Tyrone Swoopes has demonstrated poise, heart and talent spinning the ball accurately on single read half-rolls, in the quick game, on play action slants and on three step short sets - all excellent confidence building throws. Poor OL play, a natural reluctance to have him reading the entire field and his instincts as a dual threat runner (while possessing a mobile pocket passer skill set) haven't allowed successful use of much else.
The Texas passing game lacks a vertical element because it lacks dimension (Swoopes is sporting a meager 5.7 yards per attempt average) and defenses will continue to offer up the short game knowing that our young OL and a young QB won't deliver many 15 play, 80 yard drives.
Whatever your opinion of Watson the offensive coordinator (and there's ample evidence for any opinion) I hope most understand that Watson the QB coach has done a masterful job in bringing along an inexperienced pupil who lacks grounding in high level coaching. That development cycle isn't yielding many points though.
The important question - really the only meaningful skill position question that has to be answered for Texas to unlock the offense: Can Tyrone Swoopes evolve into a multi-read QB?
That answer determines the season's upside. Watson will continue to try to isolate one half of the field so Swoopes can look short, shallow, deep easily without having to read backside safeties or larger coverages and our pocket deep balls will likely be maximum protection deep drops where Swoopes make simple reads on multiple verticals and slings it.
You won't confuse what we'll do with the New England Patriots, and double reads that require both WR and QB reading the coverage will be incredibly dangerous, but if it can introduce a legitimate deep play threat, it's going to help loosen up everything. It's also going to lead to some interceptions and sacks. Stay patient.
Can Swoopes handle multiple crossing routes looking from a 5 step drop in the pocket? A true four read drop back? It's an ambitious goal considering some NFL QBs aren't exactly there yet.
On the running side of things, Swoopes will need to run by necessity and less by choice. Introducing him to humming the ball into the sideline is vastly preferable to more hits and 2nd and 15. Tyrone's days of dual threat self-definition are over. Unfortunately, pressure will always make athletes revert to their default settings. It takes time.
Joe Wickline is earning his large paycheck this season. What should have been a team strength by midseason has been reduce to a hastily constructed stopgap. The Texas OL was dominated by UCLA in pass protection in conventional passing sets - UCLA consistently got withering pressure with only 4 pass rushers, but Texas did better than expected in the running game using movement, a little more misdirection and focusing on turning a shoulder instead of blowing people off of the ball.
Wickline's main task is to increase Raulerson's confidence in calling line protections, to see if Darius James can help us at OT (or if Perkins and Hutchins can grow) and find some ways to get a functional, cohesive pocket without rolling Swoopes to the wide hash and timing his throws in nanoseconds.
In the running game, Watson and Wickline can help these guys by continuing to play with backfield action and misdirection as well as the run/pass play action combos that characterized the UCLA effort instead of the blandness we saw against the Cougars.
They've played pretty well considering the constraints of the offense. John Harris has been a pleasant surprise, but a high beta one. He has four drops and a turnover in three games along with some great catches. Shipley was reliable against UCLA and Marcus Johnson showed a real knack for the play action slant - can we create a double move off of that - a slant and go? More importantly, can we do it without getting Tyrone killed?
This offense can't work with mistakes. The WRs have to be flawless. We just can't shrug off a dropped ball on 1st down the way most offenses can.
We need them to be something more than competent - truck/juke someone and take it 40 when it's blocked for 4. And we need Daje Johnson to make his presence felt if rumors of his possible return against Kansas are true.
Swaim is a real TE - at least as a blocker. Can McFarland show us more? If he can, we may be able to do some things out of two TE sets that offer Swoopes deep ball protection, our RBs some cutback lanes and a general boon to the offense but McFarland and Swaim have to be legitimate receiving threats for it to work. If they're not - we're banging our heads on a 8 man front. Won't be pretty.
What do are you looking for?