Texas Longhorns coaches envision committee approach to offense

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Texas offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, also the team’s offensive line coach, holds the title of play-caller for the Longhorns. But he said input for game plans, as well as individual plays, will be subject to group input.

At this point, Wickline and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson remain in discussions with head football coach Charlie Strong about the direction the team’s offense will take in 2014.

Members of the first-year staff want to watch returning players in action for a few days after spring drills open March 18 before deciding where to focus the attack. Although he will call plays from the sideline, Wickline said a group mindset will prevail.

“It will be by committee, basically,” Wickline said Wednesday. “Somebody’s going to kind of oversee the running game. Somebody’s going to oversee the passing game. Somebody’s going to oversee situations. But, ultimately, we’re all responsible. And we’re going to do it by committee is how it’s going to work.”

Wickline and Watson envision running a balanced attack built around the talents of the team’s two returning quarterbacks: David Ash, a junior who missed most of last season with concussion-related issues, and sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who threw sparingly as a backup to Case McCoy during last year’s 8-5 campaign.

Watson said the quarterbacks will not take part in contact drills this spring because he does not want to risk injury and take away from their learning curves. Watson said he has studied both players on tape but added, “I don’t know if I have a true evaluation of Tyrone because of the way he was used.”

Asked what he looks for in a quarterback, Watson said: “A passer who is athletic.” But intangibles, in his mind, outweigh the physical skills.

“When I train a quarterback, I approach it like I’m trying to hire an assistant coach,” Watson said. “No matter what system you run, that’s what he is. He has the game in his hands. So I’d just tell those guys, ‘There’s a lot to learn this spring. So come hungry and humble and have high expectations.’ Eventually, we’ll get them there.”

Texas Tech gets rolling into spring

Texas Tech began spring football drills Wednesday with 73 returning lettermen from last year’s 8-5 team taking part in the Red Raiders’ first of 15 workouts.

Among the newcomers this spring will be three junior-college signees who enrolled in January: receiver Devin Lauderdale, defensive lineman Keland McElrath and safety Josh Keys.

The Red Raiders return starting quarterback Davis Webb, who capped his freshman season by leading the team to a 37-23 upset of No. 14 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Webb is one of eight retuning starters on an offense that thrived under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury. The defense also welcomes back eight returning starters.

Tech will hold three open practices for fans this spring: March 29 in Midland, April 4 in Lubbock and April 12 for the spring game in Jones AT&T Stadium. The remaining practices will be closed to fans and media.

One of the unanswered questions heading into spring drills involves the identity of Webb’s backup. Webb is the only returnee among three quarterbacks who took snaps during games last season. The other two have transferred or announced plans to do so. Baker Mayfield has enrolled at Oklahoma, and Michael Brewer announced last week that he will transfer to Virginia Tech after completing his undergraduate degree in May.

Tech’s spring game will kick off at 11 a.m. April 12 and will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest. There will be no admission charge for the spring game and fans can take part in a postgame autograph session on the field after the contest.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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