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Could Shawn Watson open up the Texas offense?

It may not be so conservative after all.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Dink. Dunk. Move the chains.

Even with one of the top quarterbacks in college football last season, the Louisville Cardinals played a slow-moving, conservative offense that failed to produce big plays.

In fact, leading receiver Devante Parker said recently that former Louisville head coach Charlie Strong and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson "didn't want to score anything" last year, a statement that seems a bit odd considering that the Cardinals averaged 35.2 points per game, which ranked No. 25 nationally.

Despite catching 55 passes and racking up 855 yards, Parker said that the season was "frustrating" for him at times because the coaches "were always putting their foot on the brake."

Indeed, the Cardinals offense was good at creating plays between 20 and 39 yards, but ranked No. 95 in the country in plays of 40 yards or more. And the pace was plodding, as Louisville ran a play every 30 seconds, which helped the team finish No. 2 nationally in time of possession.

So the operative question with the season opener for the Texas Longhorns just over two weeks away is whether Strong and Watson will use the same type of offense in Austin this fall.

With starting quarterback David Ash out for the Orange-White game, it was difficult to get a sense of what the offense will look like with him at the helm, but there were several attempts downfield by sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, including a 44-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley and two other passes targeting Shipley that would have gone for touchdowns but were incomplete.

And Longhorn Scott had some positive news from Sunday's open practice, too:

This offense is going to be more open than I originally thought.  Watson ran a significant amount of no-huddle in practice today. The zone read as well as run pass reads were all over practice today with a large amount of shotgun and pistol alignments.  The offensive playbook seems extensive but there is certainly a subset that lends itself to spread aggression if our QBs are up for it.

The Horns aren't likely to use much zone option with Ash at quarterback because of his injury issues, but the combination of tempo, run-pass reads, and some aggressiveness are all positive signs for those hoping for a wide-open offense.

Run-pass reads were a part of the offense last season, but the lack of arm strength from departed quarterback Case McCoy made it difficult to get the timing right on hitch reads. This season, the expertise of offensive coordinator Joe Wickline should benefit the team, as Oklahoma State made extensive use of those plays in recent seasons, notably with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon several years ago.

Former play caller Major Applewhite, on the other hand, was attempting to install them without much, if any, prior experience with them.

Ash was fantastic throwing the deep ball in 2012, a skill that he continued to show in the Kansas State game with his bomb to wide receiver Kendall Sanders, so dropping that tool from his arsenal wouldn't make much sense.

And Strong indicated during his introductory press conference that he has an affinity for offenses that look quite different from what he ran at Louisville.

"You want an up-tempo offense," he said back in January. "The offense is very aggressive. They like to score points and you'd like to see it wide open."

Parker might express some skepticism about those points, but it seems increasingly possible that Texas could run an offense like that this offense.

Scipio Tex's look at the career of Watson also provides reason for optimism -- he has run a variety of offenses in his career and has shown the capability of adjusting them to his personnel, as he did at Nebraska for Taylor Martinez when the offense took a sharp change in direction after featuring pocket passers during the previous seasons.

And the NFL Draft process, as Scipio Tex points out, provides an interesting dimension through which to view the career of Teddy Bridgewater. Once seen as a possible No. 1 pick, Bridgewater fell after a poor Pro Day performance exposed some of his weaknesses that didn't show up on film because Watson designed the offense to minimize his weaknesses and showcase his strengths.

Here's the overview on Watson from that piece:

What's not particularly debatable is that Watson has a proven track record of maximizing quarterbacks in a variety of offenses. Further, despite frequent claims to the contrary, Watson's philosophical flexibility is a strength - he has coached wide open passing offenses, traditional NFL West Coast, power running/play action teams, a midline option running offense and hybrids of many of the aforementioned.  The notion that he is married to a single offensive approach doesn't hold up to scrutiny.  He has also been consistently bold in his personnel selections - demonstrating a willingness to seek long-term upside with young, raw quarterbacks even at the expense of seniority, convention and convenience.  That's a major positive - a trait that should be valued in any coach.

Perhaps the worst-case scenarios for the offense during the dog days of summer will turn into best-case scenarios once North Texas rolls through in a matter of days.

Fall camp is a time for optimism, is it not?

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