Texas showed glimpses of its up-tempo offense in its spring game. Players and coaches have raved about it since.
But the dress rehearsal is over. The Longhorns are prepared to unveil their new-look, faster-paced offense in Saturday night’s season opener against New Mexico State at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“I’ve been waiting for this offense since I was a freshman,” senior wide receiver Mike Davis said. “My freshman year we had an offense like this, but it wasn’t the same.”
Texas went 5-7 when Davis was a freshman in 2010 and has lost 16 games over the last three years. But the Longhorns are looking to build off the momentum gained from the Alamo Bowl, when quarterback David Ash led a 31-27 comeback victory over Oregon State.
The Longhorns ran 68.5 plays per game last year and are looking to run at least 80 this season. They will face an Aggies team that allowed 39.4 points per game last year, the fifth-most in the country.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re not wearing the guys down in practice to the point where they can’t practice the next day, but at the same time be ready to go 80-plus plays a game,” coach Mack Brown said.
Meanwhile, Texas’ defense is hoping to rebound from a 2012 season that saw it allow more yards than any team in school history. Two of the Longhorns’ best defenders, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (torn pectoral) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (hip), return after missing a combined 17 games last season.
“If we would have had 100 percent effort on every play last year, we would have saved so many touchdowns,” Hicks said. “We didn’t have a good year last year. All the mistakes we made were very small. The small mistakes make a big difference.”
Texas also will have a healthy stable of running backs for the first time since last September, with juniors Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown healing over the off-season. They’ll be backing up sophomore Johnathan Gray, who led the Longhorns with 701 rushing yards last year.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, for the coaches and for us, to give all the guys reps and get the rest that’s well-needed,” said Gray, who played at Aledo High School. “You have fresh legs in the game and each back is healthy. Right now we’re looking pretty good in the running backs room.”
The Longhorns may not have all their skill position players available, though. Junior Jaxon Shipley, who made a team-best 59 catches last season, is questionable with a hip injury, and sophomore wideout Marcus Johnson may not play because of a sprained knee ligament.
“If they’re fine, we’ll be fine,” Brown said of Shipley and Johnson. “If not, we’ll have to play more of the younger [receivers].”
The 1963 Texas team, the first in school history to win a national championship, will be honored before Saturday’s game. David McWilliams and Tommy Ford, the captains on the title-winning squad, will be the Longhorns’ honorary captains while many of their former teammates will be in attendance as well.
Texas will wear the jerseys the 1963 team wore, including helmets with their jersey numbers on them. The last time the Longhorns suited up in these jerseys was for their 49-39 victory over Texas A&M in 2009.
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