March 8, 2011

Don't look for a QB to emerge any time soon

Bryan Harsin would love to know who his quarterback is going to be at Texas.

But he may not know until a week before the Sept. 3 opener against Rice.

Right now, it's about installing an offense. Stressing fundamentals. Seeing who grasps what he's teaching. Looking for the four things he stresses most in a successful signal caller - toughness, preparation, decision-making and accuracy. And then looking to add more to his QB's plate. Whenever that QB is ready.

"I've been through this situation before," Harsin said Tuesday. "We've obviously got to have that point before the first game. And that can be a week, 10 days or two weeks. But we've got to give these guys an opportunity to compete through spring; learn what we're trying to get done; go and perfect it during the summer.

"Come back in fall camp and let us tweak it and tighten it up a little bit more, and then let them go play. And then put them in scenarios to go, 'OK, this is what the situation is. We've got to see you guys execute, and we've got to make our decision based off of this.' So we have to give them a chance to do that."

For now, Harsin watches his quarterbacks work. He never had a quarterback enroll early at Boise State while he was the offensive coordinator like David Ash did in January.

"I like David. He has done a nice job," Harsin said. "David is a senior in high school right now. He has come in with a great attitude. He comes into meetings prepared, and he has done a nice job out there on the field.

"He is trying really hard with some of the new things we're putting out there - some of the mechanics we've talked about he has really caught on [to]. He is a quick learner. He has a great attitude. I've been real pleased with him."

In talking to Tray Allen on Tuesday, Allen called the offense "complicated." I asked Harsin Tuesday if his system is quarterback friendly.

"I hope it is quarterback-friendly," Harsin said. "We want to put everybody out there on the field in a situation to be successful, but we have got to start with the quarterback. And that is really our number one thought.

"From that point, we also want to push that quarterback a little bit, so we can do more. When we get to that point, we'll start doing that. When they get a handle and get comfortable with a system, when they start seeing things before you tell them to see it, then you're getting to the next step and you can add more to what their package is going to be."

I asked co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite if Garrett Gilbert is ahead of the other quarterbacks and if he's taking more of a leadership role than he did last year.

"I've always felt like a quarterback with snaps under his belt is going to be more confident than a quarterback who doesn't," Applewhite said. "Garrett has done a great job of being more confident out there on the field and just being comfortable.

"The other quarterbacks have done a great job as well, but you can get a sense of who has taken snaps before in a live situation."
Leadership is a huge concern on offense. And Applewhite summed up the situation succinctly.

"The leadership thing is so funny because I don't think you can be a leader unless you're a good player. It's hard to tell someone what to do unless you can do it yourself. So you've got to play well. It's also hard to tell someone what to do when you don't work hard. So you've got to be a hard worker that everyone recognizes and respects. You've got to do things right off the field. And then you've got to play well. Those are your leaders.

"What we're talking about right now are the behaviors of a good football team. Accountability, self-discipline, work ethic, unity, enthusiasm. Are you exhibiting those qualities? If you are, you're becoming a leader."

Applewhite said Wednesday will be a good example of how leadership is emerging on the team. Wednesday is an off day for the players. But Applewhite said the "player-driven" players will show up anyway to watch film, ask questions and keep working.

"We ask the players, 'Are you player-driven or coach-driven?'" Applewhite said. "Do you come by and study on your own? Those are the things we talk about when we talk about building this brick by brick."

The scrimmage capping the first half of spring practice happens on Thursday. After that, Applewhite said coaches might start to identify some roles in the offense.

"But we've still got all of April and the summer to determine which players should be in which package," said Applewhite, adding that D.J. Monroe is working exclusively at running back (and not at receiver).

Perhaps the biggest difference that will be noticeable to the fans who come out to the spring game on April 3 will be all the motion and shifting of the offense before the snap. (Remember how Applewhite said at his introductory press conference that Texas used 6 formations against Wyoming, and Boise State used 26 formations last season.)

"That's our job is to have some deception in what we're doing, and not necessarily tell the defense, 'This is what we're doing, so be ready for it.' We've got to toe the line between is it too much or too little. But we're not going to line up and tell you what we're doing every time. We are going to try to hide it as best we can."


