Finding the Fit

Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite discusses his first spring on the job.

"They did well," Applewhite said. "I talked to the team on the offensive side of the ball. [Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach] Coach [Darrell] Wyatt and I are on the same page- we don't like to talk too much about how we played until we have watched the tape, but there are some things that you don't really need to examine the tape to see. Number one, they played without turnovers; that was great. All the quarterbacks, all the backs and wide receivers took great care of the ball, made good decisions in the red zone and took care of it, which allowed them to stay on the field and score some points.

"I didn't do a great job inside the five-yard line on a couple of series and probably held us to a field goal on one of them," Applewhite said. "We definitely talked about that as an offense. It doesn't matter what play we call, it matters who wants it the most right there. It doesn't matter. I've got to get better at that, and they've got to get better at that situation. It was good to see us punch the ball in late on the goal-line scrimmage. The overriding deal that I saw up there in the box is that we've got to play a lot cleaner. We've got to substitute, get on and off the field, call out our substitutions and call our personnel groupings. We got them twisted up a couple of times, but we will get that. That is part of that being the eighth day of practice and doing a new system. I have been around a system like this before and it will get tightened up."

Of course, the big storyline this spring has been the move to an up-tempo offense. But Applewhite was quick to point out that the Longhorns didn't have another school as their up-tempo model to follow.

"We are not trying to be anyone else," Applewhite said. "We are going to do what fits us best. There will be plays we run every bit as fast as the teams you mentioned, but we are going to do what we need to do to win the ball game. If that is to snap it 55 times, we will do that. If it is snap it 85 times or 95 times, we will do that. There will be some elements when you look at us you will say, 'Wow, that was fast.'"

The key part of any no-huddle attack is the quarterback, and Applewhite said David Ash was taking to his new job with a level-headed consistency.

"David is pretty much the same everyday quite honestly," Applewhite said. "If he is more confident, or if he feels more confident, or if he feels more relieved then I don't really notice it. I see him as the same, intense kid everyday. He is always like, 'What do you have for me today coach? What am I going to learn?' I just told him that right now spring ball is all about mastering the course. Don't worry about the other guys playing in your group. Just go out and shoot the best score you can shoot, and that is all you really worry about at that position.

"Sometimes ten practices isn't enough to get to know a guy before the bowl game," Applewhite said. "Really only seven or eight days into [spring practice], I am still feeling him out and learning concepts about him pulling the trigger on this kind of stuff where he doesn't hesitate at all. Then there are ones where maybe we are invested too much in this, because he doesn't feel it as well. I think he has done a great job in camp. He hasn't thrown a pick in camp, so that's good. Where we want to improve is not just that we take care of the ball. To me, that is a minimum expectation. Where I want to improve is on our third down passing game and our red zone, being situationally aware and knowing what your answers are."

Texas fans hope that those answers involve getting the ball to the Longhorn playmakers more often.

"That is the great thing about tempo," Applewhite said. "If you are trying to go fast, you can't substitute, but there is a rule that the umpire can stand over the ball and give the defense an opportunity to substitute. So if you are really trying to go fast, you are not going to substitute a whole bunch so put your best players out there, keep them on the field and go fast.

"If you keep the same guys out there, one of those five or six are going to get it," Applewhite said. "If you got all of your good guys out there, if you have Mike [Davis], Daje [Johnson], Malcolm [Brown], Johnathan [Gray] and Joe [Bergeron] or whatever combination it is, someone is going to get the ball."

Applewhite said that list of playmakers might be growing. He spoke well of the three sophomore wideouts and the gains they made.

"I thought all three of the young wideouts, Kendall [Sanders], Marcus [Johnson] and Cayleb [Jones] did a good job this week," Applewhite said. "Marcus improved in the last two practices and made some moves today, but it is just that consistency. Can you get yourself to be as consistent as [Jaxon] Shipley or Mike? That is what those three young guys are competing and trying to do is put themselves on that level. Malcolm has done great, too."

Brown is coming back from an injury, while the offensive line has found itself beat up by them. Not only are returning starters Trey Hopkins and Josh Cochran out for the spring, but Camrhon Hughes is limited.

"That is one of those blessings in disguise," Applewhite said. "Your guys like Garrett Greenlea and Kennedy Estelle get a ton of reps. Fortunately, it is not a huge injury that they can't overcome. It might be something that we look at in week four or week five or week eight in the season when someone is nicked up.

"Those guys have helped, and they are learning," Applewhite said. "They are getting more snaps than they thought they were going to get."

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