If you want a good Texas perspective on the offense through the first two games, check out Wescott Eberts' post on Burnt Orange Nation. In short, offensive line problems, offensive scheme problems, quarterback issues, and lack of playmakers on offense are all plaguing the offense. It would be unfair to expect Texas not to struggle offensively given what they have gone through this season. The team is implementing a new system, suspended a number of lineman and receivers, and quarterback David Ash has been lost to injury. That adds up to early season struggles.
There is reason for optimism in Austin. Namely, the Longhorns boast a very talented backfield in So. Tyrone Swoopes at quarterback, and tailbacks in Jr. Jonathan Gray and Sr. Malcolm Brown. Shawn Watson's challenge as offensive coordinator is to try to develop a game plan that can highlight the strength of Swoopes, Gray, and Brown while masking Swoopes' inexperience, the patchwork offensive line, and lack of playmakers on the outside. Simple, right?
Swoopes is a big (6'4 243 lbs.) quarterback that reminded a lot of scouts of Vince Young coming out of high school. He has great size and straight line speed, but he doesn't have the explosive athletic ability that Young had during his Texas days. The more work he gets, the more he should improve in the offense, but he's a pretty raw quarterback at this stage that was given the starting role after David Ash's injury. Against BYU, he completed 20/31 passes for 176 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while running for 25 yards. Expect a fairly simple passing game that focuses on the short to intermediate passing game, as well as some roll-outs to cut the field in half.
Gray and Brown form a pretty imposing pair of running backs on paper. Both are both former 5* recruits with good size (5'11 215 lbs. and 5'11 222 lbs., respectively), good speed, and good skills. Neither, however, have really lived up to the high expectations that come with being such highly regarded recruits. Gray suffered an Achilles injury last year, but he leads the team in rushing this year as a junior with 129 yards on 30 carries. For his career, Gray has 1,610 yards and is averaging 4.75 ypc. Brown is a senior this year, and has 27 carries for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Brown has 2,063 yards and 20 touchdowns for his career.
On the outside, Texas apparently may have lost another receiver in Jaxon Shipley to injury from their already depleted receiving corps. Shipley, a 6'0 190 lbs. senior, is listed as questionable after sustaining a concussion against BYU. Shipley is second on the team in receptions and yards to Sr. John Harris (6'2 218 lbs.). If Shipley can't go, Jr. Jacory Warwick (5'11 172 lbs.), Jr. Marcus Johnson (6'1 193 lbs.), and Fr. Lorenzo Joe (6'2 201 lbs.) all get elevated on the depth chart. The stats for the Texas receivers are pedestrian at this point. Harris leads the team with 15 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and other than Shipley who has 79 yards, no other receiver has more than 30 yards receiving.
At TE, big Sr. Geoff Swaim (6'4 250 lbs.) provides a steady but unspectacular target. Swaim follows in Aaron Rodgers footsteps, having gone to Pleasant Valley High and Butte JC in Chico, CA. He's better as an in line blocker, where Texas needs all the help it can get at this point.
A couple of suspensions has left Texas' offensive line undermanned early this season, and the results are glaring. Texas ran the ball for 82 yards on 35 carries against BYU. Tackles So. Kent Perkins (6'5 330 lbs.) and Jr. Marcus Hutchins (6'5 278 lbs.) have plenty of size, but Perkins is a converted guard and gives up some quickness in pass protection. The problems are mostly inside, where guards Jr. Sedrick Flowers (6'3 320 lbs.), Jr. Taylor Doyle (6'4 298 lbs.), and C Fr. Jake Raulerson (6'5 281 lbs.) have not been able to establish any running lanes inside. Charlie Strong has indicated that he's not making any changes to the depth chart after BYU's defensive line dominated this group up front, but he really only has untested freshmen behind this group at this point in time.
That concludes Part 2 of the Texas Longhorn preview. Feel free to add thoughts and comments, and be sure to check in tomorrow for our preview of Texas' defense.