Texas Longhorns: Major Applewhite

Longhorns bounce back to set up big game

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
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AUSTIN, Texas -- There's no better cure for a 25-point loss than responding with a 25-point victory.

That's not some old Darrell Royal saying or an axiom that coaches have been known to share. It's just a fact. And just when we thought we had Texas and its troubles figured out, this team fought to live another week.

The Longhorns who won six conference games in a row showed up again, keeping their Big 12 championship hopes alive with a 41-16 victory over Texas Tech on Thanksgiving night.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bergeron, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayJoe Bergeron, wearing No. 32 in honor of injured Johnathan Gray, had 102 yards and a touchdown.
"Proud of our team. Proud of the way they fought," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "A lot of guys are banged up. End of the year. At least they've given themselves an opportunity to go to Waco and play for a championship."

There was plenty of talk in the past two weeks that Oklahoma State finally exposed Texas and its various flaws, that the six Big 12 wins that came before it were somehow less meaningful or some kind of mirage.

If the meltdown against the Cowboys revealed Texas' thin margin for error, Thursday's victory reminded how good Texas can be when it achieves everything it sets out to do.

Brown wanted a slowed-paced game, not a shootout. Texas had to control the tempo. Check.

He wanted to pound Texas Tech's recently awful run defense. Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown both surpassed 100 yards. Check.

He hoped Texas' defense could force erratic play by the Red Raiders' young quarterbacks. The Longhorns netted nine sacks, including three each from Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed. Check.

"It's not a pretty brand of ball. It's not very stylish," Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. "But it's what we had to do."

Thursday's performance was about as close to a defensive masterpiece as Texas could have hoped for. The Red Raiders' No. 1 ranked pass offense finished with 5.8 yards per attempt. They went 5-for-18 on third downs. Tech's leading rusher on the night? Punter Ryan Erxleben, who dashed 51 yards for the first score of the night. Texas' special teams gave up that score. Its defense allowed one touchdown the rest of the night.

"It was a good game. I don't know if it was better or not. I guess you guys make those decisions," defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. "We played real well here against a good offense."

But since so many will discount the result, pointing out that Texas Tech lost five in a row after starting 7-0, let's cut to the chase: If this is Texas, if these are the real Longhorns going forward, can they do enough to beat No. 9 Baylor?

Ask Brown whether his team played up to its formula for victory against Tech and he'll rattle off the things his team didn't do. Texas turned the ball over twice. Other than placekicker Anthony Fera, a Groza Award finalist who's now 19-for-20 this season, the Longhorns are still a mess in several areas of special teams.

His players were no different. They see a need for improvement. They won't celebrate this win much this weekend. They know what they're up against next.

Preparing for Baylor will require that kind of perfectionist attention to detail. Like Texas, the Bears showed their vulnerabilities against Oklahoma State. They're not at all unbeatable. But they have the respect of their next opponent.

"We fully assume Baylor will win [against TCU] and be right there," quarterback Case McCoy said. "It'll be a game that, as a senior class, we want to go out with a chance to put numbers on these walls and have a Big 12 championship."

The Longhorns made their senior night count. They made the next game matter. They're not done yet.

"We're still in the race," Jeffcoat said. "We had to win this one. This was a must-win. And we have to win the next one."

Diggs embraces chase of brother's legacy

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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AUSTIN, Texas -- His jersey and an oil painting of him hang in the hallways of the Texas football facility. His picture is on the wall of the “DBU” room alongside the legends. His highlights are forever cut into secondary coach Duane Akina’s greatest hits.

And his little brother wants it all.

Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs wants to live moments such as the one he witnessed Friday night, when big brother Quentin Jammer was inducted into the Longhorn Hall of Honor.

Diggs watched with his family, wearing a suit complete with an orange shirt and pocket square and a pink bow tie, and you can guess what was on his mind. No doubt he could envision himself at that hotel ballroom podium, the bronze statuette in his hands.

[+] EnlargeQuandre Diggs and Quentin Jammer
University of TexasQuandre Diggs wants to be just like his brother, NFL cornerback Quentin Jammer. They were born 13 years apart.
All in due time. On this night, Diggs snuck away from the Longhorns' team hotel for a chance to celebrate the reason he plays this game. His brother always had it all. Now it’s his turn to go earn it.

Jammer and Diggs share an uncommon bond for brothers born 13 years apart. They both admit they’d probably clash more if they were any closer in age. And now, as the end of one brother’s career nears, another is just beginning.

The story of their brotherhood isn’t about Diggs living in a shadow. He loves the shadow.

“There’s no other role model that I’d rather have in life, honestly,” Diggs said.

They’ve been scrappy, merciless competitors ever since they were young boys living in Angleton, Texas. Diggs says he loves his brother to death and wouldn’t trade him for anyone in the world, but that doesn’t mean he drops his tough-guy personality around him.

Jammer was a unanimous All-American and Thorpe Award finalist as a Longhorns cornerback from 1997 to 2001. He’s a 12-year NFL veteran. Diggs has always promised he’s going to be even better.

“Good luck,” Jammer says with a grin.

Diggs has been boasting like that since he was a boy, always trying to keep up with the guy he looks up to most. Their oldest memory together, the story they like to tell, is one of Diggs’ fascination with doing anything Jammer can.

When he was 5, he once watched as Jammer played with a pocket knife in his bedroom. When he set it down and walked off to take a shower, Diggs pounced.

Out of sheer curiosity, the young boy tried to slice a hole in Jammer’s waterbed. That worked a little too well. He covered up the resulting mess with a pillow and bolted out of the room.

“When I came back after my shower, I jumped in the bed and got splashed,” Jammer said.

“I was already in the living room by that time,” Diggs said, “because I knew what was going to happen.”

What followed was the first and only time Jammer had to give his little brother a spanking. Jammer has been teaching Diggs lessons ever since.

He’s the one who taught little Quandre to catch a football by firing full-speed passes in the front yard. The boy was always tagging along, always wanting to play catch, even after Jammer became a Longhorn.

“You don’t really think about it,” Jammer said. “Because he’s so young, you try to ease out of the door and he’s like, ‘Nope, coming with you.’ ”

Diggs got to hang around the likes of Ricky Williams, Kwame Cavil and Wane McGarity. He liked to duel Major Applewhite in video games and ran routes for the quarterback in the parking lot outside the apartment.

“It’s crazy to think about it now,” Diggs said, “that the way [Applewhite] talks trash to me now is the way he would talk trash to me when I was younger: ‘Get out the way, little man,’ and things like that.”

