Shawn Watson sounded confident in what the Longhorns are going to be able to do on offense on Saturday in large part due to the familiarity the players have with what UT is trying to accomplish.
“I’m excited about it because all the players have taken to it. It’s in their nature because of the high school systems they come from,” Watson said. “So it’s an easy transition for them. We’ve been able to do a lot more quicker and faster because of their backgrounds. It’s been fun.”
Watson said the Longhorns want to go “as fast as we can go,” and that he’d like to get a snap off in around 23 to 24 seconds after a previous play is over.
“We want to press the tempo depending on what scheme we are in,” he said.
When it came to naming Tyrone Swoopes the starting quarterback, it sounds like the 12 starts Swoopes has over Heard really came into play.
“Tyrone has an experience level on Jerrod that Jerrod is really honestly about where Tyrone was a year ago,” Watson said. “The nice thing about that is that he has Ty in front of him to learn from. Ty was learning by himself.”
Watson did say that Heard was moving along a lot faster right now and made the quarterback competition “really competitive.”
“The thing that is really gratifying is each of those guys are each other’s best ally, their best friends,” Watson said. “They push each other. They love competing with each other. They have been really supportive of each other.”
But just because Swoopes has the job now doesn’t mean it can’t be taken away from him if he doesn’t produce.
“All these things have to be proven,” Watson said. “Our whole football team has really seen him grow and make a lot of plays for us. There is a confidence in him that wasn’t there a year ago. Now he has to do it on the stage. That’s his next step. This is a real world we live in. We aren’t going to sugarcoat things for kids. Practice is one things, games are another.”
Watson did say that he thought UT had two QBs it could win with.
“I believe in both of those guys,” he said.
The biggest thing for Heard right now, per Watson, is for him to grow more comfortable on the field and to play more instinctive.
“They have to learn to trust themselves,” he said. “When they do that it’s like pick-up basketball, you see the athleticism rise. I really believe he is on the cusp of being there. He is gaining more confidence.”
Watson said that Kai Locksley was “a ways away” from challenging Jerrod Heard for the No. 2 QB “only because he’s a freshman.”
“He can run. He can throw. He catches your eye,” Watson said. “He is learning so much about defensive football. It looks like Star Wars man, there is just stuff going on everywhere.”
One thing that Watson said should help Locksley’s evolution as a QB is the fact that the QB room is much better than it was a season ago. The learning curve is going to be a lot faster because he has Swoopes and Heard to learn from.
There’s no secret that senior running back Johnathan Gray is going to be crucial to the Longhorns’ success this season. We all know he can run the ball. But he must excel in another facet of the game to really benefit this team.
“I challenged him a few weeks ago that if he ever wanted to play beyond here he would have to be a great pass protector,” Watson said. “I’ve been pleased with how he’s progressed this fall.”
Watson said Gray was like a coach on the field because he knew their protections so well.
Texas QB coach went on to say that he wasn’t worried with Gray returning kicks.
“It’s the game of football, you’ve got to go,” Watson said. “He’ll be fine.”
Charlie Strong said on Monday that he fully expects the Irish to blitz the Longhorns early and often with two true freshmen starting on the offensive line in Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe.
Watson shares that same belief and says Texas is prepared for it.
“We are always calculating what other people are thinking,” he said. “We will scheme ourselves to make sure we help out those young guys.”
Watson went on to say that he thought both Williams and Vahe were “going to be great football players” for the Longhorns.
“I’m excited to see what they can do,” he said. “They weren’t given those jobs. They had to earn them.”
The decision to move Caleb Bluiett back over to tight end was fairly simple, according to Watson.
“He gives us an on-the-line TE body that sets an edge in the run game, and he can really run and catch the ball,” Watson said. “That was a good move. That allowed us to move DeAndre [McNeal], who really sees himself more of an outside receiver, and play him where his mindset is.”
The Longhorns have moved Marcus Johnson inside to create some mismatch problems with his size and, in turn, have decided to position John Burt and Armanti Foreman out wide.
“Marcus has had an outstanding training camp. We know what we want to do with his skillset. He gives us a nice thump inside,” Watson said. “Burt and Armanti in outside lanes with their speed. Armanti is so big and strong he’s a handful for a corner to get a hold of. John has length and speed. He can do it a different way.”
Watson said they are fully aware of Daje Johnson’s big play ability and plan to create things to get him in the open field to utilize his speed.
I asked Watson where his confidence level was with the running backs behind Johnathan Gray, D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren. He doesn’t seem concerned at all with their lack of playing time at this level, especially for Warren, a freshman.
“It’s sky high,” Watson said. “I love those two guys. I’ve always been a fan of the big back. I had Chris Brown at Colorado, Brandon Jackson at Nebraska. I love wearing people out with big backs. They both carry their pads really well. They make you hurt when you tackle them. Really great young talents.”
Watson said he has been surprised with how well Warren has adjusted to pass protection, which isn’t always an easy thing to do for a freshman.
“He’s such a big body and he can wire up a linebacker,” he said.