Horns Looking for Good Run

Texas is determined to run the ball better in 2007. But will there be any appreciable changes in scheme? And is QB Colt McCoy expected to make more plays with his feet?

Preseason publications have been all over the page speculating what Texas will do to jump-start a ground game that was far-from-explosive in 2006. The offense managed a serviceable 162.2 rushing ypg (No. 34 nationally), but it was virtually non-existent by year's end. The Horns ran for all of 70 yards against both Texas A&M and Iowa, respectively, to close the season. Texas had only four runs longer than 27 yards through 13 games. The program's' NCAA-leading streak of producing a 1,000-yard rusher was snapped after 12 seasons. Coach Mack Brown's litmus test for rushing success is 200+ ypg, and his offense hit that mark just three times last year. RB Jamaal Charles' average ypc dipped from 7.4 to 5.3.

As a result, some pigskin pundits surmise that Texas will abandon the Zone Read that Vince Young ran to perfection and will now rely on more of a north-south, state school, power running game. Others project that Texas' personnel -- its seven top receivers return to complement an extraordinarily accurate passer -- lends itself toward a three- and four-wide passing attack that sets up the run.

Texas will base a little bit more -- though not significantly more -- out of the I formation this season. At least that was the rhetoric from coaches at the conclusion of spring football. But now that the preseason begins in a matter of days, Colt McCoy reports: "I think we're going to do the same thing we did last year. We're just going to be better at it. We weren't consistent enough last year. We ran the ball well in certain situations, but we weren't as consistent as we wanted to be. Being able to be consistent opens up the passing game and it all comes together. I feel like we're going to be fine with what we do."

The opening series of the Orange-White Scrimmage may have been a harbinger of things to come. McCoy opened in the 'gun with a three-wide set, moving efficiently through the air between the 20s, utilizing arguably the deepest WR corps in program history to spread the field and open up the ground game. But then the running game stalled inside the Red Zone and Texas settled for a FG attempt. The Horns then went with the I-formation on the next series which included three rocket pitches to Charles. A 'tweaked ankle' prevented Charles from carrying the load between the tackles that day, coaches said.

But can Texas realistically expect a prolific attack in either facet of the offense given the fact that it replaces three starting lineman and had two backup OTs transfer during the off-season?

"It's hard when you lose three starting linemen, especially the interior linemen," McCoy continued. "I've got both tackles back, but we've replaced the center with Dallas Griffin. He's had a really good summer. He's going to be fine. He played a lot last year. We have four or five guys who can replace the guards. They're vying for that spot. We're going to have somebody in there that's really good. At the same time, you don't know how everybody is going to respond under pressure. You don't know how everybody is going to respond when you're down 10-7 at halftime against Oklahoma."

Does Texas have the blue-collared FB, or the tackle-breaking RB, to move the ball between the tackles? Coaches and players were high on FB candidates RS-freshman Antwan Cobb and junior Chris Ogbonnaya at the end of spring ball. The Burnt Orange faithful is also hopeful that a focused Charles will live up to his billing as 'The Man' in the Longhorn backfield, although his durability and mental toughness will remain a question mark until Texas faces defenses the caliber of Oklahoma and TCU.

This much is certain: offensive coordinator Greg Davis wants McCoy to make more plays with his feet.

"We've talked about that," said McCoy, who has a 33-yard scamper against Texas Tech on his resume. "I sat down with coach Davis and we talked about it. He feels that one things I can do better is being able to make a couple of more first downs with my feet. That throws the defense off and it moves the chains. Being able to do that, not all the time but in certain times, will help the offense."

There may be as many as six or seven designed runs for McCoy each ball game, Davis said at the end of spring football. Has the mindset changed now that August Camp begins in a matter of days?

"I'm not sure about designed runs," McCoy told Inside Texas. "Coach Davis just feels that I have the ability to make plays with my feet that I didn't do last year. I understand that. Whatever is going to help this team to be the best it can be is what I want to do. You have to build your confidence in your feet. Sometimes there is a chance to scramble around and make the play, and you need to do that. Sometimes when we've run sprintouts, sometimes there was no nobody there and I tried to throw the ball when I could have run for 12 yards. Those are the type of situations that (Davis) is talking about."

Players officially report Sunday. The first practice of 2007 set for Monday, August 6. The first two practices of the season will be open to the public. Both are set for 6:45 p.m. at Denius Fields.

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