Texas' Offense Emerging as 'Multiple' Choice

Texas' offense is best served by A) the I-formation with the QB under center, B) a shotgun quarterback and three WRs, C) a two-TE, one-back set. The answer is...

D) All of the above, according to Texas coach Mack Brown.

"We're going to be more of a multiple offense this year," Brown said. "We're going to go back and forth between the I-formation and the shotgun with one running back. We're an offense that needs to do that. We need to have a combination of the looks that we've had during our time here and not just be lining up in the same thing like we did in 2005."

Discovering his team's offensive identity and 'feature play' has been a primary issue for Longhorn coaches during nearly every preseason and non-conference slate of Brown's tenure. The unit may still be a work-in-progress, prompting Brown's post-TCU comment: "Thank goodness we're 2-0 as we figure this out." (as distinct from, say, the 2003 Longhorns. That year, the Horns dropped to 4-2 before settling on an offensive identity with a midseason makeover, featuring shotgun QB Vince Young in a Zone Read running scheme).

"We're a team that can play under the center, in the 'gun, with three wides, two tight ends, two backs," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "The Zone Read is not going to be a huge part of what (QB) Colt McCoy does. In anticipation of that, we started doing some different things in August camp. We'll continue to find the personality of this team. You'll continue to see more of that (multiple looks): it may be two back and one tight end, or two tight ends and one back, or the shotgun. All of those will be a part of our offense, but you may not see all in the same game."

But it's all been part of Davis' playbook since arriving with Brown's staff in 1998.

"We haven't added anything special," McCoy said. "We're doing the same stuff; we're just changing it up every week. None of the offensive sets are new. It's been there. We work on it every week. The thing that's different is that we're going in-and-out of it. We're going in-and-out of no-huddle. We're going in-and-out of five wides and then coming back and getting into '21' personnel. I think that's a good thing. I think it helps our offensive line."

It also helps that McCoy's maturation remains ahead of the learning curve. He never took a snap from under center until he arrived in Austin. The sophomore's growth is also evidenced by his ability to manage a no-huddle offense, as well as making pre-snap reads and audibles.

"We can put more him at the line of scrimmage," Brown said. "You can be more 'multiple' when your quarterback can check a lot. We didn't want to do that with him early last year because he was so new. Now, we can get him to check to the best run. You're running game is better if you win the numbers game."

McCoy operated from under center approximately 35 percent of time time Saturday, Davis estimated. He was 25-of-38 passing for 239 yards, one TD and two INTs. Texas' second-half flurry produced 176 rushing yards on 36 attempts (4.8 ypc). RB Jamaal Charles was responsible for 134 of those yards, his second 100-yard performance in as many games this season. His last before then? The Rice game in September, 2006.

Texas' most productive runs Saturday were out of the two TE-set, Davis noted, regardless of whether the QB was under center in the the 'gun. Texas was in the shotgun during Charles 39-yard TD run. ("It was right up the gut," Davis said). Earlier, the Horns were under center when Charles bounced around left end for a 32-yard run to the TCU 12. Charles carried 22 times Saturday, which is in the ballpark of what coaches want his typical outing to be.

"Colt can throw the ball and, hopefully, I can run the ball," Charles said. "Coach Davis thinks we can catch some teams off-guard. They don't know if we're going to come out in a '21' or in the shotgun. We've got all different kinds of formations we can come up with. We really want to move the ball around. It opens things up for me, and Colt, and for the wide receivers."

For some, Texas' offensive scheme affords the best of all worlds: it pairs an accurate quarterback with, arguably, the deepest group of receivers in program history. At the same time, it can field a speedy RB who may be finally coming into his own. For others, Texas' multiple offense is another term for 'identity crisis'. For Mack Brown, the offense just needs to be efficient and productive, even if it is a departure from that Texas has done in the past.

"Whether you throw to run-it, or run to throw-it is unimportant to us," Brown said. "We've usually tried to run-it to throw-it. But it may be more important for us to spread people out and get some creases."

The Longhorns embark on their first road trip this Saturday at Central Florida. The contest is slated for a 2:30 p.m. (CDT) telecast on ESPN2.

Horns Digest Top Stories