Inside Texas Blog: Old-School Offense

How much of the record-breaking success of the 2005 offense should be attributed to Vince Young, and how much credit should go to Coordinator Greg Davis? And what can we expect from the offense this season?

On the surface, the question presents a chicken-or-the-egg scenario just because there's no discounting the season-defining impact VY had on the offense. There have been so many superlatives directed at Vince, but the word I would choose to describe his overall effect is 'transcendent.' In other words, everything changed -- and anything could happen -- by his mere presence on the field. Run the same plays without Vince, and the offense (in all probability) doesn't shatter school records that stood for 35 years. At the same time, Texas probably doesn't run those same plays without Vince.

Or will it?

An underlying concern among the fan-base has to do with whether Texas will revert to the play-not-to-lose offenses that we often saw against quality teams before Mack Brown and Davis learned to trust Vince.

The pre-season rhetoric has indicated that there won't be a seismic shift from last year's schemes, but that the play selection may be noticeably expanded by season's end. The buzz is that Colt McCoy has Major Applewhite-smarts and that strong-armed Jevan Snead is at least far enough ahead of the learning curve so that his head is no longer spinning. In other words, there's little reason to anticipate a mid-season massive makeover in offensive philosophy predicated by indecision at quarterback and a couple of ugly losses (as was the case in 2003).

Brown believes it is a widespread misperception that Vince ran the ball more in 2005. It just seemed that way, he believes.

"We didn't run Vince as much last year as we did the year before," Brown said. "It went kind-of unnoticed because there were games where he'd run quite a bit and then there were four or five games where we didn't run him at all because we didn't need to. What we have to decide now is what the quarterbacks will run. The Zone Read will be part of it. These quarterbacks are quick and athletic, and we feel like they can run some. We're not going to do a lot of changing in our offense."

Davis has said the offense won't be as explosive as last year, but that both quarterbacks can run the 2005 game plan. An emphasis in August camp is figuring out what each QB does best in order to incorporate it as the "feature play" in the game plan. But just because Texas can run those plays doesn't mean Texas will run those plays.

At times, Davis has resembled a freewheeling Mountain West offensive coordinator when facing the Rices and Missouris of the college football world. At times, his close-to-the-vest schemes against Oklahoma were enough to make Fred Akers look like a riverboat gambler. Does the sheer fact of three freshman QBs on campus indicate that the playcalling will become so conservative that it becomes a liability against, say, Ohio State?

My partner-in-crime Clendon Ross believes this year's offense won't so much be 'conservative' but rather 'deliberate.' In other words, we're looking at a high-percentage passing game that focuses on shorter and intermediate routes (in most games, a five-yard hitch becomes an explosive play with Texas' speed at WR) while the committee of running backs will pick up the slack in a rushing offense in which the QB was the program's leading ground-gainer in 2005.

I believe Davis will try to have the QBs playing so within themselves that both will look interchangeable in the early going. I think Texas will try to occasionally surprise a defense when the QB keeps on the zone read but, by and large, Davis will want the ball out of the hands of his freshman QB (and into the hands of his weapons) as quickly as possible. We'll see more emphasis on the RBs and FBs as receiving targets, and I think TE Jermichael Finley will be money. There will be at least one game where the most explosive running play will belong to FL Jordan Shipley on the end-around, but I've got my fingers crossed that the depth, experience and speed Texas has among its pass catchers (Limas Sweed, Quan Cosby, Billy Pittman, Nate Jones) will elevate the play of the QBs and, by extension, Davis' confidence in them.

Davis has to know that there isn't a game on the schedule that Texas can't win IF it doesn't shoot itself in the foot with costly turnovers. He has to know that Texas will field what should be its finest defense in nearly a quarter of a century, and that's part of why he continues to tell his QBs to "give us the chance to kick." That's why one of the primary criterion for getting separation in the quarterback derby is which freshman can move the chains while also protecting the football. We're not going back to three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust, but a Texas team that wins with a powerful running game and a Top 10 defense does have an old-school feel about it.

And if there is an old-school winning percentage, or even as old as last season, there will be few gripes about the offense, conservative or otherwise.

What do you think?

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