Spring Preview: 'Sudden Change' In Offense?

There is a Game Day custom along the Texas sideline of screaming 'Sudden Change' when there is a turnover. That's why, moments after QB Vince Young informed coaches he would not return for his senior year, Co-Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina burst in on Longhorn offensive coaches, shouting: "Sudden change! We've got a sudden change, you offensive guys!" It begs the question: to what extent will the Texas offense be revamped?

Head coach Mack Brown charged his staff with presenting goals, including any sort of plan for an offensive makeover, last week. It all goes from the drawing board to the practice field when spring drills begin Monday at the Forty Acres.

"Do you stay in the shotgun? Do you use more I-formation? That's what spring will be for," Brown said. "It will really depend on how far we can bring the quarterbacks and where they're most comfortable. Both of them have been shotgun guys. We love the fact that, when we were in no-huddle (in 2005), people wore down and we were able to move the ball and spread people out with our speed."

As previously mentioned, true freshman Jevan Snead spent virtually his entire prep career in the 'gun while engineering Stephenville's spread offense toward a 23-2 mark the past two seasons. Snead is generally applauded for his arm strength, accuracy and mobility. The fact that Snead is already on campus -- along with All-American WLB Sergio Kindle, O-lineman Buck Burnette and TE Greg Smith -- will be an invaluable asset heading into next season.

"It gives all of the guys a better chance to play next fall than guys who come in the summer," Brown noted. "They'll have 15 days of spring practice and that will make a huge difference for them. They'll have the knowledge of getting around school, so they won't be in shock and homesick when class hits in the fall. They'll have had an off-season program that guys in the summer won't have. Spring practice is just invaluable. We feel like all four of them will have a better chance to play now than if they didn't come in."

But it will be Colt McCoy who will trot onto the field with the first team offense when Brown conducts his ninth spring training in Austin. The RS-freshman reportedly has a nice touch on the ball, is extremely bright and has the benefit of a year in the system. But, as Brown mentioned earlier, the Horns are "one snap away" from starting a QB who has never played in a collegiate game.

"We may not change much on offense but you're not going to have the 4th-and-18th play at Kansas," Brown said. "You're going to have to call a different one. But you're still going to have quarterbacks that are athletic. There were a lot of seams in the no-huddle offense. We fully expect to be good on offense next year and move the ball. We're not expecting to drop off, but it will be different. We've got to figure out who we are, and that's the fun of college coaching. In the pros, you've got Brett Favre for 17 years."

While the competition at QB will become a national story-line long before the Horns kick off their title defense against North Texas on September 2, the shape of things to come will also be predicated upon who emerges at TE and FB.

The thinnest spot on the offense is at FB. Ahmard Hall's brief tenure came to an end when he completed his eligibility at the Rose Bowl and no FBs were signed last month. RS-sophomore Chris Ogbonnaya may get an audition at FB this spring, given the fact that Jamaal Charles, Selvin Young, Ramonce Taylor and Henry Melton are stocking the pantry at RB. Melton should figure more prominently in the offense than in just short yardage situations, Brown said. Meanwhile, RT will likely establish himself as an all-purpose back just so the speed-demon can get more touches than he would at WR.

Dearly-departed TE David Thomas was Texas' most consistent receiver the past two seasons and was the most versatile TE Brown has coached.

"We've got to have a tight end come through, even though Neale Tweedie has played a lot," Brown said.

Tweedie has seen action in 37 games and logged four starts last season when the offense opened in a two-TE set against Rice, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M. He posted only two receptions for 49 yards last year, both at Oklahoma State. It was his 21-yard TD reception with 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter that gave Texas the lead for good in Stillwater. Peter Ullman was primarily a scout team player as a RS-freshman last season but got on the stat sheet with a three-yard TD reception against Kansas. RS-freshman Jermichael Finley (6-5, 220) looks like Vince Young in helmet and shoulder pads and should be an impact player before the sun sets on 2006. Greg Smith (6-4, 238) was a two-year starter at Montgomery before missing his entire senior season with a leg injury.

It was rockin' good news when first-team All-Big 12 RT Justin Blalock announced he would return for his final year of eligibility, giving the Horns three returning starters up-front. Tony Hills saw extensive action as Jonathan Scott's backup last season.

"We feel like the offensive line can be as good as last year's," Brown said. "We've got to fill a hole or two, but it should be good. The running backs should be better. The receivers should be better."

Translated: the other guys must compensate for the inexperience at QB.

"It's time to figure it out and go back to work," Brown concluded. "But I don't know that we'll even know it after spring for sure, but that's the fun part of spring: figuring out our personality on offense."


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