Tray Allen broke his left foot last year when he tripped over a weight in the weight room.

"I picked up some dumb bells, and I wasn't paying attention. There was a dumb bell on the ground and I turned and caught the side of my foot on the dumb bell and broke my fifth metatarsal," Allen said.

Allen said he's still timid about the injury, but he's trying not to be.

"The new offense is really complicated, so I can't be thinking about my foot and be thinking about which way to go on zone or what pass play we're running," Allen said. "After practice, I get ice on it. I get my treatment. I limit my steps. So I'm not out on the weekend playing basketball or anything."

Allen said the toughest transition back to football is his technique.

"The last time I played football was the spring of last year," he said. "And so I'm trying to perfect my technique and get back in the weight room and do squats and power cleans and learn the lingo with everyone. And help guys like Fozzy hit the hole. Is he going to be tight off my right hip or left hip and get my footwork down."

Allen said the best way to describe new offensive line coach Stacy Searels is "intense."

I asked Allen what the difference is between Searels and former Texas O-line coach Mac McWhorter.

"They're both from Georgia. They're both really intense coaches. They both want perfection. There's just a little age difference between them," Allen said.

"(Coach Searles) makes me race him to the next drill. That is the coolest thing to me. I beat him sometimes, depending on the drill we did before the race."

Allen had high praise for left tackle Trey Hopkins.

"Trey is actually a leader to me," Allen said. "Sometimes, when I need to pick it up, he'll say, 'Come on Tray.' Me and Thomas Ashcraft will ask each other questions. Mason (Walters) pushes us all. Paden is a leader, too. We are all coming together and learning each other's personalities.

"We're learning how each other works and how to push each other without causing commotion."

When I asked Allen what he liked most about Hopkins, Allen said, "He's a workaholic. He's going to work until he gets it right. He's a smart kid. A really smart kid. I admire that about him because he's going to work until he gets it right."

Allen has heard all the criticism about last year's offensive line.

"A lot of people would say our weakness last year was the offensive line," Allen said. "But the past is the past. We've got a whole new group of people in this year. We're just working to make ourselves better. I know a lot of people were disappointed. But you can't cry over spilled milk. You have to get back at it and get back to work."

Allen said he's "95 percent back."

"It's full tilt. There's no turning back now. I'm pushing myself to be great for my teammates."


Bryan Harsin said he doesn't know "the whole history" of tight ends Blaine Irby and D.J. Grant. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"That group is a good group," Harsin said. "With the movement of the offense, the tight end is often the director because the quarterback can only see so much. So the tight end is often the one saying, 'Are we formationally sound?' I like that group, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do.

"Blaine and D.J. have both been good. It's good to see Blaine out there. I don't know their whole history. I've heard about it. But I've been excited about what I've seen."


Major Applewhite, who coaches the running backs, said Jeremy Hills and Traylon Shead should have a new lease on life.

"The good thing is, for those guys it's kind of a blank slate," Applewhite said. "No one's played in this offense before, so from all position's standpoint it's been great. But for those guys specifically, to come in as a junior and a redshirt freshman and to be on an even playing surface with Cody [Johnson] and Fozzy [Whittaker] - who are fifth-year seniors - it's really helped them out.

"They've got to battle some things to get back on the field and be more consistent in their bodies and be able to go practice to practice, but they've done a good job of learning the system and they've learned a lot like Fozzy and Cody."

Former linebacker Ryan Roberson is working at fullback, while Chris Whaley is working at H-back. Applewhite said Whaley is even a decent pass catcher.

"We have roles now where there's a true fullback in the backfield, and there's guys that play along the line of scrimmage," Applewhite said. "Chris (Whaley) is a guy who plays a little bit more along the line of scrimmage than from a true fullback set."


When I asked Applewhite about the receiver position, he said the entire group has looked good and singled out a few names for praise.

"I've seen DeSean Hales do some things that were impressive," Applewhite said. "Darius White, Mike Davis, John Harris. All of them have made plays. And with Marquise (Goodwin) out because of track, it's a great chance for some guys like DeSean and John Harris and some younger guys to make plays, and they are taking advantage of it."

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