2013 Texas Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview & Analysis - Texas Longhorns Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
With Bryan Harsin taking off to become the head man at Arkansas State, now Major Applewhite gets all the offensive coordinator duties to himself, and now comes the adjustment. Forget about plodding, deliberate Texas and get ready for fast, fast, fast with everyone being coached up to speed up the style of play and keep defenses moving. With ten starters returning and a ridiculous level of quality depth, there's no excuse to not put up massive numbers. Quarterback David Ash has to take his game to another level, and he'll get time to work behind a good, athletic line that welcomes back all five starters. The running back rotation should be lethal with Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron all getting their chances, while the 1-2 receiving combination of Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be deadly.
Star of the offense: Junior QB David Ash
Passing: David Ash
214-318, 2,699 yds, 19 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Johnathan Gray
149 carries, 701 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Jaxon Shipley
59 catches, 737 yds, 6 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Ash
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE M.J. McFarland
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Mason Walters
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Walters, 2) OG Trey Hopkins, 3) WR Mike Davis
Strength of the offense: Experience, Depth
Weakness of the offense: Power, Consistency
Junior David Ash is absolutely, positively the Texas starting quarterback – at least that's the hope. Major Applewhite likes how Ash runs the new attack, and now it's time for it to all come together and be the consistent playmaker to make the offense shine. Brilliant at times, when he's on, he looks like a special all-around producer throwing for 304 yards and three scores in the win over Oklahoma State after bombing away for 326 yards and four touchdowns the game before against Ole Miss. But when it's not happening and he can't seem to find a groove – like he couldn't against TCU and in the rough outing against Kansas – it doesn't seem like he can complete a forward pass. At 6-3 and 223 pounds he has the size, he has the mobility, he has the experience and he has the accuracy, completing 67% of his throws for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight picks to go along with 141 rushing yards and two scores. Hardly the problem last year, now he has to be the reason the team starts winning and he has to give the Longhorns an advantage every time he steps on the field.
Junior Case McCoy showed some magic at times when given the chance with a miraculous finish with an epic 25-yard run two years ago to beat Texas A&M and he threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns in a week later in the loss to Baylor. He also stepped in to throw for 314 yards and two scores against Kansas State and as enough overall experience to step in and produce if needed, but he doesn't have Ash's skills and he has a big problem with picks giving away seven to go along with his 13 touchdown passes. At 6-2 and 200 pounds the senior has decent size, has good accuracy and owns a decent enough arm to get by, but again, he's not Ash and he's certainly not his brother, Colt. He's a far better relief pitcher than a starter, but he's a terrific option to have in the bullpen.
As good as Ash and McCoy are, there are other
options waiting in the wings in case the offense
sputters. Looking to make some noise is redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet, a 6-2, 212-poudner with tremendous athleticism and a world of upside with the best rushing skills of all the options. With Connor Brewer transferring to Arizona, it's possible Overstreet could see time as a change-of-pace X factor.
Watch Out For … Tyrone Swoopes, the 6-4, 245-pound super-recruit who's the latest, greatest Texas quarterback. Scout's sixth-ranked QB, he's huge, experienced and has a massive arm. With his size, athleticism and tools, he has a special skill-set to go along with uncanny playmaking skills. He might not be the most accurate pure passer around, and he's just as prone to throw a wormburner as he is to hit his man between the numbers, but everything is there to grow into a star.
Strength: Efficiency. For all the complaints about the consistency, the big plays came in bunches with Ash and McCoy combining to complete 67% of their passes to help the Longhorns finish tenth in the nation in efficiency. And now they have yet another year of experience under their belts.
Weakness: Consistency and picks. The two picks against Oklahoma were only a small part of the problem, but interceptions turned out to be an issue at times with McCoy's three against TCU a killer and the two against Kansas State an issue. 6-1 when not throwing an interception, the QBs have to keep the mistakes to a minimum and they can't be miserable against Kansas one week and brilliant against Texas Tech the next.
Outlook: And now there's a pecking order. Ash is firmly entrenched as the No. 1 guy, McCoy is the veteran No. 2, and there's a nice base of young talents waiting for their chances. Swoopes is going to be the man sooner than later, but in an emergency, Overstreet would probably get the nod. No matter what, the numbers should be even better and Ash should shine in the new attack.
Unit Rating: 8
Good luck trying to figure out the Texas running back pecking order, but there's no real wrong answer. Sophomore Johnathan Gray stepped in as a true freshman and showed he was worth all the hype. The 2011 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year was unstoppable at the highest of Texas high school levels setting the record for the most rushing touchdowns with 205 for his career and 70 - 70 - in a season. The 5-11, 207-pounder didn't bust out too many big plays, but he led the team with 701 yards with three scores running for 111 yards against Kansas and 106 against Texas Tech before scoring twice against Iowa State. The skills and quickness are there to be more of a receiver after catching 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown, but first he'll likely be the No. 1 option in the rotation.
