Offensive Good, Bad and Ugly

Analyzing the offense's good, the bad and the ugly from the first third of the Longhorns' 2013 season.

The Good

Youth is served. Take a look at some of the more exciting players, or plays, on the Texas squad this year. Johnathan Gray? Just a sophomore. Daje Johnson? Sophomore. Kendall Sanders is a sophomore too, as is Marcus Johnson.

Sure, the offensive line is older, with three seniors and two juniors among the regular starters. But even there, Sedrick Flowers and Kennedy Estelle, both of whom have filled in remarkably well at times, are sophomores.

From a skill position standpoint, the Longhorns don't just look to be loaded this year, but the future truly looks bright. And it says a ton when — on an offense that returned nine starters — the younger generation is still making such a massive impact.

The Bad

Tight end. Geoff Swaim appears to be close to emerging as an every-down guy, which is a plus, because Greg Daniels and M.J. McFarland just haven't quite shown that ability yet. Texas's reliance on three-wide sets — potentially shifting into more four-wide sets as the receivers heal up — negates some of the need for a dominant player at the position, though certain games (like Oklahoma) would be helped if Texas could find a guy capable of catching passes down the seam while also setting the edge in the running game.

The Ugly

The injuries. Simply put: every part of the Texas offense has shown flashes of success … when healthy. David Ash had a monster opener (aside from the two interceptions, one of which was tipped at the line), had a decent first half against BYU and put up nearly 200 yards of total offense in the first half against Kansas State. The running backs have been awfully good, with Johnathan Gray looking more and more like an upper-tier back, and the receivers have been deep and successful. The offensive line has been pretty good, allowing zero sacks outside of the BYU game and generally opening holes for the backs.

The Longhorns rank 19th nationally in Offensive S&P+. So what's the issue? In the second half of the Ole Miss game, Texas was missing four starters (Ash, Daje Johnson, Mason Walters, Josh Cochran), and the Longhorns were out four starters for much of the Kansas State game as well (Ash, Johnson, Cochran and Mike Davis). And that doesn't count nagging stuff like Malcolm Brown's ankle, which he has played through.

If the offense has bogged down, a lot of it (almost all of it?) has had to do with injury issues, particularly at the quarterback position, where the drop-off between a healthy Ash and backup Case McCoy has been sizable. If Texas can get healthy, there's no reason to suggest that the Longhorns can't be an elite-level — let's say top-10 — offense.

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