Diggs' big brother was a celebrity. He heard about it everywhere he went. Teachers would swoon at the stories he’d tell of hanging with the beloved Applewhite. Even after Jammer went to the NFL with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2002 draft and his fame kept rising, a growing Diggs was never afraid to call after Chargers games and offer his honest take.

“His first five or six years in the league, I was his hardest critic,” Diggs said. “If he did something wrong, I was on him telling him what he did wrong, like I really knew what was going on.”

“See, that’s the difference in his personality,” Jammer said. “He would just tell you right after the game.”

The truth is, Diggs had nothing but affection for his idol. He’ll never forget the time he got to stand on the field and high-five Jammer and his Texas teammates as they ran out of the tunnel amid billowing white smoke.

“It was something that I always wanted to be a part of,” Diggs said.

He’s living that dream now, and he knows how good he’s got it. Diggs is coached by the same expert defensive backs coach who molded Jammer. His old nemesis Applewhite is the co-offensive coordinator who helped recruit him to Texas.

And the quest to surpass his brother's accomplishments is ongoing. Diggs has started 31 games at Texas and has developed into a dangerous weapon for Akina playing the nickel, recording 2.5 sacks off the edge this fall. Opposing quarterbacks know not to throw his way. And, no surprise here: He’s as confident as ever.

“I feel like when I’m on the field and when I step on the field, I’m the best player on the field, regardless of who we’re playing,” Diggs said.

He’s just as quick to declare Jammer one of the best to ever wear burnt orange. They’re different players. Jammer prided himself on hard hits and lockdown coverage. Diggs calls himself the better playmaker. Better hands, too.

“I feel like the one thing we do have in common is we’re both physical as heck and not going to take much crap from anybody on the field,” Diggs said. “That’s for sure.”

Said Jammer: “I didn’t just want to beat you; I wanted to beat the hell out of you.”

The standard his brother set more than a decade ago, the one Jammer continues to uphold at age 34 with the Denver Broncos, ensures Diggs is never satisfied. In order to be better, he has to be the best.

“When I walk past those pictures of him being on the wall, it makes me want to grind that much more,” he said.

Jammer encourages the goal. Keep chopping wood, he says, and continue down the path. Perhaps, someday, that path will lead the brothers back to a hotel ballroom to revel in Diggs’ career.

“It’s just another thing that helps me chase his legacy,” Diggs said.

Brown taking job one week at a time

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
1:00
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AUSTIN, Texas – Just when everybody counted Mack Brown out, when the vultures were circling and message boards were ablaze, he did it. His Longhorns beat Oklahoma. Actually, they dominated Oklahoma.

For the first time in a long time in this rivalry, Texas wasn’t just the more physical and confident team in the Cotton Bowl. This team was better coached than the Sooners, too, and that was impossible to miss on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
AP Photo/LM OteroMack Brown is showing he still has a lot of fight in him.
It was a fitting and much-needed outcome for Texas coach Mack Brown, who for weeks has repeatedly said he’s living one week at a time, focusing only on the Longhorns’ next foe and trying to ignore all the clouds and thunder overhead.

One Texas player admitted after the game that the team had to “save his career” on Saturday. Brown didn’t talk defiantly about what this win meant, though he had the right to after so few gave his team a chance.

“I think it says more about the state of college football and that anybody can beat anybody on Saturday if you play better than the other team,” Brown said. “It is all about how you play, and if you go out there and stand around, you probably can’t beat anybody.”

For all that has happened in six games, Brown’s week-by-week belief seems to be helping. He’s not letting his team ride the roller coaster of highs and lows, even if a 36-20 victory over the Sooners is about as high as Texas has known in four years.

“We can’t do that. We have to get back to work, and that is what these guys did,” Brown said.

He said all the right things on Saturday, that what mattered was that Texas is 3-0 in the Big 12 and its seniors got a final win over OU. Privately, though, you have to imagine he savored this victory as much as any in his career.

There will be many who say the victory over OU doesn’t change the end game. Perhaps Texas was already past the point of no return, no matter the result of this game, and that a new head coach will be coming to Austin this offseason regardless.

There is a time for that discussion, and it is a lengthy one. But now isn't that time.

Brown put himself in a difficult spot this season with all of his offseason vows that Texas was about to go on another big run. He set the bar of expectations high. Then his team started 1-2 and he fired his defensive coordinator two games into the season. Time to panic, right?

“I know it’s hard to believe, but as a coaching staff we really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to what media says,” offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “We really try to keep our kids in line and make sure their minds are ready to go.”

The hiring of Greg Robinson as Texas’ defensive coordinator is showing promising results, none better than in the OU game. That bold move is, at least for the time being, paying off, and Robinson fully understood what beating the Sooners meant for Brown.

“It is all-important for Mack Brown because, let me tell you something, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Mack Brown,” Robinson said. “I just wanted to come help him, because he is that kind of guy. I think our players feel the same way and I know our coaches feel the same way.

“He’s a good person and he has had tough situations that he has been having to deal with here for a while. I’m just so happy for him; I really am. I think he deserves it.”

If his team, coming off a bye week, stumbles at TCU and takes that first conference loss, the rumor machine starts up again and the expensive chair in his office gets a little more uncomfortable. That’s the nature of college football and the roller-coaster ride.

But for one day and one game, the head coach reminded his doubters he’s not done fighting. Mess with Mack and you just might get the horns.

Texas finds what Oklahoma loses

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
12:35
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A critical exchange of possessions in the second quarter defined this year’s Red River Rivalry.

With the Sooners trailing 10-3, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel dialed up three consecutive Blake Bell passes. All three fell incomplete.

Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite countered with three consecutive runs between the tackles for a first down. The drive ultimately ended with Case McCoy’s 59-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Johnson in man coverage that gave the Longhorns control of the game.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesBlake Bell and Oklahoma didn't take advantage of opportunities against Texas..
Saturday, on the same field where Texas finally uncovered an offensive identity, the Sooners completely lost theirs.

Oklahoma’s recipe for success before Dallas was simple and effective. Run the ball, take care of the ball and make the necessary plays in the fourth quarter. The game plan worked wonders in the Sooners’ convincing victory at Notre Dame. It was enough to beat TCU, too.

But against the Longhorns, once Oklahoma’s shaky passing attack was exposed, the entire offense fell apart.

Texas loaded the box and checked the Sooners’ ground game. The Longhorns dared Heupel and quarterback Blake Bell to beat them deep. And the Sooners blinked first.

Bell completed just 1 of 7 downfield attempts that were longer than 10 yards – a fullback pop to Trey Millard for 29 yards early in the game. Considering the defensive scheme Texas employed, the lack of completions downfield was staggering. The lack of attempts, even more so.

“There were opportunities there a little bit to unload the box that we're not taking advantage of,” Heupel said. “We haven't been good on the outside or in the middle of the field — anything past 15 yards. We’ve got to be better. There are explosive plays out there that have the opportunity to win. We’ve just got to make them.”

Heupel also shied away from calling many quarterback runs, which had been so effective for Oklahoma in the past and so lethal against the Longhorns this season. Against a loaded box, having the extra blocker would have been useful. But the Sooners didn’t attempt to capitalize off Bell’s power wheels, and Bell only ran three times for just eight yards.

“That’s just the way Coach Heupel and all of our offensive coaches wanted to go into the football game,” answered Bob Stoops, when asked why more Bell runs weren’t called. “Again, there were just some things we don't feel so comfortable with in some areas always with Blake.”

If the Sooners didn’t feel comfortable with Bell throwing the ball downfield or running him, maybe they should have made another quarterback change. But that wasn’t considered, either.

Now, the Sooners are left to pick up the pieces from their Red River disaster and rework an offensive identity that went to pot in Dallas.

“There’s no magical pill you’re going to take and correct it,” Heupel said. “You just go back to work.”

According to all reports, the Longhorns didn’t take any magic pills before the Oklahoma game. But they played a like a completely different team than the one that had shuffled through the first five games. And a week after calling 45 passes, Applewhite opted to run the offense through hard-nosed running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown behind the Longhorns’ veteran offensive line.

“They were determined to go play, determined to move the ball and they understood the game plan,” Applewhite said of his line. “I think we spelled it out for them in terms of where we wanted to be on third down so we could possess the ball and convert and keep the chains moving. I think the game plan was a lot more simplified; the schemes were very simple.”

The simple scheme couldn’t have worked better for burnt orange.

Texas gained five yards anytime it wanted up the middle, as Gray and Brown both rushed for more than 100 yards. That took the pressure off quarterback Case McCoy, who delivered the big plays when he was called on to.

The last three years, Texas coach Mack Brown has been trying to locate the right identity for the Longhorns offense. This past offseason, Brown indicated he wanted to speed up the tempo and spread the field.

But as Saturday showed, this offense is built to run between the tackles, then throw deep to a host of speedy receivers.

The formula worked wonders against the Sooners. And could work wonders going forward, too.

“I loved the game plan,” McCoy said. “I was confident in the plan and knew in any situation what was going on and what I was doing. We played hard and played to the plan.

“And that's exciting.”

The real Texas shows up to rout Sooners

October, 12, 2013
10/12/13
7:20
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DALLAS, Texas -- The question of the day, believe it or not, isn’t "Did Texas just do that?" The real question is, are these the real Longhorns?

Shake off the shock of seeing Texas roll No. 12 Oklahoma 36-20 in a game that was basically over by the end of the third quarter. Shed the surprise that, after being knocked and mocked for a month, these Longhorns went out and found a way to dominate Oklahoma in all phases. Once we move past the disbelief, are we left with ... belief?

All Texas needed was something silly and unpredictable -- a defensive tackle snagging an interception and rumbling 31 yards into the end zone -- and it was all downhill from there, the Longhorns riding a medley of surprises and a sudden wave of confidence.

Maybe these Longhorns should play the underdog role more often. It certainly suits their embattled coach, their irrationally cocky quarterback and his underestimated teammates.

[+] EnlargeChris Whaley
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsTexas DT Chris Whaley celebrates his interception return for a touchdown that gave the Longhorns a major spark against the rival Sooners.
“I thought we would win today,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “I knew we would play really hard and I knew we would play really well. I don’t know that that would be good enough, but I knew this was going to be a different mindset coming in.”

What seemed to set everything in motion for Texas, though, was a momentum swing from an unlikely source. Chris Whaley, a senior defensive tackle who was once a touted running back recruit, pulled off the first surprise of the day when he dropped into coverage on a heavy third-down blitz.

Even he was surprised when Blake Bell's pass ended up in his arms, so Whaley stormed down the sideline and tried to run over Bell just as he ran out of gas at the goal line.

Texas had a lot more left in the tank, and much of it was simply hard to fathom:

Case McCoy dropping a perfect dime to Marcus Johnson on a wheel route for a 59-yard score, then later a perfect fade to Mike Davis.

Texas’ consistently inconsistent offensive line punishing the Sooners from the start, paving the way for 100-yard days from Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown.

Oh, and Brown entered with 23 carries for 63 yards this season and finished the game with 23 carries for 120 yards. And Oklahoma had the undisputed No. 1 defense in the Big 12 -- at least until Saturday.

The always-fiery McCoy was as prideful as ever after the game. He knows nobody expected him to pull this off, and he and his teammates finally got fed up with all the negativity.

“I grew up an underdog. I’ve been an underdog my whole life,” McCoy said. “I came to Texas and all the sudden I wasn’t an underdog. I’m back in my environment and I’m an underdog. I hope y’all keep putting us at a disadvantage, keep putting the heat on us. I love it. I love to play, I love this game, I love my teammates and we’re going to keep fighting.”

And then that Texas defense, the one that lost both its confidence and its coach one month ago, suddenly has its swagger back.

Oklahoma went 2-for-13 on third downs. The Sooners put up 263 total yards. Their best play of the day was a kick return.

“We came out and we set the tone early,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “Once we set the tone and everybody knows we’re here to play, we intimidate a lot of people. We did exactly what we wanted to do.”

Again, it bears mentioning that this just doesn’t make sense. The Longhorns hadn’t given anyone reason to believe this kind of a performance was coming. The past few weeks had made it harder and harder to remember how good this team could be.

That’s why there were pockets of crimson amid the orange half of the Cotton Bowl crowd on Saturday, why many sold their tickets for pennies on the dollar because they couldn’t bear to witness another beatdown.

Well, a beatdown was delivered in the Cotton Bowl. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who came in with a masterfully simply plan and stuck with it when the early results were clicking, loved every minute of it.

When asked what identity Texas can hang its hat on going forward, he didn’t hold back.

“Playing your ass off. Bottom line. That’s our identity,” he said. “It has nothing to do with plays, it has to do with believing in yourself and playing your ass off.”