6-1, 240-pound junior Joe Bergeron could be used a bit as a fullback as well as a powerful feature runner, but no matter how he's used, he produces cranking out 16 rushing touchdowns with five against Baylor and four against West Virginia, finishing the year with 567 yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but he saw his carries diminish over the second half of the season with just 11 carries over the final three games. He's a proven runner, but outside of the red zone he's not a special feature back.
Can Malcolm Brown stay healthy? The 6-0, 223-pound superstar recruit was supposed to step in and become the next be-all-end-all Ricky Williams or Cedric Benson type, and he was fine with 707 yards as a true freshman despite missing time with a foot injury, and last year he was limited to just eight games and not being 100% in others thanks to an ankle injury, running for 324 yards and four scores while catching 15 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. With the size, wiggle and NFL potential, the talent and tools are there, but it has to all come together for a full season.
If it's not Bergeron working in a fullback role, it'll be either 6-1, 230-pound sophomore Alex De La Torre or 6-2, 255-pound junior Chet Moss being used solely as blockers. De La Torre will make his biggest impact as a special teamer, while Moss is a former linebacker who'll be a sledgehammer when needed.
Watch Out For … Gray to become an even bigger factor. Bergeron could be a closer around the goal line, and Brown could show flashes for stretches, but Gray was fantastic when he got his chances and could be a perfect fit for the new style.
Strength: The rotation. Gray, Brown and Bergeron could be three of the best backs in the Big 12 and would each be the starter almost anywhere else outside of the top 25. They're all fantastic and they can all handle the offense when needed.
Weakness: THE guy. It's not like a quarterback situation where you don't have a starting quarterback if you have two, but it would be nice if one of the great backs took the job by the horns and became too special to not feed the rock to. Gray and Bergeron are too good not to average five yards per crack, and Brown has to stay healthy.
Outlook: The talent is undeniable and the rotation is outstanding, but there needs to be more pop and there's no reason to average just 171 rushing yards per game with this group. Yeah, the line has to be stronger, and yeah, the passing game has to be feared more, but if these backs are really all that and a jar of potato salad, they need to be even better.
Unit Rating: 8.5
If this all works, the receiving corps should shine in the up-tempo attack. Senior Mike Davis led the team two years ago with 45 catches and followed it up with 57 grabs for 939 yards and seven scores averaging 16.5 yards per play. One of the nation's top receiver recruits when the Longhorns got him, he has 6-2, 193-pound size, deep threat speed at the X, and as of last year, consistency. He'll be backed up by Marcus Johnson, a 6-1, 189-pound sophomore who spend last year as a special teamer but will try to start stretching the field a little bit. He'll get tried out in a variety of receiver spots.
Junior Jaxon Shipley stayed healthy and he showed what he could do with a team-leading 59 catches for 737 yards and six scores. While he didn't hit the home run like Davis, he has the speed and quickness to make big things happen when he gets the ball on the move. Three of his touchdown grabs came in one game against Oklahoma State, and his only 100-yard game of the year came against Iowa State, but he's a great route runner with reliable hands and great athleticism. While he might not be as strong an all-around playmaker as his brother, Jordan, he earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in his first two seasons.
Also looking for time in the rotation is sophomore Daje Johnson, a do-it-all weapon who finished fourth on the team with 19 catches for 287 yards and a score to go along with 203 rushing yards and a touchdown highlighted by an 84-yard play against Baylor. Also part of the rotation is junior Bryant Jackson, a 6-2, 199-pound former defensive back and top safety prospect who grew as a receiver making eight catches for 140 yards in his limited time while doing big things as a special teamer.
Is this the year John Harris finally makes a huge impact? A strong 6-3, 216-pound junior, he came back from a foot injury but didn't do much of anything last season making just two catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. Mostly a special teamer in his seven games, he has the tools to be a matchup nightmare for the receiving corps with excellent speed to go along with his size, but the former star quarterback prospect has to stay 100% and needs to be a bigger part of the rotation. He'll have to push out sophomore Kendall Sanders, a dangerous 6-0, 183-pound prospect who saw a little time last year making two catches for 15 yards. Suspended for the first game of the season after being arrested and charged with a DWI this offseason, he'll be back as a key inside target.
