Texas Offense: Got Some I.D.?

The Ohio State game loomed as a symbolic target that would, ideally, lend clarity to Texas' sense of offensive identity in the post-Vince Young era. So, what does Coordinator Greg Davis know now about the direction of the offense that he didn't know at the start of the season?

"I think we're still hunting for an identity," Davis said. "We're still going to run the Zone Read. We ran it a couple of times (Saturday), but it's not going to be the featured play."

It's been observed that RS-freshman QB Colt McCoy has almost invariably pitched the ball on inside zone plays rather than keep it himself, which he candidly acknowledged this week. The Zone Read, of course, emerged as Texas' bread-and-butter play when Young assumed the reigns in mid-2004. Although the team did not run it as much during the 2005 National Championship season, it was staple in an offensive arsenal that broke school records for total offense and averaged more than 50 points-per-game. Now, as Davis mulls an offense that produced just one TD against Ohio State, he acknowledges, "We're trying to get those kinds of plays some other ways."

For example?

"We've thrown the quick, one-man screen. Some of those throws are Zone Read calls with throws built-in. It's like when Major (Applewhite) took over, or when Vince (Young) took over, you're trying to tweak and find what fits this group. We want to be able to run the ball. We know what balance we're looking for."

In Davis' perfect world, Texas runs for 250 yards and passes for 250 yards each ballgame.

"Within that balance, how we get there, we're still working toward that," he said.

The 2006 Longhorns will remain a shotgun team that goes with no-huddle most of the time.

"Our personnel is better suited for three wide-receivers and a tight end, or two tight ends and two wide receivers."

It's also an offense that, despite its depth at WR, currently locates its strength in other areas.

"We have a really good line and really good backs," Davis said. "If you want to talk about identity, I know that. We're going to feature those guys right now. At the same time, we want our quarterback to make the plays that he needs to make. Colt did some things Saturday that were big-time. The helmet-to-helmet blow, he stood in there and delivered the ball to Quan (Cosby), and Colt got the holy doo-waddy knocked out of him. He stuck a post to Limas, and Colt knew he was 'hot' on his left side. He had a quick-ball to Jamaal Charles with the guy coming. He choose to take the lick and throw the post route. You don't see too many two-game guys do that."

Outside of the final score and two turnovers, Davis said the most frustrating thing about Saturday's loss was the absence of a vertical passing attack. But part of that, he said, was by design.

"If you want to know if I did not throw the ball downfield more because I was trying to be smart with (McCoy), or if I'm too conservative," Davis said, "then, yeah, probably so."

Davis' game plan was predicated upon the conviction that Ohio State's youthful secondary would not concede the deep ball.

"They didn't give us much in the game (at Columbus) in terms of the vertical game. We caught them one time (last year) bluffing a blitz when Vince hit Billy (Pittman). The other time, they were in a three-deep zone and Billy broke his route and then he ran a long way after the catch. It wasn't like they gave us a bunch of vertical-gains the year before."

Davis called for nine deep balls in Saturday's game, and McCoy connected on two of them (a 29-yard completion to RB Selvin Young, an 18-yard toss to SE Limas Sweed out of an empty set). Sweed was also on the intended receiving end of three other deep balls (one resulting in a pass interference penalty). Another deep ball resulted in QB Colt McCoy's only INT of the season on the third play of the second half. In fact, as soon as Davis returned to the press box after intermission, he called WR Coach Bobby Kennedy on the head set and said, 'Bobby, don't forget to tell Colt to drop the ball down on his verticals if they drop back their zone.' The message was relayed, and Colt said, 'Got it.' When the MLB dropped back in coverage just before McCoy released the ball, Davis concedes 'I said some words and my pastor wouldn't be pleased. Thank goodness I wasn't miked."

Davis wants to involve TEs more in the passing game, but no Longhorn TE has notched a reception this season. That simple fact is underscored by the fact the TEs were primary receivers the past two seasons.

"I've figured them into the offense but it hasn't shown yet," Davis said.

McCoy tried to hookup with TE Neale Tweedie in the first half but the SLB was all over the play. There were also two calls intended for RS-freshman TE Jermichael Finley. McCoy attempted a deep ball to Finley in the third quarter. The toss was low and outside, but it did graze Finley's fingertips. (After the play, McCoy found Finley on the sideline and said, "I thought you had that one." Finley responded, "I thought I did, too. I was surprised myself"). On another occasion, a safety sat on the route and McCoy opted for a bubble-screen to Limas Sweed (which a cornerback batted away in front of the Longhorn bench).

"Vince and (TE) David (Thomas) had unbelievable chemistry," Davis added. "Many times when Vince went to David last year, he was a third choice. Based on pre-snap reads, Vince liked the match-ups and so he went real quick through 'one' and 'two' and got the ball to 'three' because he liked what he saw."

McCoy's redshirt season gave him a leg-up on true freshman Jevan Snead, but coaches are not ready to close the book on the quarterback derby.

"We want Jevan to get more and more reps, but we want them to be quality reps. We haven't set any particular kind of game plan up to how that is going to be. I hope Jevan gets to play in several more games before we start conference."

For now, it remains McCoy' team. And he says he is determined to help locate the offense's identity, even though the biggest game of the regular season is now in the rear view mirror.

"We're going to work this week and prepare ourselves," McCoy said. "We're going to find our identity and be ready to go."


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