Longhorns Expanding Their Offense

Longhorns Expanding Their Offense

All systems are blinking green for the Texas Longhorns as they prepare to expand the playbook in Steve Sarkisian’s third year.  Most of the pieces return on offense to open things up. The Spring has been an opportunity to tinker with the Longhorns expanding their offense.

Spring football wraps up with the annual Orange-White Game on April 15.

Sarkisian sits in charge of a program that’s chock full of talent, thanks to the Longhorns’ proficiency at recruiting.  Now that the roster is his, he says he has the confidence to reach into his bag of tricks.  His confidence stems from watching his players grow up.

“I don’t think we have one-dimensional players,” Sarkisian said.  “Hopefully we can be creative enough offensively to do things that can put our players in position to have success, and that the quarterbacks can really understand schematically what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The Quarterback

Quinn Ewers appears to have solidified his position at quarterback.  With Ewers having the keys to the offense, Sarkisian sounds sure of his sophomore’s ability to handle the responsibility.  Even better, the young quarterback is blossoming into a leader.

“I think Quinn has done a nice job and is getting more and more comfortable in that role,” Sarkisian said.

Ewers’ teammates and coaches have seen him step up his game in response to a springtime challenge from freshman Arch Manning.

“I think getting Arch definitely made Quinn step up his game for sure,” tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders said.  “You can just tell Quinn is in a different mode this year, the way he carries himself, the way he comes to the facility.  He’s starting to be more of a leader.  I’m loving the way he’s stepping up.”

Running Backs

Behind an offensive line that returns intact, Texas sports a stable of young running backs to go along with veterans Jonathon Brooks and Keilan Robinson.  With those two recovering from injuries, a trifecta of backs has emerged in the form of Jaydon Blue, Savion Red, and C.J. Baxter.

Sarkisian has high praise for Blue, who skipped his senior season of high school football and saw limited duty as a freshman last year.  Bigger and more physical than a year ago, Blue has spent spring practice taking first-team reps.  Maturity has been Blue’s greatest area of progress during his rise through the depth chart.

“Every run is not gonna be beautifully blocked with a huge hole and it’s a gain of 50 yards,” Sarkisian said.  “Sometimes you gotta go get a dirty three or four yards and get back to the huddle and try to go do it again.”

Red is a converted wide receiver the Longhorns have been running between the tackles this Spring.  Change is nothing new to Red, who came to Texas last year as a wildcat quarterback.  As a ballcarrier, Red “shows physicality that is really encouraging,” the coach said.

True freshman Baxter shook off early growing pains and has improved over time.  Making the jump from high school to college takes place for many during spring practice.  A recent scrimmage was symbolic of his time at camp.  “He kind of struggled early on, but then settled in and made some plays as the scrimmage went on,” said Sarkisian.

Offensive Line

The Longhorns are young at offensive line.  Veteran leadership comes from senior tackle Christian Jones and junior center Jake Majors.

“Clearly we’re relatively young at that position, and it’s hard to say that when you’re returning five starters,” Sarkisian said.  “That youth is good because I think we’ve got a hungry group that is competitive, and we’re able to go three deep and feel very comfortable doing that.”

Continuity along the offensive line allows Sarkisian to continue tinkering.  The familiarity of the players with his system enabled his staff to stretch the field.

“They’re going into year three, with us from the beginning,” Sarkisian said.  “They’re very comfortable with the things that they know are meaningful to us, that are important to us, as a staff.”


Senior wide receiver Jordan Whittington bypassed a chance to play in the NFL to come back for another year at Texas.  He said he came back to school to win a Big 12 Championship.  Admittedly soft-spoken, he’s ready to provide the senior leadership Sarkisian is looking for on his young squad.

“It feels like high school all over again,” Whittington said, “where you go from, you know, being somebody down here to being put in a role where you actually have to be vocal.”

Whittington listed freshmen Johntay Cook and DeAndre Moore as two early enrollees that have impressed at spring camp.  Add to that Xavier Worthy, tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders and Georgia transfer AD Mitchell, and the Longhorns’ receivers’ room looks packed.  Spring has been dedicated to getting the quarterbacks and receivers on the same page.

“We’re trying to learn them,” Sarkisian said.  “We’re trying to learn the quarterbacks, learn the receivers, they’re learning the system, they’re learning each other.  But I do think they are naturally progressing the right way and feel very comfortable with them.”

The Big Picture

Spring can make things look bigger than they are.  Texas has a Summer conditioning program before fall practice begins.  The added depth gives the versatility to try new things.  “What is our strength?  Who are we as a team?  Where are we best and then where can we be better by personnel groupings?” Sarkisian said.

“That’s the beauty of our roster right now,” he added.  “I think we’re very flexible, and again I think we’ve got the depth at receiver, I think we’ve got the depth at running back, I think we’re talented at tight end, and I think we’ve got really versatile players.”

Longhorns Expanding Their Offense

Photo courtesy:  Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK