Building out an elite offense is often a pretty misunderstood exercise. On defense you don’t really get to pick where the ball is going save for by having truly transcendent defenders that the offense has to avoid or else by dedicating numbers and leverage to take something away. The offense can take a good deal more initiative in determining where the focal point of a given play will be.
Because of that, an offense can be built more heavily around role players provided what the role players are effective at executing includes the necessary counters to opposing strategies. For instance, in the 2018 Texas passing attack the TE and the Z receiver needed to be capable of beating zero coverage if teams were going to move everyone over to carefully bracket Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson. If they could clear that fairly low hurdle then all was good.
Another theme of 2018 was Texas (and Iowa State) learning that having a physical, run-centric approach to offense is great but it’s even better if it’s primarily geared towards helping the passing game. That’s the best way to keep up with the Oklahoma’s and other Air Raid teams of the Big 12, you have to be able to score.
Tom Herman has also revealed an additional preference for style beyond having a physical, running QB that can make the situational run game a brutal weapon rather than a problem to mitigate. In particular, Herman likes to attack opponents mentally with hybrid personnel that can allow the offense to thwart the rules of modern, position-based defense. Defenses today are designed to try and match routes from zone and pick players for each position that can match the types of athletes likely to run routes into their respective zone. Attacking that style on offense is all about hybrids, matchup weapons, and versatility. While you worry about the exact projection and fit of various recruits on either side of the ball per 247’s nebulous positional designations the game is moving beyond that paradigm.
Finally, there’s the OL which still sets the floor for an offense. Texas finally fielded a unit that allowed them to explore their ceiling in 2018 but this is an area that has confounded the program for as long as I’ve followed Longhorn football. The gap in achievement between Texas and Oklahoma this century is most easily illustrated by looking at the differences in the OL. Championship programs are often praised for the famous QBs and skill players that roll through but then you look deeper and you find a parade of All-Conference and NFL linemen that consistently fill out their depth charts.
Here’s my favorite Texas recruits from NSD1 in terms of accumulating the sort of pieces that can be used to build a modern offense.