So, again, we’re now left to wonder if in fact this Texas team, one that’s supremely experienced and has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, this Texas team that was supposed to be a Big 12 title and BCS bowl challenger, is starting to figure out how good it can be. Is this, in fact, the real Texas?

The goal of a conference championship became a little more possible. Oklahoma isn’t what we expected. Baylor is still struggling on the road. So why can’t Texas contend?

“We realize we can play like this every Saturday,” Whaley said, “and when we play like this every Saturday, there’s no limit to what we can do.”

Big 12 mailbag

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
4:00
PM ET
In today’s mailbag, Red Raiders and Bears delight in their undefeated starts while other fan bases search for answers.

To the ‘bag:

Andrew in NYC writes: As exciting as the Baylor offense has been, why haven't there been any comparisons to the WVU team last year? We all saw where they went once they started playing real teams. Any chance we see a similar meltdown this year with the Bears?

Jake Trotter: The difference is that last year’s West Virginia team was really a three-man show with Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. From the offensive line to the depth of the receiving corps, this Baylor offense is way more complete. Baylor’s defense is also far superior to West Virginia’s 2012 unit. I get the comparison. But this Baylor team has more staying power.

rtXC1 in Denison, Texas, writes: Hey, love the work you are putting in! Am I the only person left that believes playing Tyrone Swoopes against OU is unnecessary? If Major Applewhite can create a good gameplan -- getting the 5 RBs 50+ total touches, including Daje Johnson and Jalen Overstreet -- AND STICK TO IT, then Case McCoy CAN win this game and many more. Playing Swoopes, with his current state of poor mechanics (thanks a lot Whitewright coaches), could be as counterproductive as playing Ash was in 2011, and potentially hurt his confidence. The only thing he'd really add is the zone-read element, which Gray and Overstreet could run just as well. What's best for Texas is to follow the gameplan. Thoughts?

Jake Trotter: I enjoy insightful mailbag submissions like this. Texas fans who believe Swoopes is the answer are just not being realistic. There’s a reason he hasn’t stepped on the field yet. He’s just not ready. For all their issues, the Longhorns still have enough offensive playmakers to stay in the game Saturday. It’s about putting them in good positions to make plays -- something Applewhite has struggled to do.

Andy in Austin, Texas, writes: Jake, I was wondering if you could investigate as to why Overstreet hasn't seen more on the field time in the "Wild Horn" formation. Since McCoy seems to lack serious mobility, why hasn't this package been seen more? Will OU be seeing it Saturday?

Jake Trotter: The Longhorns should be pulling out all the stops in this game. Fake field goals, double reverse passes -- whatever is still in the holster. I would give the Overstreet package (if the Horns still have it in the playbook) a shot early, as well, just to test how OU defends it and see if there’s something that can be exploited.

Larry in Austin, Texas, writes: Hi, Jake. When Mack Brown leaves at the end of the season, do Applewhite and (Greg) Robinson get shown the door as well?

Jake Trotter: Yes. As Hawk Harrelson would put it, they gone.

Blake Bell in Norman, Okla., writes: I think I need a new nickname. I've heard "Bellthrowzer" and “Bellicopter.” But what about the “Bellista?” On the other hand, the "Wrecking Bell" sign at the last game was pretty good. So what do you recommend?

Jake Trotter: You have a great nickname. Why do you need another?

Darrell in Huntsville, Ala., writes: This week you said Art Briles would be an excellent hire for Texas. Wouldn't Briles be an excellent hire for any program?

Jake Trotter: Probably, but I feel like he would be an especially good fit for Texas. Briles knows the state. Because of his background, he has relationships with virtually every high school coach in the state. And I think Briles would do a better job of getting the right players to Austin than the Mack Brown regime has done in recent years.

Sic ‘em in Birmingham, Ala., writes: I had a Twitter conversation with a USC fan the other day. He wanted USC to pursue Briles with everything they had, and was convinced Briles would leave if they offered him enough. Thoughts?

Jake Trotter: If Briles were going to leave, I think he’d leave for Texas ahead of USC.

Big Ferm in San Diego writes: Jake, welcome aboard the Baylor Bandwagon. Like Lache Seastrunk, it’s moving at breakneck speeds and pancaking haters like Cyril Richardson does defenders. Most talking heads in the media believe OU is the conference favorite because of its victory over the Irish. Too bad the Bears didn't schedule Notre Dame. They would've hung 70 on them.

Jake Trotter: I’ve been talking up the Bears since the preseason, but so far they have exceeded even my expectations. If I had to pick the Baylor-OU game today, I would pick the Bears.

Jack in Waco, Texas, writes: I am a little confused how OU can be ahead of Baylor in your power rankings. That being said, I'm still a big fan of the blog since you guys took over, great job!

Jake Trotter: Thanks, Jack. The answer is simple. OU has two wins that are better than any Baylor victory. The Sooners have also won away from home. That gives them the edge at the moment, even though Baylor has looked unstoppable through four games. But if the Bears are just as impressive in Manhattan as they have been in Waco, I’ll have to rethink my rankings.

Prescott in The Woodlands, Texas, writes: I know Baylor is planning to take off the tarp for the final game at Floyd Casey Stadium. Would they consider removing it for Oklahoma in November?

Jake Trotter: Sure, if they sell enough tickets.

Mo in Dallas writes: There has been a lot of hate on Baylor’s schedule. Why doesn't Alabama receive the same hate?

Jake Trotter: Come again? Alabama has beaten Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Alabama has also won three national titles in four years. I’m assuming those might be reasons why.

Alex in Austin, Texas, writes: Which do you think is more explosive, the ‘05 Texas offense or this Baylor offense?

Jake Trotter: I’m placing a moratorium on questions like this until after Baylor plays Oklahoma.

Travis the Tech fan in Houston writes: Mr. Trotter, I don't know why there has been so much bickering among Tech and Baylor fans on the Bears’ legitimacy. Tech and Baylor have a lot more in common than what you would think. If anything we should be finding a way to work together to vanquish all who challenge us. Go Bears (not on Nov. 16, though).

Jake Trotter: Get your guns up, Baylor fans.

Casey Parkhurst in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Do you think Texas Tech is a contender in the Big 12?

Jake Trotter: Sure, the Red Raiders are a contender. The defining game will be at Oklahoma in two weeks. If Tech wins that game, then the Red Raiders could be playing for a Big 12 title in Arlington. Remember, Tech has had OU’s number lately, too. Dating back to 2005, the Red Raiders are 4-4 against the Sooners.

