Make no mistake — the Texas Longhorns will run a lot of plays under new head coach Tom Herman if the offense starts clicking anywhere close to how his former attacks with the Houston Cougars used to operate.
However, a Tuesday question at Herman’s media availability provided some deeper insight into how Herman likes to use tempo in practice and in games.
“I think it's always good to practice at that tempo because then when you want to use that tempo in a game it's not foreign and it's not something that's like a fire drill out there, it's actually practiced over and over again,” Herman said. “But we're not ever going to be one of those teams that wants to run 110 plays a game, we're going to be an up-tempo team that varies the tempo to keep the defense off balance.”
Last season, Houston averaged 83.4 plays per game under Herman and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who took over the program for the bowl game after Herman departed for Austin.
The Cougars ranked No. 6 nationally in total plays after ranking No. 4 nationally in total plays during Herman’s first season in Houston, running 78.6 plays per game in 2015.
So the ideal scenario is still to run a lot of plays, but the point the Herman is making is that not all tempo is created equal — there are times when it makes sense to look back to the sideline and bleed the clock after getting to the line of scrimmage. At other points in the game, making a substitution and giving up tempo to get situational packages on the field might be the best way to exploit defenses.
Under Sterlin Gilbert last season, the Longhorns didn’t use motion and generally eschewed down-and-distance packages outside of the little-used 18 Wheeler, which often caused issues in short yardage. The limited playbook often exacerbated those issues.
Under Herman, Texas will use more motion, including jet sweeps, which can also have the benefit of giving quarterbacks a better pre-snap read on the defense.
Those decisions are intended to introduce other ways to stress opponents when the ‘Horns have the ball, with varied tempo another area where Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck will seek advantages or simply give a tired defense time to rest.