A response to this post about Texas football on Monday.
Ah yes, classic smashmouth football is back at Texas. I don't know if it's stranger that a school with resources like Texas got away from running the ball or that we did so for so long before there were serious consequences. Even during the brilliant successes of Colt, it felt wrong for a school with a bull as a mascot to be running a finesse offense.
I think Harsin's game plan will be simple enough: run you over with his stable of thoroughbred running backs and an offensive line with 4 returning starters and then punish you for every way you overplay your defense to handle the running game. Well, maybe it won't be quite that simple, but Harsin has so many bullets in the running game gun that the House of Representatives is launching an investigation.
One trick this year will be getting the triggerman comfortable with hitting the middle of the field on hot routes or screens so that teams don't get away with overloading the edges against our running game. Another hopeful development will be better execution in the play-action game, that's where the gold is hidden in this offense. That'll mean teaching our QBs and offensive players to recognize blitzes and defenses, how to respond, and then to execute the responses.
You're right about the media, they always like to tell a myth that helps them explain the game and makes them feel confident that there is an underlying order and purpose to what they're watching that they can understand and sell. One archetype they've created is "the game manager" who is a non-star QB who avoids mistakes and enables someone else win the game for him. You get yourself a game manager if you somehow fail to find a superstar QB, or you don't want to squander a good team while in pursuit of one.
Like Saban, if I was running a team I'd plan around avoiding mistakes and avoiding the need for heroics from my QB. After the 09 Rose Bowl, it looks like Mack agrees. A steady system that can produce results like Alabama has seen requires the use of the redshirt and the practice field. Speculating on "do it all" QB prospects leads to boom or bust football programs that have to hope for a perfect alignment of upperclassman star QB and strong supporting cast.
In a healthy program, David Ash should never have needed to see the field as a freshman, he's a really talented player but also a very raw one. He went from playing 3A Texas ball where he could ignore the coverage and beat teams with arm strength and athleticism, to facing Big 12 defenses with elite athletes and complicated schemes.
Will he be ready as a sophomore to execute the basic necessities of this offense? Probably. Will this offense as a whole be ready to take advantage of Harsin's scheming and leverage to the extent that his better Boise teams did? Not a chance... yet. But with a sophomore QB, WR, RB's, RT, and Center and juniors at almost all the other positions it shouldn't take too much patience from fans to see that we're on the cusp of brilliance.
Given better depth and health from our skill players, 1 or 2 more answers at TE and in the passing game, and Ash receiving a degree from Harsin's QB 101, I think this defense is elite enough to expect 9 wins with 10 as a real possibility.
The latter number partly depends on the rest of the league. What do we think of the newcomers TCU and West Virginia? Are we going to be able to reverse our 2 game skids against Oklahoma State and Baylor? Is Texas even capable of beating KSU or are we under a Wizard's curse?
Generally the Red River Shootout has been the game that determined if we were elite or merely intriguing non-contenders. I'm guessing we fall into the latter camp but is there a chance we get them this year? Personally I'd rather not walk the fair grounds after another game like last year's ...
Check back tomorrow for a look at the rest of the Big 12.