DALLAS – The Longhorns are a little late to the party but they will be among the many Big 12 teams using an up-tempo offense this season.
With a new playcaller in Major Applewhite comes a new offensive approach, meaning less time in between snaps and more touches to go around. This bodes well for a Texas team featuring five returning starters on the offensive line, a seasoned quarterback in junior David Ash and plenty of skill position players coming back.
“David is ready to go up tempo now with the offense. He’s in command. He’s very confident. He knows what we want,” head coach Mack Brown said. “We didn’t change the names of the plays. We didn’t change the plays as much when Major took over.”
The Longhorns began implementing the up-tempo offense this spring and Brown said he hopes to have the offense running at an even faster pace by the time they open the season against New Mexico State Aug. 31.
After averaging 68.5 offensive plays per game last season – the fewest in the Big 12 – Brown wants to be running at least 80 plays per game this year. Most teams in the conference, including Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, have been using up-tempo offenses for a while now.
“When you’re happy to win a game 56-50, things have changed,” Brown said, referring to Texas’ victory over Baylor last year. “Do you walk oiut made at your defense or happy with your offense? You walk out happy you won and that’s it.”
Now that Texas has joined the club, the Longhorns defense will see an up-tempo offense every day in practice, instead of just on Saturdays this fall. Brown recalled a moment from Texas’ 45-35 win over Oklahoma in 2008 when he and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp were caught not being able to get playcalls relayed to players in time.
“The ball was being snapped and they’re running 20 yards, and they’re still looking at the wristbands,” Brown said. “Will and I decided to throw out all the calls, play base defense and let’s play because we’re standing around looking.”
The rise of up-tempo offenses in college football has drawn criticism, most notably from Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who are concerned defensive players are at a higher risk of injury. Several Big 12 coaches disagree with their SEC colleagues.
“I’d tell them to get over it because it’s not going to change,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “There’s a lot of teams doing that for a reason… It’s going to the NFL, for crying out loud. Don’t see it changing any time soon. So you’d better learn to adapt to it.”
“It would be a huge mistake for somebody to be convinced that would have in any form or fashion or reason to cause any injury,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said. “There’s not as many collisions compared to putting everybody together tight and ramming everybody up in there and being a pile. So I certainly don’t agree with that. I think it’s great for college football.”