be effective blockers. I was actually surprised by Whaley's move to defensive end, if it's true, since he was a fairly effective blocker late in the season when he got his chance. Perhaps he's ballooned another 20 pounds, who knows?

Obviously Bergeron will get his chance and Matthews has a leg up but I really like Dominique Jones to take advantage of the opportunity here. Many of Harsin's 2 TE sets use a wing-back or a halfback more than a true, downhill fullback and these guys are usually going to be double-teaming or trapping rather than lead-blocking. Bergeron strikes me as more of a true fullback prospect but any blocking competency paired with the ability to receive should make him a frontrunner for a roster spot. We look decent here.

Running back: We want a guy who can carry the ball 20 times, make 1 cut and go, and explode through power runs. I'm intrigued by what Traylon Shead can do at this level, I know Cody is competent, and I love healthy Fozzy. Then there's even Jeremy Hills but Malcolm Brown starts whenever he's ready.

Weapon X: Not talking about the X receiver, who needs to have legit route-running and receiving qualities, but basically 1-trick pony, explosive guys who can be used in Harsin's screen, sweep, and option game. You know, all the stuff that we occasionally and ineffectively tried to use Monroe and Goodwin for last year? We are absolutely loaded here, besides having a number of legitimately fast true receivers who could be used this way we have the aforementioned track stars. Expect the big play with one of these guys to potentially catch even with the deep pass as relied upon plays for getting "explosives". The only concern here is blocking on the edge and in space, where we were truly abominable last year apart from Kyle Hix on the Monroe TD run in Dallas.

Receivers: There will be less of a need here for guys to master the timing routes and short game of Davis and a lot more catching on the run, over the middle and down the field. This is Malcolm William's big chance to finally be what we thought he might or Darius White takes over. Mike Davis should excel here and I'm betting on Jaxon Shipley finding the field sooner than later since he's also a safe and reliable target for the slants and posts that Harsin emphasizes from unbalanced sets.

Conclusion:

We have the athletes and weapons to do more damage than anyone Harsin has had before, but we don't have the ready-made functional pieces he needs to actually execute his schemes. Wylie, Searels, and Chambers are going to need to step it up big to build the tackles and EBS' we need to make this stuff work.

Most importantly, one of the QB's needs to buckle down and learn the system while making sure everyone else is following along. Injuries and poor recruiting at Tackle notwithstanding, there's enough on campus to put it all together if a peer kicks their ass and makes them do it.

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