With the first spring practice in the books, it’s officially football season.
The first practice was telling in regards to the Longhorns’ attitude and direction. The changes that Longhorn fans have been craving after a disappointing 6-7 season are already present, with both offensive and defensive scheme shifts on display early.
The Longhorns new-look offense can best be described with one word-- tempo. The teams’ conditioning was tested early with the offense running to the line after each snap and getting set without a huddle. It’s clear that head coach Charlie Strong and his staff want the offense to play fast this year, similar to the up-tempo offense ran by former offensive coordinator Major Applewhite during the final years of the Mack Brown era.
Texas also seems to be getting more creative with offensive formations. The Longhorns displayed a primarily shotgun and pistol offense, which is something quite different from last season where the Longhorns often preferred to be under center.
Texas lined up in a variety of shotgun and pistol formations, including sets using full backs and tight ends in the backfield, as well as multiple spread formations with three-to-four wide receivers. Creativity was also present in play calling with junior receiver Daje Johnson taking end-around handoffs out of shotgun formations.
Though Strong said Monday that rising junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard would be taking equal reps, it seemed that Swoopes had the early advantage in Texas’ quarterback battle.
Swoopes looked confident and sharp when throwing the ball and made a number of nice throws in traffic. Heard had his moments, but he struggled with his accuracy at times and limited himself to shorter range throws. Though they received about an even number of total plays, Swoopes took all of the major reps with the first-team offense.
Other offensive standouts include rising sophomore receiver Lorenzo Joe who was impressive in using his six-foot-two height to box-out defenders and make grabs in traffic. Junior receiver Marcus Johnson also made noise using his speed to gain separation on several different route types.
Defensively, the Longhorns showed a different look from last year’s 4-3 defense, with three linebackers, three linemen and five defensive backs on the field at almost all times. The new defensive look may be an attempt to get faster in a conference that features up-tempo passing offenses.
Though it’s very early in spring play, the Longhorns showed they are making strides in addressing last season’s shortcomings. There is still a lot of work to do before the spring game, but with already noticeable changes on both sides of the ball, Longhorns fans have something to hang their hat on.