Clint in Houston writes: Tech is currently ranked 32nd in recruiting per ESPN, which is interesting. On one side, we have a new coach. On the other, we have an extremely energetic and passionate staff, and the team is rolling. Do you see us climbing the recruiting rankings before the end of the season?

Jake Trotter: The Red Raiders already have 21 commitments, so there’s not much room to rise. That said, this has been an excellent recruiting effort by Kliff Kingsbury and his staff. Tech fans should be very excited.

Mike writes: Let me say, I really like this season’s version of the Big 12 coverage! It's a major upgrade to what was already an excellent read. Do you think that, given the right upsets, an undefeated Big 12 champion could leap over ALL the one-loss teams to make the title game?

Jake Trotter: Given the absolute right upsets, maybe. But a one-loss Oregon or Alabama would be tough to unseat.

Greg in Richardson, Texas, writes: Jake, now that we are six weeks in, can you compare the Big 12 to the Big Ten? Will an undefeated Big 12 team be more deserving of a title shot than an undefeated Big Ten team?

Jake Trotter: I give the Big 12 a slight edge over the Big Ten. But deserving or not, an undefeated Ohio State would get in over an undefeated Big 12 team. An undefeated Michigan, however, would not.

Alex in Ames, Iowa, writes: Hey, Jake. You've been doing a great job on the blog so far (except those ISU picks... yikes). Anyway, after the gut-wrenching, anger-inducing controversial loss to Texas, we saw anger, confusion, and a TON of passion not only from Paul Rhoads, but fans and players, as well. Does this loss energize the team the rest of the year? Or did it drain them?

Jake Trotter: Thanks, Alex, and sorry about the weekly Iowa State jinx. This really could go either way. But knowing what kind of coach Rhoads is and knowing how his players respond to him, my guess is they’ll play with some energy Saturday.

Bullet in Stillwater, Okla., writes: Since our offense hasn't scored much this year, I've been getting out of shape. Do you think we'll have a new coordinator next year? Mike Gundy needs to get me back in game shape.

Jake Trotter: I would give Clint Chelf a shot and see if that changes anything first.

Matt in Wamego, Kan., writes: As a diehard KU fan I am a believer in always supporting and backing your team. However, I am starting to get very frustrated. Especially seeing teams like Baylor, Louisville and Northwestern, who were once the laughing stock of college football, now building winning programs. Please help me. I am tired of being ready for basketball season in mid-September. What will take to at least make my Jayhawks relevant again?

Jake Trotter: The right coach. Not saying Charlie Weis isn’t the right coach. He’s been there less than two years. But what do the three undefeated teams in the league all have common? The right coach. Mark Mangino proved you can have success at Kansas. But it starts with the head man.

John in San Jose, Calif., writes: TCU's three losses are to three top 20 teams that are a combined 15-1. TCU has been in all three games, too. Is an 8-4 finish in reach, considering four remaining games are at home and TCU has shown it can play well on the road?

Jake Trotter: It’s not out of reach, but it’s going to be pretty tough. The Frogs still have to go to Oklahoma State and face Baylor. The obviously would have to win one of those two games and then run the table. Not impossible. But not likely, either, given how inconsistent the offense has been.

Joe in Gauley Bridge, W.V., writes: Is it totally unreasonable for me as a fan to expect West Virginia to win at least nine or 10 games a year and compete for the Big 12 title yearly? I don't want to be mediocre, I want to be the best.

Jake Trotter: That was probably reasonable in the Big East. It’s not reasonable in the Big 12. What you’re suggesting is what Oklahoma has basically accomplished in the Bob Stoops era. West Virginia’s program is just not on that level.

Planning for success: Texas

October, 10, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The comments don’t come off as angry or mean-spirited. They’re wrapped in defiance -- that much is obvious -- and clearly some sense of pride.

Case McCoy feels disrespected. He made that clear Monday in the Texas quarterback’s first non-postgame meeting with reporters since the season began. Two days after being named the starter for the Oklahoma game, McCoy was ready to speak his mind.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsCase McCoy didn't mince words this week when talking to reporters about the OU game and Mack Brown's job security.
He wasn’t aiming to inspire. No, it seemed more like he was trying to unload some of his irritation. All it took was a question about Mack Brown’s job safety to get McCoy going. What followed might be a window into the mentality he and his teammates are taking up to Dallas this weekend.

The first question about Brown’s hot seat was received with a winding response nearly two minutes in length.

He began by noting that he and his teammates read everything and are well aware of what’s going on, and that they shouldn’t feel much pressure since they're 0-3 against OU and there’s nowhere to go but up. But he’s not too big a fan of outsiders who, in his opinion, are trying to put more pressure on the Longhorns.

“Everyone outside thinks there a lot of pressure and they’re trying to put pressure on us, but the bottom line is, we’re a team and we’re a family,” McCoy said. “All the outsiders can say what they want to say, but we’re going to play on Saturday.

“None of y’all are going to play. The only guys that are going to play are us suiting up, and we’re the only ones who can determine that. Coach Brown is not going to play, Coach Applewhite is not going to play. None of these coaches are going to play.

“The guys that are going to play are the guys that are going to suit up in their uniforms. That’s the mentality that we’ve finally gotten to and understand.”

And then, he brought a little levity. McCoy joked that this isn’t the NFL. Nobody is getting cut or losing their scholarships over one game.

“We’ve got our scholarship, we’re going to play and we deserve to play for the University of Texas and give back to these people that encourage us and have fought with us and are still showing up, day after day, to watch us play,” McCoy said. “I think that’s where we’ve gotten right now.”

Shortly after that, a national columnist in attendance reminded McCoy how long he and his family have known Brown and posed a question about their relationship. And that set McCoy off.

“Bottom line is, I like y’all. Y’all are my friends here,” he said. “When I play bad, y’all aren’t my friends, and y’all really don’t have a clue what goes on inside, what that man puts into this team, what our team is fighting for day in and day out.

“I mean, do y’all really think we want to go out and lose to BYU? We fight nonstop year-round to go play 12 ballgames. To go out there and not play well kills us and kills our coaches. This is their livelihood and what’s feeding their kids.

“So bottom line is, when it comes down to it, y’all don’t really have a clue what’s going on inside of there. People are fighting and scrapping and trying to do whatever they can.

