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The system offensive coordinator Tim Beck brought with him from Ohio State will look a lot different than the veer and shoot Texas fans saw last year from Sterlin Gilbert. While spring practices introduced the team to the new system, preseason practice is when Beck expects the team to nail down the offense.
“We’re looking for guys at this stage as we’re installing our offense and going through things,” Beck said. “Obviously, there’s more to it because we’re not in just 14 days of spring. We have 28 days before we play our first game. There’s more offense. The installations usually takes a couple days longer. We’re in that phase.”
In this phase, how quickly a quarterback understands the offense often determines not only who will get the majority of the reps, but who will lead the team. At this point, Beck had to give the edge to sophomore Shane Buechele.
“I think he has a better understanding of the offense, certainly,” Beck said. “His leadership has been better. I think part of it is because he knows the offense a little bit more. He’s not centralizing everything. He was really worried about himself and making sure he was doing right. Now that he has a better grasp of the offense, he’s able to do a better job as a leader for us right now.”
Beck would continue to compliment Buechele’s improved ability and leadership throughout his media session. During Tuesday’s open practice, Buechele showed off exactly what many of his coaches have been praising him for this offseason.
On an inside running play, junior Chris Warren had the ball but was wrapped up at the line. Players from both sides of the ball ran to him to try and either continue or end the play, including No. 7 in a black quarterback jersey.
Beck said that type of play is an expectation for competitors on this team.
“We’re competing,” Beck said. “If a guy’s a real competitor, they’re going to dig, scratch, claw, fight and do whatever they’ve got to do to win. That’s still what we’re looking for. We’re looking for the toughest 11 guys and the most competitive 11 guys. I don’t care what they’ve done in the past, where they come from, it doesn’t really matter. The 11 guys who get on the field, they’re going to be ready.”
The other player in the quarterback competition, freshman Sam Ehlinger, has been praised by the coaches this preseason, but they also acknowledge the game is still fast for the big freshman.
“Just experience and just reps,” Beck said. “It’s true. He’s a talented young man and he gets it. He’s able to direct, teach it back to me, talk to me through it. Most of the time he sees things. Sometimes he just doesn’t react to them fast enough just yet. It’ll come.”
Beck went through multiple position groups. He praised the new tight ends, Cade Brewer, Reese Leitao and Kendall Moore, for their early success, calling the position “a pleasant surprise for us.” He discussed the battle between Elijah Rodriguez, Tristan Nickelson and Denzel Okafor for the right tackle spot. He touched on the running backs, complimenting his entire corps.
Even though he had high praise for the rest of his offense, Beck had good reason to be excited about his wide receivers.
“This is a big group,” Beck said. “You have Collin (Johnson), you have LJ (Humphrey), and you have Dorian (Leonard). You have three guys with size. I’ve never had that size. The last place I was at, we didn’t have that kind of size. You have really good speed in the slot, guys like Reggie (Hemphill-Mapps), guys like Armanti (Foreman) and Devin (Duvernay), we’ve got great burners. Jerrod (Heard), him and John Burt, John Burt’s another guy that can run. That combination is rare, to have that kind of size and also that kind of speed.”
Although his offense often has the “pro-spread” tag attached to it, Beck said what really makes his offense “pro style” is the responsibilities of his quarterbacks.
“It’s not just a one word ‘hey, it’s this’ and throw it to the open guy,” Beck said. “We don’t do that. There’s a progression for the quarterbacks. There’s protections he learns and when he has to change the protection, all those types of things. That’s the idea of when we say we’re pro-style, because that’s how pro quarterbacks operate.”
When asked what he preferred his run/pass balance to be, Beck gave the simplest answer he could.
“I want to win,” he said. “I really don’t care what we’ve got to do to win the game.”