Football.com - everything football

Can Texas Adjust To Fast-Paced Offense?

By



Vince Young led the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship played in the Rose Bowl. Texas came up short in its return trip to Pasadena in '09. Can Texas get back in 2013? Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.
Vince Young led the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship played in the Rose Bowl. Texas came up short in its return trip to Pasadena in '09. Can Texas get back in 2013? Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

The year 1998 seems like a long time ago ... and it has been. Mack Brown's arrival in Austin quickly steered the University of Texas in the right direction. The Longhorns have competed for championships, and they look to do so again this season.

It appears Brown has his Longhorns on a pretty big stage every four years, and he looks to continue that trend in the 2013 season.

"Vince (Young) and Colt (McCoy) won a lot of football games," Brown told Football.com at the Big 12 media days. "Vince was 30‑2, and Colt was like 45‑7 or 45‑9 or something."

Current quarterback David Ash aims to continue the trend of making the BCS national championship game. The last two times the BCS national championship game was played at the Rose Bowl, the Longhorns were there.

"That's our expectation for David," Brown said of his junior quarterback. "David has grown up. He's learned a whole lot. There were times last year that he played like Colt and he played like Vince and looked as good as anybody in the country, and then there were others times where he struggled some."

Texas returns 19 starters this year, the most in college football. Ash will be surrounded by play-makers on offense.  

"We think we've got better players around him now," Brown said. "We should be better in the offensive line. He is much more confident than at any time."

The running game will feature three running backs who finally appear to be healthy at the same time.

"We're really excited about the three running backs, Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and it's been very unfortunate that the three have not been healthy at one time very much of any of the past two seasons," Mack Brown said. "So Johnathan was healthy throughout the year last year, but Malcolm missed six, seven ball games. Joe has been hurt on and off. So we're hoping that we can keep them healthy."

It looks great on paper with 19 returning starters, solid quarterback play, three good running backs and a better defense. The only curveball thrown into placing Texas as a favorite to win the Big 12 is Brown's new experiment with a trendy offense. 

"We will be an up‑tempo offense this year," he said. "We're planning on getting more plays. And we feel like we've got plenty of plays and plenty of balls that we can get to them."

Will the up-tempo work? Will it take time for Texas to get accustomed?

"We think that David is ready to go up-tempo now with the offense," the head coach said. "He's in command. He's very confident. He knows what we want. We didn't change the names of the plays. We didn't change the plays as such when Major (Applewhite) took over, and we've gone up-tempo."

The only worries with changing the offense to a faster pace is how the players can adapt to it in game situations and how the offense and defense will handle adversity.

"If you're three-and-out (on offense) with up-tempo, you're out real fast," Mack Brown said. "So it gets your defense back on the field. So you have to be good at it to make third and fourth downs and keep the ball moving."

The Big 12 is stacked with teams that will leave Texas with little margin of error and will make it pay if it has a hard time executing the style in a live game.

The SEC served two cautionary tales of what happens when traditional power offenses fail to adapt to a more up-tempo type offense. In 2008, Auburn and Tennessee tried it, and they finished with the same dismal record of 5-7.

It may be an easier task to switch to an up-tempo offense in the Big 12, but Brown is smart enough to keep the ability to run in tact. This will give Texas a shot if it plays in slow-paced game or with a good lead.

"I also feel like we've got to stay balanced," Brown said. "We don't want to be a pass-every-time team offense. We want to be a balanced offense. So on a windy day, on a day where a quarterback may be off or he's hurt some, we can run the ball."

If Ash can continue the trend of Texas getting to the Rose Bowl for the national championship, Texas then will probably have to play a physical, slower-paced game and rely on the running game.

"What we thought is that with Colt, when he got hurt in the national championship game against Alabama in '09, they had two backs rush for 100 yards, and we couldn't run the ball. When we were playing a freshman quarterback, it had us at a true disadvantage in a championship game," Brown said.

Who knows, maybe Texas will have another shot at Alabama. The last time a team was going for three consecutive national championships in the Rose Bowl, the Texas Longhorns derailed a chance at history by beating USC.

Can Mack Brown & Co. get this offense adjusted to the up-tempo style and have another chance at the crystal ball? We will see.