"I think the way it’s coming around is, maybe losing those first couple games was the best thing that could’ve happened to us this year. It put pressure on us -- according to y’all it put pressure on us -- and when it comes down to it, we’ve got to beat OU. Y’all know that. I think we know that. Now it’s time that we go do it.”

McCoy wasn’t trying to be impolite. He was being honest. He’s fed up with people doubting and questioning his team and he knows the only way to shut anybody up is to win the big one.

He looks at Oklahoma as the legacy game, the one he’ll remember forever if he wins. McCoy will go down in Longhorns lore as the quarterback who rallied to win the final Texas A&M game (at least, until they meet again someday). He wants to go down as the guy who led his senior class to a win over the Sooners.

And maybe he’s right. Maybe this team really is tired of being mocked, tired of seeing its head coach being underestimated. Maybe the Longhorns show up angry and punch OU in the mouth and exorcise their demons and take back their season.

What’s clear is that McCoy is the one leading the way this week. Win or lose, he’s not going down without a fight.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to win,” McCoy said. “How it’s going to happen and what it’s going to look like, I don’t care if we win 3-0. We’ve just got to win the ball game.”

Big 12 lunchtime links

October, 9, 2013
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Terrell Owens made a recent appearance on "SportsNation." Let's just say, "Shots fired!!!"

Pressure is on for new Texas coordinators

October, 8, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- When you start off the first Mack Brown-Bob Stoops duel with a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter, you quickly figure out what pressure means in this rivalry game.

But on a week this important, Major Applewhite won’t be regaling his Texas players with film or tales from 1999.

[+] EnlargeGreg Robinson
AP Photo/Eric GayGreg Robinson lost in his only outing against the Sooners.
“No, I won’t waste their time,” Applewhite said.

Greg Robinson still remembers his first and only Red River game with fondness … even if Adrian Peterson burned his defense for 225 yards and Oklahoma won 12-0.

“I don’t know that I ever had more fun in a game,” Robinson said. “I hated that we lost, but man, it was just a great experience. … It was a great game and it was so unique.”

The Texas team that takes the field Saturday against No. 12 Oklahoma should, with the exception of David Ash’s absence, bears a strong resemblance to the 2012 team. Fifteen guys in Texas’ starting 22 have previous starts against OU. It’s the Longhorns’ change of coordinators that could provide a unique twist.

Applewhite has five games under his belt now as play-caller. Robinson has coached three games. Both have been handcuffed to some extent by a rash of injuries and, in the case of the defense, the rapid transition required when changing defensive coordinators two games into a season.

For as much scrutiny as Brown continues to face, to say both of his coordinators have something to prove this weekend is probably an understatement.

Texas fans will be fixated on the game plan Applewhite draws up for Saturday, especially after the strange run/pass balance the Longhorn offense struck in a 31-30 win over Iowa State.

Case McCoy attempted a career-high 45 passes while Johnathan Gray got 16 carries on the night. At one point in the game, McCoy dropped back to pass on 15 consecutive plays. The Longhorns punted eight times on the night, and on six of those failed possessions they attempted no more than two rushes.

Against ISU, the game plan was loaded with run/pass options and McCoy made decisions based on the looks the defense offered. After doing more film review, Brown and Applewhite both said they should’ve run the ball more in Ames.

“I’m comfortable with Case throwing the football, but I think looking back on the other night we wanted to do a little bit more in the run game,” Applewhite said. “In the second half, there were some times when we called some things and we didn’t have success for whatever reason. In terms of winning the game, that was obviously our goal. But I’m not going to sit and dwell on it too much, it’s time to get ready for the next one.”

Since Ash went down at BYU, McCoy has led the Longhorns on 34 offensive drives -- 12 have ended in scores, and 16 in punts. The challenge for Applewhite and co-coordinator Darrell Wyatt against the Stoops brothers will be playing to strengths while still being unpredictable.

And the way Applewhite sees it, there’s no point in saying more is on the line this year than in past Red River games.

“I think it’s all on the line when you play Oklahoma, every year,” Applewhite said. “I don’t think these kids or the coaches or anybody else feel any different. It’s the Oklahoma game. It’s what you come to Texas to play for. Same thing on the other side. It’s extremely important. It’s bragging rights, it’s what you get to talk about when you’re old and tired.”

Think Robinson doesn’t want this one as badly as anyone? Exactly one month has passed since Robinson took over for Manny Diaz. Progress has been made, but Saturday will be the real measuring stick of how far this defense has come.

Robinson doesn’t give much credence to discussing the pressure that Texas’ coaching staff faces this week, because the fact is, this big-time game is what the job is all about.

“The pressure of wanting to win and of beating them is exciting,” Robinson said. “It’s an opportunity for all of us. So I think that’s how you look at it. It’s how much can you get out of your guys come Saturday to do the right things and play well. That’s the challenge. I think we’re all excited about accepting that.”

In the end for Robinson, Applewhite and the staff, all that matters is putting the Longhorns players in a position to end to Oklahoma’s reign over the Longhorns.

“Doggone it, we want to get it back on our side,” Robinson said. “I’d like to think that’s the mindset with everybody that’s involved. We all feel like we have a responsibility to our Texas fans.”
AUSTIN, Texas – The three-headed monster that is Texas’ stable of running backs somehow sprouted a fourth head this past Saturday.

“Four-headed monster” doesn’t really have the same ring to it that three did. But for now, it’ll do.

“Yeah, I mean, you can call it that,” Texas sophomore back Johnathan Gray said. “You can get the ball in anybody’s hands in the RB room and they can make explosive plays.”

And right now, Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are getting a kick out of seeing what Jalen Overstreet can do when the coaches call his name.

[+] EnlargeJalen Overstreet
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsRedshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet dazzled in his first running back action, rushing for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
The converted quarterback made the most of his nine carries against New Mexico State. His teammates are excited to see what he can do for an encore.

“That’s a crazy transition for him,” Brown said. “Just seeing him going out there and being so natural at it is really fun.”

Even if Overstreet’s exploits came against a worn-out NMSU defense in the final minutes of a blowout, it’s hard to ignore what the redshirt freshman did in his first career game.

Who would’ve guessed the guy stuck behind three established veteran backs on the depth chart would finish the night as Texas’ leading rusher at 92 yards and two touchdowns?

The 38-yard touchdown to end the night was a sight to behold, no matter how tired the Aggies might’ve been. Overstreet took a handoff from Case McCoy, juked a safety, avoided a pursuing cornerback with a quick stiff arm and scampered the final 20 yards.

It’s the kind of run he made all the time back in his days at Tatum (Texas) High School, though they never began with a handoff. The breakout debut for Overstreet is, at the very least, affirmation that the conversion from quarterback to running back was worthwhile.

Last season, the gang of Brown, Bergeron, Gray and senior Jeremy Hills seemingly had as close a bond as any position group on the team. Gray and Brown both said that Overstreet fit right in with their trio when he first joined the running back room for meetings.

“He fits perfectly well with us,” Gray said. “We always hung around Jalen when he was a quarterback, so him moving to running back was just another position. We all accepted him as family and he’s doing a great job right now. The sky’s the limit for him.”

Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite likes the natural instincts that the 6-foot-2, 215-pound East Texas native offers. Mack Brown joked Monday that Overstreet has never blocked a day in his life, but Applewhite is seeing him make steady improvement on the intricacies of running back.

“There’s a lot of finer points to playing running back,” Applewhite said. “Sometimes people are like, ‘Hey, just hold onto the ball and show up at 3 o’clock when the bus leaves.’ But with running back, there’s a lot of finer points. He’s learning those now and starting to learn how to run with power.”

The running backs consider themselves a selfless unit and have no problem with seeing Overstreet get more reps as the season progresses. Gray says he’s earned the right to play.

The only downside to Overstreet’s rise? He won’t be able to catch defenses off-guard anymore. Brown liked that element of surprise entering the opener.

“They have no film on him, you know?” he said. “Just to have him pop in there, I believe, people wont really notice him and then all the sudden he’ll break one. Jalen is a great athlete and he’ll do great for us, early in the game or late in the game.”

What his role will be this weekend at BYU and going forward is hard to peg. Texas managed to spread the ball around fairly evenly between its top three backs in the opener, but that was a luxury that can’t be expected every week.

But there will be a place for Overstreet. He helped ensure that with the first nine carries of his young career.

“It’s not fair to him to say, ‘Well, they were just tired and that’s why he did good,’” Applewhite said. “No. He worked his butt off and did good because he’s worked hard.”

Texas learns from slow start, big stats

September, 2, 2013
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Major ApplewhiteAP Photo/Michael ThomasAfter a slow start, Major Applewhite's offense kicked into high gear in the second half.

AUSTIN, Texas – The truth about Texas’ offense is buried somewhere in the middle.

They’re not the offense that showed up for the first half. They can’t be the second-half edition every single week.

It’s not a Jekyll-and-Hyde conundrum as much as a testament to the challenges offensive coordinator Major Applewhite faces as he calls the shots from the sideline. He found out Saturday just how good Texas’ offense can be when the uptempo offense has worn down an opposing defense. He also knows how shaky this unit can look when it starts slow.

Applewhite spent Saturday night and Sunday reviewing it all with his staff, but the postgame summation he offered was apt.

“The first half was miserable,” Applewhite said. “The second half got better, a little bit more fun.”

Texas went from scoreless to unstoppable in a matter of minutes, from 0 points to 56 before New Mexico State could muster an answer. The offense that had 136 yards in the final minutes of the second quarter finished with a school-record 715.

As a coach, Mack Brown likes those kinds of results. They’re perfect motivators, tangible proof for any team meeting or film session.

“You need for them to play well enough to feel they can be good, but understand they didn’t do well enough to be good,” Brown said. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to fix. But I thought it was a great opener for us. We won. We blew them out.”

He’s glad that blowout required a humbling dose of adversity, too. As was the case in the Alamo Bowl last December, Texas' own worst enemy is too often itself.

The first of Texas' three first-half turnovers came after on a fumble after Mike Davis picked up 21 yards on third down. The second could have been an easy touchdown if thrown just a bit differently by David Ash. And Applewhite said the third would’ve been a Daje Johnson touchdown had Ash’s pass not been tipped at the line.

On all three occasions, a big play was wiped off the board by some detail, some miscue. That’s living and learning when you’re operating an offense loaded with weapons and big-play potential.

What mattered, really, was how Ash handled those hiccups. Texas fans unleashed the boos after his second interception. A year ago, he might have folded. Texas coaches might have discussed a Case McCoy relief appearance.

Applewhite saw his third-year quarterback compartmentalize. Ash learned from his mistake and forgot it. On to the next one. So did the rest of his teammates.

“I was proud to see them do that,” Applewhite said. “I don't think they would have done that a year or two ago.”

For Ash, being surrounded by veteran starters who had been through these rough starts helped. Having the trust and support of Texas’ playcaller might have meant more.

“It helped having coach Applewhite down there,” Ash said. “So much of football is about morale and believing, and I think coach Applewhite's been in a lot of those situations. It helps when he's seen that and he knows what to say, knows what to expect and knows what to do to get guys going.”

How tempo fits into all of this is a good question. Texas players are confident that when they started playing fast in the third quarter, New Mexico State wore down. Applewhite agreed.

“I can definitely tell you the tempo showed up in the third and fourth quarter,” he said. “You ask any tempo team and that’s what’s going to happen.”

Brown has his sights set on 84 plays per game, but thanks to six touchdown drives of five plays or fewer, the Longhorns finished with 72 snaps on offense. That number ranked 53rd nationally in Week 1 and 31st among teams that are now 1-0.

That’s a nice reminder of the meaninglessness of achieving 84 plays. Texas’ average time of possession on its eight touchdown drives was 90 seconds. The Longhorns coaches will take that any day of the week, and as much as possible on Saturdays.

“We all knew, as an offense, what we needed to do,” running back Malcolm Brown said. “We needed to flip that switch, and that’s what we did in the second half.”

They’ll need to flip it earlier this Saturday at BYU. Texas’ head coach is certain of that. One week in, though, and they know exactly what off and on looks like for this Longhorns offense.

“I think the competition will obviously really pick up next week,” Mack Brown said. “So we’ll know more, because Brigham Young plays great defense. I think we’re where we need to be going."
AUSTIN, Texas -- The talent on Texas’ roster is supposed to be on par with Alabama.

Seriously.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesTexas coach Mack Brown and his staff have some things to prove this fall.
Both schools have a total of 57 players on their 2013 rosters who earned four-star ratings from ESPN as recruits.

Thanks in large part to its recent No. 1-ranked class, Alabama has 40 players who received ESPN 150 honors in high school. Texas has 35.

Perhaps that gives some perspective on just what the Longhorns' coaching staff is working with entering this season. The cupboard is indeed stocked full.

