Texas Offense Is Similar To Option

FAYETTEVILLE -- For no particular reason, Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack calls the mesh of Texas' quarterback and running back the radar series.

It starts with a deep snap to Vince Young and involves a give or fake to Cedric Benson. In some ways, it is similar to what Arkansas does with Matt Jones, but the Longhorns also run counter plays much like Missouri did with Brad Smith in the Independence Bowl.

Because Young is in the thick of things, even when Benson is the only running back, Texas will have what amounts to two running backs. For that reason, Wommack's plan includes some of the principles involved in defending the option.

"When you have to defend the quarterback in the running game, it's so much more difficult," he said. "You feel like you're always a guy short. There is some alignment assignment like the option and the numbers are the same from the standpoint you have to be able to account for the quarterback in the running game."

With Benson, the Texas backfield is more formidable than Smith and his partner or Jones and DeCori Birmingham. Benson is the only Division I-A running back who has topped 1,000 yards rushing in each of the past three years and his two touchdowns in the season opener last week give him 49 for his career.

Often, Young reads the defensive end before deciding to hand off or keep and, if the defensive end is chasing the running back, Young is out the back door. "He is a real concern because he only needs a little crack," Wommack said.

On top of that, the Longhorns run a counter series that Wommack drew up on the large grease board in the Razorbacks' defensive film room. The blockers on the left side make it look like the stretch play for Benson and Young sells that with a fake to his running back. Meanwhile the guard and tackle on the right side pull and head left to lead Young. In an immediate bind are the linebackers. "They want to chase the ball," Wommack said. "That's what they've tuned into their whole life."

The offense that Texas will run Saturday in Fayetteville is a mile from the Longhorns' approach in Austin last year when the Razorbacks won 38-28. That day, Chance Mock completed 21-of-40 and Benson led Texas runners with 27 yards on 13 carries. Young did not play against Arkansas -- Brown said he didn't think the freshman was ready and that the Longhorns were always in a hole -- but he was 6-1 as a starter during the rest of the season.

More importantly, when Brown switched from Mock to Young, the Longhorns started running the ball.

Wommack grabbed a piece of paper off a long table and recited the yards rushing with Young at quarterback: 235, 248, 393, 353, 298 and 207. The Longhorns made only 131 in the Holiday Bowl against Washington State, but that might be because they trailed 26-10 in the third quarter.

The run-first message was so clear that Arkansas began work on its defensive game plan for Texas during the summer.

Young has matured into a quarterback and is no longer just an athlete playing the position, Texas coach Mack Brown said. Like Jones, Young is about 6-6 and athletic. If you blitz them, Brown said, you had better grab them or they will make a big play. Like Jones, Young is such a threat running the ball that his passing gets little attention, but he completed almost 59 percent last year and was above 50 percent in every start except the bowl game, where he was 6-of-14.

During a teleconference early in the week, Brown made it clear that averaging 2 yards per run against Arkansas a year ago was irritating and a point of emphasis.

It is also worth noting that center Jason Glynn, tackles Justin Blalock and Jonathan Scott, guard Will Allen and tight end David Thomas were starters last year.

Under Wommack, stopping the run always comes first. To do so Saturday night will be a stern test.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media Group's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories