Going into the season, many believed Texas’ strong suit would be its running backs.
Last year, senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray amassed a combined 1,612 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. And with redshirt junior quarterback David Ash sidelined by the return of his concussion symptoms, the duo was poised to shine for the Longhorns.
However, just two games into the season, the running game has struggled. If the Longhorns want renewed success, they will need to open up the offense and let sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes take control.
Against BYU last Saturday, Brown and Gray combined for only 75 yards while Texas totaled just 82 yards on the ground. The Cougars expected the run game to dominate Texas’ offensive game plan, which it did, and BYU was able to stifle the Longhorns’ offensive production as result.
Swoopes, however, started the game by completing his first eight passes, finishing the night with 183 total yards and completing 65 percent of his balls. The first-year starter, who played in just six games last season, showed promise, despite his lack of experience.
With a tough stretch of games ahead for Texas, Shawn Watson, quarterbacks coach and play-caller, will need to open up his playbook, allowing Swoopes and his wide receivers to generate big plays for the offense.
“[The offense] is going to be expanded. You look at Tyrone [Swoopes] and what we asked him to do — the thing he did was he executed the offense, and he managed it very well,” said head coach Charlie Strong. “We thought we could run the ball better. We weren’t able to run the ball and knock people off the ball. But just each and every week, it’ll be something added for [Swoopes] because now, he’s shown that we all were just wondering how it was going to go, and I think it ended up going very well.”
For Swoopes to break out, his supporting cast will need to step up. In front of him, the sophomore has an inexperienced offensive line, which caused issues for Texas’ running game last Saturday. He’ll also have a patchwork receiving corps Saturday as junior Daje Johnson is still suspended, and senior Jaxon Shipley is questionable.
“We always keep [Swoopes] growing,” Watson said. “He is [ready] — we’ve just got to get the other people around him ready. We’re working with a young offensive line and still putting those guys together, but we’ll keep pushing Ty. We’ll keep pushing the pieces that we have.”
In order for the Longhorns to salvage the season, they will need to be firing on all cylinders against UCLA this weekend. And, for that to happen, Swoopes and the passing attack will have to be the focal point of the offense.