The Texas Offense | Tracking Focal Points

The Texas offense has been fun to see evolve. The staff’s been making every attempt to patch-up a hemorrhaging depth chart, mainly on offensive line. This started in the pre-season, losing Elijah Rodriguez (starting right tackle) and Andrew Beck (starting tight end). Then, Garrett Gray (backup tight end), Patrick Hudson (backup guard), and Shane Buechele went down with injuries, ouch! The bug continued into the USC game with the injury to Connor Williams, awful. Then, Shane was hurt again, my goodness. How’s that for continuity and consistency on offense? I write this to inform you that Herman and Beck’s jobs have not been simple. I can’t speak for the defense, as they seem to struggle despite continuity and consistency in personnel, but I’m not hear to discuss the defense with you right now, am I? Let’s dig into some of what’s old and new, on offense.

What’s Old

Armanti Foreman – What happened to Armanti? Ever since the ISU game and Dad’s Twitter rant, Armanti’s been MIA. I have no idea why that is. Nevertheless, Armanti’s role as a focal point has been usurped by a freshman (redshirt) upstart. You know who that is, REGGIE! Going forward, keep an eye on what happens to Armanti. Hopefully he sees quality time again.

Chris Warren – Big man has been seeing touches. The run game is nowhere near where the staff would like it, as evidenced by Sam’s 17 carries this past Saturday, crazy! Anyhow, Chris has proven valuable, gaining tough quarterback assisted yards (ha!) and catching the ball out of the backfield. Despite the run game woes, I’d still make like a comedian and hand Chris the rock.

Collin Johnson – Collin’s been a little quieter of late. The staff tries to get the ball to Collin multiple ways and defenses mix how they key on him. Expect them to continue their efforts, but as of today, Collin’s in the struggling category.

What’s New

Reggie Hemphill-Mapps – That’s some hyphenation there! Reggie played big against K-State, making it clear he’s needed on the field. He’s an excellent route-runner, very quick, and finishes runs very well, YAC. He’s also in on punt return. This guy contributes and plays hard, you gotta love that.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey – Like Reggie, Humphrey’s come up big in key situations almost every game. By the way, I thought he caught that ball near the end of the game. As the Brits say, bullocks! Humphrey is big, quick, and hard to bring down. He finishes runs with authority, always delivering a little pain on contact, again, YAC.

Sam Ehlinger – The young quarterback is already a fan favorite. Sam is acclimating to the run-pass option (RPO) and pass game while showing tremendous physicality running the football and extending plays. Now that he’s seen consecutive starts, you’ve seen the staff expand on his role, though I’m not sure leading the team in carries is exactly a place you want to be. After all, you don’t want to see his head bouncing off the turf anymore, do you? No.

Dorian Leonard – Now ahead of Collin Johnson on the depth chart, Dorian must seize the opportunity earned. I like Dorian, he’s got good size and he’s shifty. Whether he’s targeted more now is something keep your eyes on.

It appears the new focal points center around Sam, Hemphill-Mapps, and the backs (collective). Also, you’ve seen Chris Warren, Kyle Porter, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Toneil Carter, Dorian Leonard, etc. all get opportunities. The point here is, what focal points does the staff utilize to build plans around. While Warren and Porter remain prominent, the staff have utilized Sam in a much more significant way.

Ongoing Issues

Left Tackle – This is a big issue. The staff has tried both Tristan Nickleson and now Denzel Okafor since Connor Williams’ injury. Unfortunately, neither’s game is near as complete as Connor Williams’. This will be ongoing and all you can hope for is incremental improvement from game to game. More on this in a bit.

O-Line – As a whole, this unit struggles. Injuries have plagued the ‘big uglies’ and Coach Warehime has done his best to triage the unit. This past week, starting right guard Jake McMillon was injured. In his place, Terrell Cuney. Terrell has done his best to fill in for injured players, though not at the level of the starters. This unit, will need to get and stay as healthy as possible. Hopefully that begins this week.

Run & Pass Efficiency – Related to the O-line issues, both the run and pass game suffer. This is less a skill position issue, though it would help if the quarterback were a couple more years experienced. If the offense cannot be ‘paced’ with the run game, the pass game suffers. That is also a reason the staff’s been forced to run the quarterback more the past 3 games. They are toeing a delicate line.

What’s Focal

Sam – Sam carried the ball 17 times. That’s a lot, especially considering you have 3 active backs and receivers in frequent motion. Again, Sam’s carries likely result from the base run and pass game not getting the job done. Having to rely on the quarterback run game for efficiency is not sustainable.

Motion – I was critical during the game on this issue. Multiple times the motion man had leverage against a follower and the ball wasn’t thrown his way. This may be a Sam problem. It may also be a Beck problem, it’s hard to distinguish. What you don’t like seeing are easy yards left on the field, especially when you have a freshman quarterback running so often.

Drag & Slow Screen – This was a great development along with another I’ll mention next. Drag has paid dividends for the pass game. That coupled with a current problem made the running back slow screen a good wrinkle. The Drag takes a defender away and the back’s help allows what looks like a typical protection to be disguised. The staff turned a losing proposition into a strength. That’s big.

3rd Fix Tag – What did you think when Beck targeted the flat with the back on some passing downs? I hope you thought, ‘Yes, 3rd Fix!’. Again, study the linebackers against the pass protection and use the back to gain leverage against them, get it to him early, easy yards. You see Air Raid teams do this to great effect. Next, get Carter better in pass-pro and watch him catch and run.

Speed Option – If you have a dual-threat quarterback, why not? Beck utilized Speed Option to score the offense’s 1st touchdown. This is something they can build on to improve efficiency, as there are wrinkles that also get the ball out of Sam’s hands. You see a little old school Nebraska option quarterback in Sam. He can be deadly, expand this package.

The staff is doing everything they can to create yards and big plays. The issues holding it back will require the thing fans hate the most, time. What you’d like to see going forward is improvement from the staff and quarterback, the latter ‘running the point’ for this offense needs to improve decision-making to squeeze out every single easy yard the defense offers. You also want to see incremental improvements along the offensive line and some health return to the unit. If the current starters manage to get more snaps together, you could see an uptick in performance, McMillon included. For the Beck haters, I’m not seeing much that can be ameliorated with a different style or approach. Like you, I too have a theoretical coordinator living in my head, one that can turn glitter into gold. Unfortunately, that coordinator only exists in my imagination. While you don’t have to cut the staff any slack, you also must acknowledge the mountain of problems thrown their way. Also, give it time, you may see more you like in the future.