Under former head coach Charlie Strong and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, the Louisville Cardinals offense "didn't want to score anything" last season, according to current Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker.
The nation's No. 2 team in time of possession last season, Louisville used a pretty conservative approach in 2013, especially when considering that the Cardinals featured one of the nation's top quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater.
As a result, Louisville finished No. 95 nationally in passing plays of 40 yards or more, despite having a great deal of success in producing plays between 20 and 39 yards. Overall, the offense managed to finish with an F/+ ranking of No. 23. Breaking that overall offensive ranking down further, the Cardinals were the No. 18 offense nationally in S&P+ and No. 14 in Explosive Drives -- drives that finished with an average of 10 or more yards per play.
Part of the concern is that Louisville ran a play every 29.5 seconds last year. By contrast, Texas ran a play every 23.5 seconds in 2013, allowing the team to run 121 more plays on the season.
Here's what Parker had to say at ACC media days:
At times (last season) did get frustrating. Sometimes I'd catch the ball one time in a game or none at all. But I never really said anything.
They were always putting their foot on the brake. They didn't want to score anything.
Parker, now a senior, was the leading receiver on the team with 55 catches for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those 55 catches were only good enough to tie for 96th in the country in overall receptions.
In games against South Florida and Memphis, the 6'3, 208-pounder caught one pass in each game and registered only two receptions in a game against Temple, a team that featured the No. 116 defense in F/+.
The comments from Parker echo concerns from some analysts who noted the lack of downfield passing in Watson's attack at Louisville, an approach that stands in stark contrast to former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who made it a point of emphasis to try to chop the top off the defense to punish opponents for loading the box to stop the run.
Instead, Watson likes to use the quick passing game to stay ahead of the chains, an attack that relies on wide receivers who can take a short hitch pass and break a tackle to create positive yardage, much as Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley did years ago in Texas offenses helmed by Greg Davis.
Considering how effective starting quarterback David Ash was two years ago with the deep ball and the aptitude that wide receiver Jaxon Shipley showed during the spring game for getting open deep, it would be a shame if the Horns didn't try to take advantage of those abilities this season.
Otherwise, Watson will be relying on that quick game and the types of intermediate routes with reads that characterize his modified West Coast offense -- reads that demand a fairly high level of sophistication from the quarterback and require the quarterback and receiver to be on the same page.
Without explosive plays in the passing game, the Horns will need to create such plays in the running game, a major issue last season, or operate extremely efficiently with the passing game, something that Ash was able to accomplish two years ago with his high completion percentage, but could be a major struggle if he ends up going down with another injury.
Or if the wide receivers don't show the ability to break the first tackle.
Basically, Parker verbalized the fears of some who opposed Watson having play-calling duties at Texas -- think of the Watson offense as something akin to a baseball team made up of hitters who can only hit singles.
The Texas offense will need some extra-base hits this season and now there's further proof that Watson doesn't even try for those extra-base hits.
For a team that doesn't have much margin of error overall, a lack of aggressiveness when possessing the ball could only further diminish that margin for error.