Texas has in its burnt orange hands a new season, an up-tempo offense, a newly promoted co-offensive coordinator, a third-year starting quarterback and a bevy of receivers ready to step up.
Head coach Mack Brown has many ingredients on hand for a strong season. But Longhorns fans have been jostling for one of those for the past three years.
While it was the defense that underwhelmed last season, Texas’ offense still left fans up in arms. Why couldn’t it execute the way it had in the Colt McCoy days? Why weren’t more points up on the board? Where were the thrilling passes down the field that sent the crowd to its feet? The running game?
For starting quarterback David Ash, the pressure stands much taller than his lean 6-foot-3 frame. The rising junior now has plenty of valuable experience under his belt, and with that experience comes expectations of more polished play. For the offense to produce results, Ash will have to be consistent in every game and claim a leadership role.
Ash’s status as the team’s starting quarterback is much stronger than it was last season. Case McCoy currently holds the backup spot, but Jalen Overstreet, Connor Brewer and early enrollee Tyrone Swoopes will provide additional support.
“It is going to be my job, and everyone on this team’s job, to hold everybody accountable throughout these next three or four months of the summer and the offseason,” Ash said. “We’ve got to take a hold of this team and make it something special for next year.”
Brown’s up-tempo offense has largely been placed under the control of co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite. The offensive plan involves quicker snaps, a no-huddle approach and will require speed from players in order to be effective.
An injury and a pair of suspensions have made room for a batch of ready receivers this spring. Rising sophomore Cayleb Jones, who served as a reserve last season, was charged with aggravated assault in March and is suspended, along with Kendall Sanders, who was arrested for DWI earlier this month, from the team for the time being. Meanwhile, junior Jaxon Shipley, who was often Ash’s go-to guy in 2012, is coping with a strained hamstring and did not play in the spring game. Those absences leave room for Bryant Jackson, John Harris and Marcus Johnson to develop their skills in the offseason. Senior Mike Davis, who started nearly every game last year, will work to exert his influence for a memorable last season.
“A receiver in the spread offense is really fun, because the ball will be spread around and allows you to put up a lot of points,” Davis said.
The running back position has a slew of returners — including Johnathan Gray, who has sparkling potential but often failed to execute last season. The sophomore will have more opportunities to run the ball and needs to step up in his second season with the Longhorns. Then there’s Malcolm Brown, who played in eight games last season but was plagued by injury. Add junior Joe Bergeron, and sophomore Daje Johnson to the mix and you’ve got a group of backs that Mack Brown says are being used interchangeably in the spring.
“I’m seeing us like we were with Colt [McCoy}, and at the same time, running the ball better,” Brown said. “I’m really excited about our offense. I think it’ll be the best offense since Colt left.”