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Texas should use QB Tyrone Swoopes in the 18 Wheeler package again in 2016

The senior can help the team this year. He deserves the chance.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

When asked about his offensive philosophy, Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong consistently cites the need to be physical and run the ball successfully. And those are the exact reasons why new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert should take a page out of Jay Norvell’s playbook and use senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in the 18 Wheeler package once again in 2016.

The Longhorns didn’t showcase the package in the Orange and White game and when Strong fielded a question about it on Wednesday, he was relatively non-committal.

“You have so much you can do now,” he said. “You still have that package. Those quarterbacks can all do different things. If you want a specialty package for one of them, you can always get that worked out. I think Sterlin is smart enough to do that.”

Ostensibly, there’s still an ongoing quarterback competition, so it’s not out of the question that Swoopes could still win the starting job, at which point those runs would likely become a part of the offense.

But freshman quarterback Shane Buechele is the starter in all but name and should officially win the job during fall camp, even though Strong pointedly mentioned that Jerrod Heard, Swoopes, and Buechele are all “doing a good job” when asked about Buechele’s leadership ability.

So the calculation will then be whether it’s worth letting the 6’4, 254-pounder languish on the sidelines and wait for a potential injury to see the field — last year, Swoopes provided a huge boost to a sputtering offense with his physical running style and a level of enthusiasm that never surfaced when he was a starter.

"You watch him at the end of that game and him running behind his pads and he's just so strong and so physical," Strong said last fall after the Kansas State game. "Only thing we needed was a lead blocker, which we had."

Now-departed fullback Alex De La Torre shined in that package last season and his absence will force another player to step up in that role, so the effectiveness in that area could decrease if someone like junior H-back Andrew Beck can’t improve at acquiring targets and opening up running lanes.

Even with that caveat, the results last season were remarkable and look largely replicable with the return of so many offensive lineman and tight end Caleb Bluiett.

After scoring a touchdown and throwing for a touchdown against Oklahoma, Norvell tweaked the 18 Wheeler package right before Kansas State game and Swoopes responded, scoring three touchdowns and gaining 50 yards on seven carries.

Two weeks later, his performance against Kansas was even more impressive — he scored touchdowns on all four carries in picking up 59 yards.

For the season, he finished with 451 yards and 12 touchdowns, only one fewer than the entire Longhorns running back corps combined.

Strong believes that Gilbert is smart enough to install the package if necessary and the fact that Texas was able to transition the 18 Wheeler from a short-yardage look to something the ‘Horns could use anywhere on the field suggests that Gilbert wouldn’t have to devote a lot of practice time to it to achieve effectiveness.

It would also provide that crucial 11-on-11 advantage gained by using a running quarterback while keeping the relatively slight Buechele from taking too many hits.

If there is one potential disadvantage to using the package, it’s that it would require significant substitutions that would break up the tempo Gilbert likes to use to tire defenses.

That should be a relatively small impediment as long as the staff wants to make a commitment to ensuring that the running game utilizes every available option to help the team win.

Why should the Longhorns only have two Smash Brothers instead of three?