More Mack, Less Davis: What's Best For UT Offense?

Inquiring minds want to know: just how involved will head coach <B>Mack Brown </B>be in calling the Texas offense this season? Brown addressed the hot topic, as well as everybody's favorite whipping boy (offensive coordinator <B>Greg Davis</B>) during the Big 12 Football Media Days in Kansas City.

"I don't want to take over (the offense) because I don't feel that's what's best for our team," Mack Brown said. "I don't feel like it's best for our defense or for our special teams because they need to have a head coach, too."

Brown raised a few eyebrows late last winter when he mentioned that he would become more involved in the playcalling in 2004. Months later, the seventh-year coach maintains that his input will be primarily geared toward getting the offense on track if it sputters during the season.

"There may be some days where, if we're struggling, I can help change the pace some in those situations," Brown said.

Brown's response is fair because he should not be expected in July to somehow quantify, or project a percentage of, the plays he expects to call next fall. The question is perhaps best asked after an actual game. For now, the most revealing comment for many Orangebloods is Brown's contention that little involvement is necessary because little is wrong with the offense -- or its coordinator.

"I feel like our offensive staff did a great job last year," Brown said. "It's just that they have a lot of scrutiny at Texas. But I do feel like I can help more (on offense) because that's where I grew up. I grew up coaching offense and I grew up calling plays. Most of the time, our offense has been really, really good."

In fact, one of the first things Brown did during his session with Big 12 print media last Thursday was briefly laud Greg Davis' recent statistical track record at Texas. Last season, the Greg Davis offense set UT season records for total offense (5,709) and points (533). Texas has also posted the top five scoring seasons in program history under Davis. As such, Brown focused his attention last spring on the defense because that's where he believes most of the recent problems have been. He worked alongside new Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson and new DE coach Dick Tomey to, initially, teach the fundamentals of tackling (including shedding blocks and taking proper pursuit angles). While fans have focused on Davis' playcalling, Brown's pre-season goals have emphasized the defense doing a better job of stopping the run and forcing turnovers. By and large, Brown's offensive goals have focused on reducing turnovers at the quarterback position and increasing accuracy in the mid-range passing game.

So, why do so many people want Brown to either can Davis or usurp some of his responsibilities?

"The perception goes back to the Oklahoma game," Brown said. "Greg Davis is a name that everyone knows. If you lose, people get angry at the playcaller."

Texas has scored four offensive TDs against OU in the past three years (Oklahoma scored that many in less than three quarters during last year's debacle). OU held Texas to a combined 80 yards rushing in 2001 and 2002, while RB Quentin Griffin darted for 248 yards two years ago.

"The scrutiny comes if we haven't moved it against Oklahoma, but not many people have," Brown said. "(So) it's against the great defenses in college football...Washington State had a great defense..."

Brown did not complete his thought but the implication was clear: it's only against the great defenses that Texas has struggled. And therein lies the rub on Davis. Obviously, Texas has no trouble racking up the yards against the Tulanes, Rices and Baylors of college football. Few teams do, just as few teams move the ball against the great defenses. But where your offensive coordinator earns his paycheck is precisely in the intense rivalry games and precisely in the high-profile bowl games where the expectation is that you will be facing top-notch defenses. Obviously, Kansas State moved the ball on Oklahoma last December with arguably less offensive talent.

Of course, Texas got past Kansas State and its great defenses the past two seasons BUT the Horns were able to produce those gutcheck wins on the strength of its own defensive and special teams play. While not underestimating the way in which QB Vince Young deftly engineered the 24-20 comeback last season, Texas doesn't win that game if a) WR Tony Jeffery doesn't recover a blocked punt for a score and b) FS Phillip Geiggar doesn't force and recover a QB Ell Roberson fumble at the UT 16 with Texas trailing and less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. Texas finished that game with 290 net yards of total offense. In 2002, Texas generated just 230 yards of total offense at Kansas State but the DEs (Cory Redding, Kalen Thornton) did a masterful job in containing the KSU power-option. Special teams also came up huge in that 17-14 win as Thornton swatted away a PAT attempt and DT Marcus Tubbs blocked a potential game-tying field goal as time expired.

Texas offensive coaches are to be credited for implementing the Zone Read that produced the nation's No. 8 rushing attack (232.5 ypg) last year and which could be even more explosive in 2004. Darrell Royal reportedly commented that he "had never seen an offense re-invent itself" as did last year's makeover -- and this is coming from the guy who implemented the wishbone in early 1968. That's why Davis' refusal to "dance with the one who brung him" during the fourth quarter of the Holiday Bowl is even more confusing.

"Not everybody was born to be a defensive coordinator but everybody is an offensive coordinator," Brown said. "We have 20 million offensive coordinators every Saturday and they've never called a bad play."

It led Brown to conclude, "Greg Davis has the best and worst job in America."

Makes sense: Davis has produced some of the best and worst game plans Longhorn fans have ever seen.

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