The depth chart Texas is expected to release on Monday morning will be stuffed with experienced talent, most of whom were big-name recruits.

The coaching staff Mack Brown revamped after 2010 is entering its third season together. This group is responsible for recruiting more than 70 percent of the current 85-man roster, if we include the 2011 class those new coaches kept intact after arriving in Austin.

Make no mistake: These are the kids Brown and his staff wanted, the kids who were brought in to turn this program around.

They’ve brought together all the ingredients, but the recipe keeps changing. What exactly are Brown and his coaches cooking up for 2013?

We’ll find out soon, but having that talent base in place has Texas fans dreaming of a Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl -- or better. Brown has said all summer that this program is about to be real good again and go on a championship run. Now, it’s on his staff to deliver.

Their coaching could mean the difference between that conference title and another 9-win season. They’re working with essentially the same talent they had last season, losing only four major contributors from 2012. How much more can they get out of this group?

After two seasons of ups and downs, each of Brown’s assistants has something to prove. Major Applewhite is entering his first season as play-caller. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz wouldn’t be back if many UT fans had their druthers. Even the revered Duane Akina has problems to solve with his safeties.

But this is the staff Brown hand-picked, and he’s praised the fact that, with the exception of Bryan Harsin’s departure, there is strong continuity in having nine of the same coaches working together for a third year.

“I think the coaches that came in two years ago understand Texas better now than they did two years ago,” Brown said at the start of fall camp. “It's a different place. It's a unique place.”

The expectations they must navigate through are high, sometimes unfairly so. If Texas, with its 19 returning starters and its best depth in years, isn’t great, the finger-pointing will start with the coaches. Especially if, for the third year in a row, they’re badly outcoached by Bob Stoops and Oklahoma.

That’s the burden of the job, especially in a season when Texas’ roster looks so good on paper and the rest of the Big 12 isn’t looking all that scary.

That Texas was voted the preseason No. 4 team by conference media says plenty about what the rest of the league thinks of the Longhorns. Yeah, sure, UT a loaded roster. So what? They always have that. What are they going to do with it?

That ranking doesn’t mean a thing one week from now, but still, the implicit message was clear. Texas isn’t the preseason league favorite because too many folks don’t believe it will be better coached than Oklahoma State, Oklahoma or TCU -- no matter how many games those teams combined to lose (14) in 2012 or how much talent Brown has on campus.

Five days from now, Brown, his coaches and all his once-touted players begin a season that could drastically change those perceptions.

“As I've said before,” Brown said, “we have to shut up and play, shut up and coach.”

Texas QB Swoopes working to find a role 

August, 15, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Tyrone Swoopes has never seen players this good.

In his tiny hometown of Whitewright, Texas, he played with only one other Division I football player on his Class 2A team, a three-star tight end who signed with TCU. Swoopes’ go-to receiver the past two years was 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds.

These days, the Texas freshman quarterback finds himself surrounded by receivers bigger, backs faster and linemen tougher than any he’s played with. His career at Whitewright couldn’t have prepared him for these luxuries.

Four Downs: Opening observations 

August, 11, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week, Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First Down: Up tempo is even faster now


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Time of the essence for up-tempo Texas

August, 6, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The speed and hustle are unmistakable, but so is the noise.

Texas’ first-string offense moved down the indoor practice field in choreographed chaos, players and coaches alike showered the affair in shouts.

David Ash
Max Olson/ESPNDavid Ash and Texas' offense will be moving at a frenetic pace this fall.
Snap. Play. Go, go, go. Again. Snap. The frenetic pace was met with screams for more urgency. Assistants jumped up and down and backslapped players after big gains, then scrambled back to work.

Whenever 11 lined up against 11 on Monday at Texas’ first fall practice, the buzz inside the practice bubble instantly amplified. The Longhorns put the next phase of their up-tempo offense installation on display, and though this is still very much a work in progress, the final product is shaping up to be a fun one.

There’s no doubt new play-caller Major Applewhite provides some of the jolt to the system. His teaching style is demonstrative in nature, and he doesn’t hesitate to dole out tough talk. Quarterback David Ash got a taste of that Monday.

“He’s extremely demanding, which is what any player wants out of a coach,” Ash said. “He ripped me today already. I’m looking forward to a few more rippings. It’s going to be good, and I’m going to learn from it. Usually when he rips me, I don’t ever do that again. That’s how you have to be if you want to be the best.”

As coach Mack Brown had vowed all summer long, the plays Ash must execute are not drastically different. This is still philosophically a pro-style attack dedicated to a power run game, only now it’s cloaked in and complemented by a three-and four-wide-receiver-spread-look.

The challenge is knowing how to hit the pedal just right to close in on Brown’s admittedly lofty goal of 84 plays per game. Texas will continue tinkering with the all-too-important variable of any hurry-up offense: Time wasted in between plays.

In the final 11-on-11 work of Monday’s practice, the Longhorn offense spared as little time as it could on the moments between the end of one play and the start of a second. On this day, the next snap typically came 12 to 15 seconds after the last.

It’s a starting point, and Ash anticipates the pace will get ratcheted up plenty in the coming weeks.

“Right now, I think we’re kind of polishing things,” Ash said. “Today we weren’t going as fast. I think you’ll see us steadily get faster throughout camp. You don’t want to start off so fast that you can’t get no faster. You want to build to that speed and stay there.”

Texas is trying to run in the fast lane alongside offenses like those featured at Baylor (82.5 plays per game in 2012) and Oregon (81.4). Will achieving that level of execution require rethinking how the scheme is practiced on a daily basis?

Under former coach Chip Kelly, Oregon reportedly ran between 100 and 150 plays during its two-hour practices, sometimes knocking out 30 plays in 10 minutes or less. Texas’ offense likely won’t be held to those absurd standards, at least not this fall.

There is still plenty of learning and adapting ahead. To senior offensive lineman Mason Walters, though, the goal is clear.

“I think it’s no missed assignments,” he said. “It’s being able to get on the field in four seconds, hear the number of the play and run it with great execution.”

Four seconds? That’s about as ambitious as it gets for an offense that averaged 2:50 in time of possession on its touchdown drives in 2012, and scored in a minute or less on only seven of those 58 drives.

Those numbers have the potential to improve dramatically this season, so long as Applewhite keeps pushing the pace. This was only day one, but for the Longhorns, time is now most definitely of the essence.

“As fast as he’s blowing the whistle, he’s never going to slow us down,” Walters said. “He hasn’t yet.”

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