clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

TWR: Texas offense and special teams fail in Fort Worth

New, 10 comments

The Weekend Review takes on the other two phases that played poorly against the Horned Frogs.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Was a bit of a busy weekend, so thank you for bearing with me. Below are my thoughts on the offense and special teams after Saturday's Texas Longhorns loss to the TCU Horned Frogs.

Offense

- From the very beginning of the game, the offense just seemed off. And it seemed different. Jay Norvell was trying to focus on getting the ball to the sidelines too much. And it made the beginning of the game easier than it should have been for the TCU defense.

- Once senior wide receiver Daje Johnson went out (who has become a safety blanket and go-to type player this season) it definitely felt like Norvell wasn't sure who to turn to or which package of plays to switch over to until it was already too late.

- Texas really needs a healthy Daje Johnson on offense and special teams.

- Sophomore D'Onta Foreman is the best running back on this team. Yes, Jonathan Gray is considered a leader as an upperclassman. And yes he's probably still the better receiver out of the backfield (though that margin has gotten much smaller). But D'Onta Foreman should be the starter and get the majority of the carries moving forward.

- It appears Norvell believes any running play that requires a pulling guard will be run to the left. It felt like any time Texas ran the counter out of shotgun, it was being run to the left. So let this sink in, Texas is running to the side of the line where there's a true freshman anchoring the left tackle position. And the pulling guard running left is a true freshman. If that's not even more evidence of the state that this offensive line is in, then I don't know what else to tell you.

- Freshman wide receiver John Burt needs the football more. And yes I know he couldn't haul in a couple of them recently. But he has a real chance to make a play on any ball thrown his way. And he always seems to make at least one big catch each game.

- I want to continue to root for senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson because of the big plays he's made in the past for Texas and because he usually seems to play hard with or without the ball. But in this offense, there aren't a lot of passes to go around as is. He has to catch the ones that come his way.

- The word "limited" is one I can't shake when thinking about this Texas offense. And that's not to say the Longhorns are not capable of scoring points. But the variety of ways Texas can move the ball and score points is extremely limited at the moment.

- We were reminded how small the playbook is for Texas and Jerrod Heard on Saturday. And only having 3-4 weeks, instead of an entire offseason, to implement a new offense with a new starting quarterback and a new play-caller is one big reason why Texas enters games limited on offense. It's not an excuse but a reality.

*****

The offense really is stuck between a rock and a hard place when teams can corral redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard. On one hand, you have a young quarterback in the backfield. And this quarterback is not making a lot of pre-snap reads and adjustments right now. Then, once the ball is snapped, he doesn't always give plays long enough to develop. And he also isn't a quarterback that is going to be consistently scanning through his progressions or looking to make a huge variety of passes. That's just not part of who he is at the moment.

On the other hand, you have an offensive line that often can't block long enough for certain plays to develop. And at this point, due to the offensive line woes, it often seems as if Heard is expecting pressure on just about every play when he's asked to drop back into the pocket. It's as if he's already decided that if his first read isn't open, he's going to have to bail on the play.

Ironically, Heard bailing on plays to pick up yards with his feet has been when the Longhorn offense has been at its best. But defenses are going to continue to force Heard to beat them from the pocket and behind the line of scrimmage by blitzing and consistently putting a spy on him.

To counter that, Norvell has to continue to find ways to get the ball into the hands of other playmakers. Once Texas highlights other players, it will force defenses to shift more of their focus away from Heard. And highlighting other Texas players starts with getting the ball to D'Onta Foreman, John Burt, and a healthy Daje Johnson.

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for this offense. But there's no question the offense should have performed better against a TCU defense that wasn't anywhere close to its full-strength.

*****

Special Teams

The issues on this side of the ball, though very frustrating, are at least less murky. Simply put, it comes down to kicker Nick Rose and punter Michael Dickson not executing on kicks and punts.

And yes, deep-snapper Kyle Ashby didn't help the cause by sailing the first punt over Dickson's head. But he hasn't been consistently making mistakes like Rose and Dickson have.

If this were the NFL, a team would simply cut bait with the punter and/or kicker and go sign someone else. But Texas does not have that option. So instead, the Longhorns appear to be sticking with the freshman punter they recruited from Australia before this season.

And as of today, Coach Strong announced the kicking job is open for competition, which likely means senior Nick Jordan will get a fair shot at the kicking duties moving forward. But aside from that, Texas seemingly doesn't really have many other suitable options besides reps, reps and more reps for Rose, Dickson and Jordan if he wins the job.

*****

What we saw Saturday was painful. It was a reminder to us all that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for the Longhorns. But that work also falls on the coaches. Without strong leadership from the upperclassmen, the coaches need to be the leaders when games begin to get ugly. They have to be the ones to make sure their players are at least in the right position to have an opportunity to try and make a play. And the coaches have to make sure this team sticks together like a team. Because right now, it seems like there are the freshmen and then there's a lot of individuals. And a team divided is a team that will continue to beat itself before ever stepping onto the field.