Stat guy: Longhorn football ends spring practice with a tweaked offense, as search for impact players continues

Drew Lieberman

Texas’ offensive struggles and inconsistent ability to move the chains played a pivotal role in the team’s loss of seven of its last 12 games in 2014 — but with the faster tempo the team demonstrated at the recent Orange-White scrimmage, players may gain more yards in the season to come.

In the last 12 games of last season, the Longhorns gained just 4,385 yards on 892 plays from scrimmage and averaged less than five yards per play for the first time since 1991, ranking 110th in the country and next to last in the conference at 4.92 yards per play. 

With so little production per play, the Longhorns finished the year averaging 337 yards of total offense per game, the team’s second-lowest mark in the past 30 seasons. Texas clearly needed to mix up its offensive philosophy for the upcoming season to be a success. One way the Longhorns will be able to be more successful is to make the offensive pace more up-tempo.

Both offenses in the recent Orange-White scrimmage did this, finishing the opening half with more than 40 plays each, putting them on pace to shatter the 68.6 plays the team ran per game in 2014. But Texas failed to display any possible game-breakers on its offense, one that ranked ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 in producing plays from scrimmage of 10 yards or greater with 165 last fall.

Quarterbacks junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard were unable to distinguish themselves from each other. Each signal caller led his squad on 65-yard opening drives capped by individual touchdown runs inside the redzone. Then both struggled for the rest of the first half, as Swoopes’ squad produced 4.19 yards per play, while the Heard-led offense produced just 3.72 yards per play in that the span.

Sophomore running back D’Onta Foreman made an impact with 13 touches for 83 yards, including a 28-yard carry — Texas’ longest play of the afternoon — and a touchdown plunge from a yard out. Foreman could excel as Texas’ short-yardage back, but senior running back Johnathan Gray will likely take the bulk of the team’s carries.

There are also plenty of questions surrounding the wide receiver position, particularly replacing John Harris, who became the sixth player in school history to go over the 1,000-yard receiving plateau.

With senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson out with a knee injury, all eyes were on a pair of sophomores and an often-troubled senior.

Sophomores Dorian Leonard and Armanti Foreman, potential impact players before the game, were each unable to haul in would-be touchdown passes.

Many hoped senior Daje Johnson would return to his freshman and sophomore form, when he combined for 1,330 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. However, Johnson struggled throughout the afternoon, muffing a punt and losing another fumble, while finishing with four receptions for 43 yards.

The faster tempo should help the offense gain more yards than 2014. Even so, without a go-to playmaker, the Longhorns will likely continue struggling to produce explosive plays.