With Charlie Strong at the helm, folks should expect Texas to be a more disciplined, tougher and focused football team, but no one should be looking to the offensive stat sheet to measure the Longhorns' improvement.
Offensive coordinators Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline are going to make running the ball a priority, but that will be continuing the push Mack Brown's staff started in 2011.
The Longhorns have not had a 1,000-yard running back since Jamaal Charles ran for 1,619 yards in 2007. However, following the abysmal 2010 season, Brown's team made a conscious effort to create success with its ground attack. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray have been integral in the ground attack Texas has cultivated, and now both athletes will be at Strong's disposal for the 2014 season.
Texas being built to run, prior to Strong's arrival, is a plus for the new head coach, as the team faces quarterback uncertainty. There is no Teddy Bridgewater to lead the way for the Longhorns and, as Strong showed in year one at Louisville, not having a marquee quarterback means a heavier reliance on the run game.
|Louisville Offensive Production|
Louisville's only 2,000-yard team rushing season under Strong came on the lone Bridgewater-less campaign, 2010. In fact, the season with Abe Froman and Justin Burke at the helm was the Cardinals' only year where the run pass production was truly balanced. From 2011 to 2013, Watson's offense never saw more than 36 percent of its yardage come through the ground game.
Meanwhile, Texas, during the same 2010-2013 time period, never dipped below 39 percent of its production coming on the ground. The most recent season saw the Longhorns hit the 48 percent mark, while 2011 boasted the highest totals, pushing to 52 percent of all offensive production coming on the ground.
|Texas Offensive Production|
With Gray and Brown back in the fold, the Longhorns have two backs capable of 1,000-yard rushing efforts. Gray was tracking to be a 1,000-yard back prior to being sidelined with an Achilles injury. Brown picked up the slack for the injured Gray, including three 100-yard rushing efforts to finish the season, pushing his total to 904 yards on the year.
Strong will have to ride those backs to squeeze every yard out of them during the 2014 campaign because the 'Horns are still without an answer at quarterback. David Ash still has to prove he can be an every-game player following his concussion issues. Tyrone Swoopes has yet to make an impact, and Max Wittek, the USC transfer, is still deciding on where to attend school this coming fall.
The Texas run game, under Charlie Strong, has to be the focal point for a team still searching for a signal-caller. With a healthy Gray and Brown, production should go up, but that is less about Strong's influence and more about the new coach continuing the progression of the previous regime.