6-5, 258-pound junior Greg Daniels is back at tight end after starting eight times and serving as a tough, versatile blocker. The former defensive lineman still needs polish, but he made five catches for 90 yards including a 47-yarder against Iowa State. Very smart and very versatile, he's just scratching the surface. Also seeing a little starting time last year was 6-6, 245-pound sophomore M.J. McFarland, a nice blocker at times, he's more like a big wide receiver with a big catching range and good deep speed catching eight passes for 125 yards and a score.
Watch Out For … Jake Oliver and Jacorey Warrick, two fantastic prospects with different skill sets but explosive upside. The 6-4, 205-pound Oliver earned Parade All-America honors after setting the Texas high school record for the most receptions with 308 for 4,567 yards and 56 touchdowns. The 5-10, 182-pound Warrick is physical for his size but he can also move. He has No. 1 receiver potential with smooth cutting ability and great hands.
Strength: Veteran options. Blazer Marquise Goodwin might be gone, but with Shipley, Davis and Johnson back, the Longhorns are loaded with experienced playmakers who know what they're doing. The talent is fantastic.
Weakness: Tight end production. McFarland and Daniels look the part and they can both block, but they combined for just 13 catches. The talent is there to do far, far more for the passing game, and if they struggle at all, JUCO transfer Geoff Swaim could start to see time right away with 6-4, 250-pound size and wide receiver hands.
Outlook: While this might not be a loaded receiving corps by Texas standards, the experience, skill and depth should be enough to get the job done. Shipley and Davis should be a strong combination, but the upside comes from Jackson, Johnson and Sanders. If the tight ends are more involved like they're expected to be, watch out.
Unit Rating: 8
The offensive line might not have been quite physical enough, but it was solid in pass protection and wasn't bad overall. All five starters return led by left guard Trey Hopkins, a 6-4, 300-pound budding star who earned second-team All-Big 12 honors with a strong season as one of the team's best run blockers. He isn't a massive guard, but he's athletic and versatile enough to step outside to tackle if needed. Now he has found a home, while 6-5, 310-pound senior Donald Hawkins is back at left tackle after doing a good job as a JUCO All-America transfer from Northwest Community College. While he wasn't the team's top recruit last year, he turned into one of the most vital doing a strong job in his first year as a pass protector with the right size and good enough feet to handle the speedier pass rushers.
Junior Dominic Espinosa has been an anchor on the inside over his first two seasons with 26 straight starts at center. The 6-4, 300-pounder is built more like a right tackle or a smallish guard. Versatile, quick and smart, he's the leader up front but he needs to be more of a blaster. While he's a technician, he isn't going to necessarily bury his man. Working behind him and adding more size is 6-6, 315-pound senior Garrett Porter, an all-star in the class room with plenty of experience at both guard and center. However, he's mostly a special teamer.
6-6, 320-pound senior Mason Walters should be the star at right guard. Very big, very tough and very consistent, he found a spot and isn't letting it go even though he started out his career being looked at as a tackle and with the versatility to play center if needed. An honorable mention All-Big 12 performer over the last two years, he's as important as a college right guard can be.
The right tackle job is solid with 6-6, 299-pound junior Josh Cochran a good, sound right tackle with a nice frame and excellent shuffling ability as a pass protector. While he's tall and rangy, he's extremely strong to go along with a long body that's tough to get around. Also huge is fellow tackle Kenny Estelle, a 6-7, 300-pound sophomore who saw a little time as a true freshman but made enough noise this offseason to potentially see starting time. He has left tackle size but he's better suited for the right side.
Watch Out For … Kent Perkins and Darius James, two of the nation's top offensive line recruits. The 6-5, 300-pound Perkins is Scout's No. 2 tackle prospect earning Parade All-America honors with prototype quickness and athleticism. While he'll end up as a right tackle at some point, he could move to the left side but he needs to become a killer. There's an NFL future if he develops a nasty streak. Aggressiveness isn't a problem for the 6-5, 319-pound James, the best center prospect in the 2013 class. While he missed almost all of last year hurt, he's expected to be ready to go almost right away with his size and toughness. He's the dominant run blocker the line needs at either center or guard.
Strength: Experience. This was a veteran line going into last year, and now all five starters are back. With the starting lineup all but set, this should be an elite pass blocking group that shouldn't have any problems whatsoever handling the new attack. However …
Weakness: The new attack – maybe. Are the linemen ready to handle the up-tempo style and do they have the wind to keep up? It might take an adjustment period, and there might be times when the gassed group needs a break. The less the starting five is on the field at the same time, the less cohesion.
Outlook: The line hasn't been the problem over the last few years. The pass protection has been solid and the consistency has been there, but it would be nice if this group could line up and start killing people instead of providing a nice shove. As long as everyone stays healthy, the potential is there to be fantastic with a loaded group of young blockers ready to work in the rotation with the veterans.
Unit Rating: 8.5
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