What the Running Game Needs Is....

Texas' ground game does not need a different scheme, offensive coordinator Greg Davis insists. Nor does it require a predetermined number of running plays to be productive, he added. But RB Jamaal Charles said Tuesday that the offense's "sideways" rushing attack has made him a more "hesitant" ball carrier.

Texas' spread offense, in which a stationary RB is handed the ball nearly five yards behind the line of scrimmage, had come under intense scrutiny -- from both fans and media -- long before the Longhorns managed 117 yards Saturday against lightly-regarded Arkansas State. Now, Jamaal Charles says his hesitancy in this scheme stems from having to wait for a hole to develop along the line of scrimmage.

Basing out of one-back, shotgun formation is "different because you're running sideways to sideways," Charles said, "but in the 'I' you're running straight up the field. You can pick your holes. When you're running out of the shotgun, you've got to look across to see if you have a hole. Then you have to turn sideways. Then you have to turn back straight again."

Months ago, Davis conceded that his RBs and linemen would prefer to base out the 'I'. But he also knows that the strength of the 2007 offense is extraordinarily accurate QB and the deepest group of WRs in recent memory. Davis said during the preseason that basing out of 'I' does not put his best 11 players on the field (specifically, Davis is hesitant to replace a playmaker like WR Quan Cosby with a RS-freshman FB). This week, Davis said the running game just needs greater efficiency from the running backs and more cohesion among the linemen. Part of the dynamic, of course, is Texas started three new offensive linemen against Arkansas State.

"We didn't play well as five (linemen)," Davis said. "They all played pretty good. (Center) Dallas Griffin played really well. That was encouraging for his first start. But, as a unit, we have to do a better job. If you look at the offensive linemen, most of the time in a one-on-one contest, they can handle their guy in terms of the physicalness of it. But, as a group, we didn't do it."

Davis has been peppered, recently, with questions about whether Texas has returned to the type of finesse, pass-first offense that it fielded during the 2002 season and then scrapped midway through the 2003 campaign. As such, some are asking if Texas will again be labeled 'soft' if there is little evidence that it is a power-running team.

"What I consider a power-running team may not be what you consider a power-running team," Davis said. "If a power-running team is two tight ends or two backs then, no, I don't think you'll see a bunch of that from us this year. In terms of being more physical, we definitely have to be more physical than we were (Saturday). In terms of being more efficient, we definitely have to be more efficient than we were. But the zone (run) is a very physical play. I think most coaches who run it would agree with me."

While there is little disagreement concerning QB Colt McCoy's arm and leadership skills, questions continue to surface about whether he is mobile enough emerge as a viable running threat in Davis' offense.

"Colt's inability creates a challenge for us to create other ways for Jamaal to get his yards," Davis said. "Are we going to feature the Zone Read this year? The answer to that is 'no'."

Texas ran the Zone Read three times Saturday night; the result was an eight-yard gain, a four-yard run and a QB keep for no gain.

For Davis, the ground game doesn't need a makeover as much as it requires consistency. Charles enjoyed one of his better outings as a Longhorn, Davis said. Charles' 112 yards was his first 100-yard outing since the Rice game last September. Yet, Texas averaged just 3.1 yards-per-rush. The offense cracked the Red Zone just three times Saturday and was shut-out in both the second- and fourth-quarters.

"I didn't like the negative-yardage plays," Davis said. "I didn't like the inconsistencies. (For example), we had an open-side zone and got beat with a five-technique slanting inside. We got to the boundary and corrected it. We went back and got beat by the five-technique slanting to the right side. Later, we hit it and had a six-yard play. It was just inconsistent."

The bottom line for Davis has neither to do with scheme nor more of an emphases on the ground game, but rather the ability to "run when we want to run. That's what we didn't do Saturday night."

Nowhere was that more evident than when Texas failed to score following four rushing attempts from the three yard-line.

"The goal line stand was, honestly, frustrating. I don't want to point out individuals because I could have made a better call. But we've got to be able to score in that situation."

Otherwise, it's deja vu all over again. Arkansas State's goal line stand was reminiscent of Texas' ineffectiveness in short-yardage situations late last season against Texas A&M and Kansas State.

"It's not as productive as it's going to be in terms of the end of this year," Davis promised.

Evidence of Davis' commitment to the run may be Charles' career-best 27 carries against the Indians.

"I was real tired Sunday," he said. "I was banged-up and bruised-up. I just went back into the training room and put some ice on it. But this is what I've been preparing for all year in the weight room. I've wanted this for a long time, Now, it's come."

Now, if only Texas' running game would come around as well.

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