Is the Texas Longhorns Offense Prepared to Carry the Defense in 2016?

Before I make the case that the Texas offense will be able to carry the defense early in the 2016 season, let me make it clear I think the Texas defense in 2016 will be improved over the defense we saw in 2015 that gave up 30.3 points and 219 yards per game on the ground.

 

But I also think it's going to take a game or three for that defense to settle in, because of the new faces at DT and LB who will probably be playing key roles, even if those roles are in a rotation. When I asked Vance Bedford who the team's best pass rusher was, he paused and said, "I'm still waiting for that guy to step forward."

 

I have my concerns about special teams - namely who is going to kick field goals. But Charlie Strong says he'll "generate" a kicker by the start of the season. He generated a punter last summer, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt at this point.

 

With all that said, what I'm hearing about the Texas offense (after another strong scrimmage on Saturday) has me convinced that side of the ball is going to be able score points - I'll even say 33.4 points per game in 2016 - a full touchdown more than the 26.4 ppg it averaged in 2015. Maybe more.

 

Some things will need to go right for the Longhorns' offense this season for that to happen, namely the starting offensive line (LT Connor Williams, LG Brandon Hodges, C Zach Shackelford, RG Patrick Vahe, RT Kent Perkins) needs to stay healthy. Texas is dangerously thin on the O-line until we see the college readiness of incoming freshmen OG Tope Imade, OT Jean Delance and OT Denzel Okafor.

 

Here's what I know: Texas has the outside receivers in John Burt and Collin Johnson. Armanti Foreman can play inside or outside. After that, there's nothing proven among Jacorey Warrick, Lorenzo Joe, DeAndre McNeal and Ryan Newsome. So someone in that group needs to seize the opportunity.

 

Again, staying healthy will be important at the WR position, because there's not much depth.

 

The running game is there: D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III have already proven they can make plays. Kirk Johnson will prove to everyone this year that he's a special talent, and Roderick Bernard is the lightning to all that thunder and appears to be on a mission after coming back from an ACL injury.

 

Caleb Bluiett brings a level of toughness at TE.

 

And last, but certainly not least, the quarterback position, and I'm now convinced Shane Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes can both help Texas operate this offense at a high level and score points.

 

Buechele is mature beyond his years and is the most accurate in the passing game and approaches the QB position like a job. He's pushed Swoopes and Jerrod Heard in this competition, and is now a legit threat to be the starter against Notre Dame. The competition is far from over. But Buechele has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates and should continue to do so over the summer.

 

If Swoopes wins the starting QB job for the Notre Dame game, he will have truly earned it. If Buechele wins the starting job, Swoopes can still help this offense by operating a version of the 18-Wheeler Package in short-yardage and goal-line situations. And I've said there is even some things Jerrod Heard can bring to this offense that no one else can (like the Wildcat stuff Johnny Jefferson ran at BU late last season).

 

I think this offense is going to hit the field for the 2016 season with a lot of confidence, in large part, because this offense knows exactly what it is, and the players know exactly what their roles are - and Texas finally has some skill talent - and, dare I say it, a quarterback or two - who can help Texas win again.

 

For the past six years, the QB position at Texas has been part of the problem - not part of the solution. It hasn't been a source of confidence, it's been a source of doubt. I believe that will change this year. The very nature of this offense with its dizzying tempo, simple play calls and reads - which all the players love - seems to make everyone better, including the quarterback.

 

I don't want to say the wait is over for an offense that puts fear in a defense. But I'll go ahead and say it - the wait may soon be over.

 

So when I say the offense will help carry the defense early in the season, that's not a knock on the defense. That's what NEEDS to happen until whatever the front seven of UT's defense is going to be takes form.

 

 


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