Texas football coach Mack Brown seeks to speed up the Longhorns’ pace of play during spring drills, which begin Thursday in Austin.
But only the team’s tempo is expected to change, not its focus on a physical ground game that is expected to incorporate more carries from quarterback David Ash to complement the efforts of running backs Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron.
The Longhorns, who will be the first Big 12 team to open spring drills, will cap their spring session with an Orange-White game on March 30 in Austin (6:30 p.m., Longhorn Network).
“We want to run a similar offense, but do it from no huddle and try to keep the same personnel on the field,” said Brown, whose team is coming off a 9-4 season. “We changed so much personnel over the last couple of years that we felt like it gave defenses a chance to match with us in packages. So we’re trying to get a group on the field and keep them on the field and run a lot of different plays and formations from the same personnel so the defense cannot rest.”
Ideally, Brown said the Longhorns would like to snap the ball every 15 to 18 seconds, which was not possible the past two seasons under former offensive play-caller Bryan Harsin, now the head football coach at Arkansas State. Harsin used multiple personnel packages tailored to the strengths of individual players, a practice Brown will alter under offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who made his debut as the team’s play-caller during Texas’ 31-27 victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.
In terms of tempo, Brown said the Longhorns seek to emulate what Oregon has done in recent seasons while playing in four consecutive BCS bowl games under former coach Chip Kelly.
“We’re not going to be the option-type team like Oregon, but we’re going to run their tempo,” Brown said. “You still want to be physical. But we’re going to do it without huddling and try to do it with the same personnel.”
Ash, a junior and third-year starter, returns to lead a team that will be one of the more experienced squads in the Big 12 after two consecutive seasons in which Texas has played a large number of freshmen. But Brown stressed there will be in-house competition at all positions.
“All of our jobs are always open,” Brown said. “Very honestly, we’re going to play the best players.”
Below is a look at the spring football dates for all Big 12 schools:
Big 12 spring football dates
Baylor: March 1 start, spring game April 6
Iowa State: March 26 start, spring game April 20
Kansas: March 5 start, spring game April 13
Kansas State: April 3 start, spring game April 27
Oklahoma: March 6 start, spring game April 13
Oklahoma State: March 11 start, spring game April 20
TCU: March 1 start, spring game TBA
Texas: Thursday start, spring game March 30
Texas Tech: March 24 start, spring game April 20
West Virginia: March 10 start, spring game April 20
_ Jimmy Burch