Stability will lead to results

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David Ash drops back in his first career start for Texas last season against Oklahoma State. He will start for the Longhorns in their season opener against Wyoming Saturday.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ offense has quite a bit to prove in 2012.

Last season the Longhorns averaged 28.1 points a game, the second worst total in the Mack Brown era. Texas featured three different starting quarterbacks, eight players saw over 30 carries and a wide receiver, Jaxon Shipley, had a better passer efficiency rating than all of Texas’ starting signal callers combined.

With that much turnover it’s little wonder why the offense struggled, and the group has a large chip on its shoulder to prove it can live up to the Longhorns’ lofty standards.

“It’s a chip for everyone offensively, and not only us, but the entire team,” said co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin. “We want to keep the ball in our hands at all times, and the goal is to end every drive in a kick. That’s our mentality offensively.”

The mind-set has changed, but performance really comes down to the players on the field. And the 2012 version of the Longhorns is much better prepared for consistent scoring success.

The quarterback position isn’t fully resolved, but Texas has finally released the depth chart, naming sophomore David Ash the starter for the season opener against Wyoming. However, the coaches are adamant that Case McCoy will continue to see snaps, it just remains to be seen how many.

“The situation will dictate whether we can [play both guys] or not,” Harsin said. “But if the situation dictates for Case to come in, we’re rolling with that. So he has to prepare himself in that way.”

While the quarterback situation is still fluid, the units around the spot continue to gel.

The offensive line returns four of its five starters from last season, with the only addition being junior college transfer Donald Hawkins. Last year the group struggled in pass protection, allowing 28 sacks, the fourth-worst total in the Big 12, and the inconsistent blocking played a large role in the quarterbacks’ struggles.

This year they’re more prepared as a unit to do their part for the aerial attack.

“People can expect us to do our jobs a lot better than we’ve done in the past,“ guard Trey Hopkins said. “We’re going to be a physical running offensive line. We’re going to have the great combos and pancakes. But we’re going to be a lot better in pass protection as well.”

The Texas wideouts are also in a much better position to make Ash and McCoy shine. Shipley, junior Mike Davis and senior Marquise Goodwin return to give Texas an experienced core.

Last year Texas was 82nd out of 120 teams in passing yards per game, and were the third-worst attack in the pass-happy Big 12. Oklahoma State led the conference with a blazing 387.2 yards a contest, while Texas was almost a full 200 yards behind the Cowboys with 189.9. With disparities like that, it’s little wonder why the Longhorns’ offense was pedestrian.

However, this group of receivers is set to help return the passing attack to prominence. Davis has looked more like the deep-play threat the was as a freshman, Goodwin is a more mature route runner and Shipley is poised to emerge as one of the Big 12’s best.

“We’re starting to see plays made not only running the ball, but passing the ball,” Shipley said. “We’ve been making a lot of explosive plays in practice in the passing game. We have another year of experience, we know all the routes and things are just getting much easier for us [the wide receivers].”

Shipley mentioned it, but the running game is expected to be the centerpiece of the Texas attack. Last year the Longhorns were 22nd in the country in rushing yards per contest, and that was in spite of a plethora of injury issues.

Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are back for their sophomore campaigns, and each is more prepared to deal with the rigors of the college schedule. They’ve both added bulk to their already intimidating frames and the extra weight should help them prevent some of the injury issues that plagued them last season.

Freshman Johnathan Gray, the top ranked halfback in the class of 2012, will also contribute out of the backfield. With those three, Texas has the potential for an incredible three-headed running back core.

It isn’t perfect, but this team is in a much better spot heading into the opener than it was a year ago. The offense is entering its second season under Harsin, and the extra maturity and familiarity with the system could be the biggest contributing variable to offensive success in 2012.

“We understand the system better,” Harsin said. “Our players understand it better, and we are able to get into some more of the details and really the fun stuff.”

After last year, any amount of fun the offense can bring would improve Texas exponentially.