Spring 'Tweaking' Begins For Texas Offense

Head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> said the Texas defense is "starting over" while its offense will be significantly "tweaked" when spring drills begin Monday at Frank Denius Fields.

"We're looking seriously at some tweaks, and I think it's time to do that after six years," Brown said. "We've evaluated ourselves to know that there are areas we need some help in and we're working hard to improve those areas."

Whatever those offensive tweaks are, fans are not likely to see them until next fall. Most practices will be closed and Brown's new wrinkles won't be showcased in the Spring Jamboree, set for April 3.

One of the operative questions throughout the off-season was to what extent Brown will be involved in the playcalling. Brown is smart enough to know that, implicit in the question, is how much of the offensive responsibilities have been relieved of coordinator Greg Davis.

"What I felt like at one time I did best was get involved in the offense," Brown said. "That's why I got this job. That's why I got the North Carolina job and the Tulane job. I was very involved offensively in those jobs and I've been involved on both sides of the ball here from the outside looking in. But I have not been involved at all in play selection."

Brown is perplexed why so many Texas fans have never warmed up to Davis. He points out that Texas' 41 ppg ranked No. 4 nationally in 2003 and second best in program history. Texas was just one of seven D-I programs that rushed and passed for more than 200 ypg, respectively. The running game (232.5 ypg) was No. 5 nationally and tops in the Big 12 Conference.

"I think Greg Davis has done a great job," Brown said. "Calling plays in college football right now is the hardest thing to do because everybody's a quarterback and everybody can evaluate whether the guy calling the plays is doing a good job or not. We all make mistakes. We all have bad days. What I want to do is get more involved in our plan. I want to get it to where I can call plays again. I'm not going to call all the plays because Greg's done a great job, but I'd like to be able to be more of a help on a day when things aren't going well."

Last spring, much of the focus was on who would emerge at quarterback. Brown is so sold on running QBs that his recruiting profiles probably won't prioritize pure dropback passers for quite some time (i.e., Brown is looking for the next Vince Young rather the next Chris Simms as the Texas prototype). Yet a significant part of Young's job description this spring is to improve his accuracy in the short passing game.

"We didn't throw short passes as well as we threw deep," Brown said. "We count short passes like runs, so we have to do a better job in those areas. You need to complete more than 60 percent of your short passes. We would like to throw deep more but we want to be more accurate."

Texas QBs, thanks largely to Chance Mock, completed 57 percent of their deep throws in 2003. Brown said that ratio was "phenomenal."

"It tells you we can throw deep more," Brown said. "What's interesting, though, is we were second in most yards-per-attempt in the Big 12. Obviously, we had some big plays in our passing game."

At the same time, Brown wants to reduce turnovers -- significantly. The seventh year head coach is convinced that turnovers were the difference in all three losses last season (at least, that's what he says publicly).

"We had too many turnovers, more than we've had in the past, and especially from the quarterback position," Brown said. "They weren't interceptions as much as they were fumbles. We've got to do a better job of having contact with our quarterbacks this spring, understanding that we ran the quarterback more last year than we had. But if they're going to have the ball in their hands more often, then they're going to need to be hit some, especially if they're running downfield."

Texas was more effective last season than in recent years in short-yardage and goal line situations, Brown said.

"We were more aggressive in our decision making toward four-down zone and scoring when we crossed the 50-yard line last year than we have been," Brown said. "We'd still like to improve our ability to kill the clock at the end of the game. It was better last year but it still wasn't bulletproof. We didn't line up and run the ball like we wanted to in some cases to take the game away. That would be in the five games that we played that were close, three of which we lost. (NOTE: Uh, one of those losses wasn't close).

Brown wants multiple offensive formations with the offense allowing, among other things, the option of two TEs in the lineup (and not just in maximum protection against blitz packages). With true freshman Tony Hills (6-6, 270) finally joining the team after successive knee surgeries and redshirt freshman Steven Hogan already earning rave reviews, with Bo Scaife returning for a rare sixth season, and with speedy David Thomas set for his junior year, no D-I team boasts more depth at TE than Texas. The Horns, of course, are frighteningly thin at WR. That's why a focus this spring will include cross-training the TEs with the WRs. New WR coach Bobby Kennedy has been on campus for one week.

The offense will continue to operate out of the shotgun but "we won't be a totally shotgun team," Brown added.

Spring drills begin Monday, 3:30 p.m. CST, at Frank Denius Fields. Practices will be open to public on Monday and Tuesday, as will Saturday's scrimmage at DKR. Other than that, Texas practices will be closed for the first time during Brown's tenure. Texas fans have not gravitated toward spring drills, Brown said, but said spectators have included supporters of opposing teams.

"Very honestly, there weren't very many people out there last year," Brown said. "I don't think it will make that big of a difference. What I think it will do is allow us to make some decisions without all of our opponents helping us make them. I think that's the biggest thing. We're not cutting fans out because we love our fans. They've been great, but none of them came. You look up, and there's five people at spring practice. So, we're not closing fans out. But I do think it sends a message to the players that we're looking at some things that are really important to us and we'd rather not share them with anybody since there are some new things we're trying to do. And you probably won't see them in scrimmages that are open and you probably won't see them in the Spring Game."

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