Personnel changes possible on offense

Following its worst performance of the year, and one of the worst of the current coaching staff's three-plus years in Austin, the Longhorn offense could get a post-OU game personnel shake-up, according to <B>Mack Brown</B>.

"We'll evaluate a number of positions (on offense) this week and we'll grade 'em everyday so they understand the importance of improving," the head coach said, adding that "two or three" spots are particularly under the microscope. Which two or three he would not say. Brown said any decisions wouldn't be made until Friday.

One position up for evaluation is almost certainly running back, where Brown has already admitted that Cedric Benson should have been given an opportunity to play more than one snap vs. the Sooners. Current starter Ivan Williams, despite his team-leading rushing stats (against Oklahoma and for the season), looked tentative and slow hitting the holes against OU's defense and he also missed one protection that led to a Sooner sack of Chris Simms.

At this time last year, the coaches decided to go with youth over experience at wide receiver, a spot with an obvious and large talent differential between the veterans and the true freshmen. Perhaps its time to make the same call at running back. Davis would not address Benson's role specifically, but he did say "Cedric is coming along fine" in pass protection, the area that seems to have kept him off the field against Oklahoma. The offensive coordinator, though, added, "As we said early, we're not going to let his pass protection keep him from playing and we will do some things to free him up schematically, give him help and we're going to continue to do that." If the first part of that statement were indeed true, Benson would have played against OU, so we'll simply have to wait and see what his role is this Saturday in Stillwater.

Aside from running back, what could the other one or two positions be that the coaches are evaluating? It's highly unlikely that quarterback is one of them. Major Applewhite won't see the field unless Simms is injured. Brown, although quiet on the subject other than to say the coaches never considered inserting Major into the Oklahoma game, will not ignite another QB controversy from within. Obviously, based on talk radio chatter and internet bulletin board postings, the quarterback situation is an issue externally, but the head coach will avoid a repeat performance of the distraction and resulting mess that last year's situation created.

Could one of the spots be fullback? Possibly, although the fullback seldom sees the field and is simply a bit player in the UT O, so any personnel move there would have little impact on the overall offense. Tight end? Extremely doubtful, with Bo Scaife living up to every expectation over the last three games. OL? More likely than the above positions, but the coaches are pretty limited by depth in what they can on the line aside from shuffling the three rotating guards.

Surprisingly, one spot that should be closely evaluated is wide receiver, where a shake-up could possibly wake up that underachieving unit. Dropped passes have plagued Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson all season, their route running has at times been less than crisp, and the want-to factor has too often been more in the defensive back's hands than in those of the UT wideouts. Roy (28 catches for 319 yards) and B.J. (22 catches for 274 yards) aren't playing poorly, but they have seemingly yet to grasp just how good they can be with maximum effort. Kyle Shanahan, who because of his amazing work ethic made what could be called a miraculously quick recovery from his summer leg injury, and Tony Jeffery, who has been the surprise of the receiving corps, should get more work at B.J.'s flanker spot and Sloan Thomas also deserves more snaps at Roy's split end spot.

Regardless of personnel moves, Davis, like Brown before him, said the playbook is "pretty slim already," so don't look for much of a simplification of the offense. The coordinator said that against the Sooners, his QB, rather than dealing with "too much" in the offensive gameplan, simply strayed from the plan. "I think the thing Chris did was he got in the ballgame and felt one play wins the thing," Davis said Tuesday. "I told him in the first half he was making those plays within the system. The plays were happening. In the second half, he got outside the box and tried to do things not within the reads thinking that one play would do it."

Davis did say, "We're constantly looking at different things" offensively but that the basics are going to remain the same. But, he later added, "It's fair to say that from here to the end of the year we'll run more tricks or gadgets."

Notes: Kalen Thornton and Victor Ike (bruised ribs) did not practice Tuesday. Brown said the coaches "still hope they are ready for Saturday" but their availability is uncertain.

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