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The Tyrone Swoopes era begins?
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How the Texas Longhorns offense will change with Tyrone Swoopes at QB
Hey, another identity change!
Just when it appeared as if the Texas Longhorns were on their way to establishing a coherent offensive identity under new play caller Shawn Watson, the recurring concussion symptoms of starter David Ash will once again force a change in plans for the second straight year with sophomore Tyrone Swoopes moving into the starting role.
Against the North Texas Mean Green, the Horns used a variety of two-tight end formations and, assuming that the touchdown run by Ash on 4th and goal was a broken play, didn't call a single quarterback run on the evening.
The best asset that Swoopes possesses at this point is his running ability -- combining his good speed with his 6'4, 243-pound frame produces a player who can be tough to bring down in the open field.
So while the change in identity won't be wholesale, as the focus will still remain on the running game, the way that Texas runs the football will definitely change, with more zone read, Power read, and quarterback draws.
Continuing in that line of thinking, the Horns will probably spend less time under center with Swoopes since drop-back passing isn't his strength and more time in the shotgun and in the Pistol, formations that allow for some of those quarterback runs like the variations of the zone read.
The bigger question is whether the personnel groupings will change as well.
Some schools like to use quarterback runs from the Diamond formation with two blockers since it doesn't announce a strong side and, therefore, the likely direction of the play, the Horns didn't use that formation in the spring game or against North Texas.
But not many offenses choose to use the quarterback run game from personnel groupings that include multiple tight ends -- part of the point of using the quarterback as a runner is to even up the numbers, but it's also to get the quarterback into space and there isn't nearly as much of it around the line of scrimmage when there are only two wide receivers on the field.
The expectation here, then, is that Texas takes one of the tight ends off the field in favor of an extra wide receiver to create that space.
What about play calling?
There was plenty of play-action passing on Saturday, including from the bunch formation dragging a wide receiver behind the line of scrimmage and into the opposite flat, but again, that reduces the amount of space for Swoopes, so there will probably be more bootlegs and waggles in the playbook against BYU.
Recall that Swoopes never really got into a rhythm in the spring game until he got out of the pocket to deliver an on-target pass on the run to tight end Geoff Swaim -- being able to move around seems to help him get into the game, which wasn't happening when he was under constant pressure from a Texas defense that blitzed early and often in spring-ending scrimmage.
The deep ball will remain a part of the offense. Watson showed that he was willing to let Ash get vertical in the passing game, even in situations where some coaches might have gone more conservative like before the half or when pinned against their own goal line.
The arm strength of Swoopes is one of his better attributes at this time and though he's as inconsistent there with his accuracy as he is in every other part of the field, his throw to Mike Davis against Oregon that should have been caught and his long touchdown pass to Jaxon Shipley in the spring game have already provided some evidence of his upside there.
Unfortunately for the Horns, the big loss other than in accuracy will be the ability of Swoopes to make changes at the line of scrimmage. From all the reports from the coaches during fall camp, the experience and maturity of Ash allowed him to make calls and checks at the line of scrimmage to get the Horns into the right play, but Swoopes will probably not have that freedom -- play caller Shawn Watson will have to make the right call from the booth.
And expect the offense to continue working at a slow pace to shorten the game and reduce the opportunities for mistakes by Swoopes, who will need to avoid turnovers to allow Texas a chance to win games.
Watson may become more stubborn trying to run the football, but he's also likely going to be facing stacked boxes, putting an onus on the offensive line to run-block well in difficult situations and on Swoopes to take advantage of one-on-one coverage, especially to emerging senior wide receiver John Harris, who was winning those battles against North Texas.
But does Swoopes have the accuracy to put balls into those small windows?
His body of work up to his point suggests that he does not, so there may be a short leash for Swoopes with true freshman Jerrod Heard waiting in the wings.
Head coach Charlie Strong summed up the current situation in his press conference on Monday.
"Adversity has hit," said Strong. "Now the challenge of this football team is how we bounce back and what we're all about."
And, more specifically, what Tyrone Swoopes is all about.