Davis: Zone Read Key, But TEs Should Create Havoc

QB <B>Vince Young</B> and RB <B>Cedric Benson</B> will be very tired come 10 p.m. Saturday night following Texas' home opener against North Texas, Offensive Coordinator <B>Greg Davis</B> said Tuesday. But so will TEs <B>David Thomas </B>and <B>Bo Scaife</B>, not to mention FB <B>Will Matthews</B>. It just means that the Zone Read will remain Texas' bread-and-butter play, but the extensive cross-training between TEs and FBs to create personnel mismatches will also be a factor this season.

Since last spring, Scaife and Thomas have trained at TE, H-back, FB and in the slot. Matthews has also taken snaps at TE (and would be the third TE in a three-tight set). The cross-training allows Texas to go with three-wides, three TEs, the I formation or a single back set without changing personnel. And that, as much as the ground-gobbling zone read, will be fundamental to what is expected to be an explosive Texas offense from the start (read: before the OU game).

"Defenses are all predicated on personnel," Davis said. "If you talk to defensive coordinators, they want two things: they want down-and-distance and they want personnel. Everything they do and every decision they make is based on match-up personnel. If you have, as we do, two tight ends and two flankers that appears to be what's in the ball game, they make a call predicated on that."

It's not that Texas hasn't previously tinkered with its interchangeable parts; it's just that Scaife and former TE Brock Edwards couldn't stay healthy. Nor has Texas possessed a TE as big and fast as Thomas. The flexibility Davis now has at TE, FB and WR should create mismatches (in some cases) and considerably reduce the amount of time the defense has to make adjustments between snaps (in most cases). And guys like Thomas, Scaife and Matthews have the tools to pull it off, Davis said.

"These are guys that can stretch the field, they can block, and they're athletic," Davis said.

Texas rode the zone read (a scheme in which the QB's decision is largely based on the play on the unblocked DE) all the way to a 232.5 rushing ypg (NCAA No. 8) and a school-record 5,709 yards of total offense in 2003. Yet, the system sputtered in the second half in a near upset against Texas Tech and coaches shelved the scheme in the fourth quarter of the 28-20 loss to Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.

"The zone read is a play; it's not a cure for cancer," Davis said. "If there is a commit to (stopping the zone read), we've got to find other ways to do it so that just a commitment doesn't stop it. But if there's that kind of commitment, there has to be some (defensive) vulnerabilities that show up in other places."

And that vulnerability, Davis believes, is likely to come in the form of his cross-trained TEs and FBs.

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