Harsin Plays It Cool

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By Mike Blackwell
Posted Aug 20, 2012
Copyright © 2018 InsideTexas.com

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From left: Harsin, McCoy, Brewer, and Ash (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)

UT offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin talked after Monday's practice, but he didn't say much. With Harsin - who used the word "operate" a minimum of six times in about a 10-minute session with the press - one has to fish out little nuggets from among the many grains of sand.

And though he fell far short of proclaiming a starting quarterback in the opener against Wyoming, he did give some hints on certain topics. The Texas fan base wants answers: Who's going to start a quarterback? Who's going to run UT's version of the Wildcat? Who's starting at tight end?

Harsin didn't answer any of those questions Monday. "Addressed" would be a more accurate way to describe the way Harsin handled the questions.

Example: Question - "Any kind of separation at quarterback yet?"

Harsin - "I thought the quarterbacks both ran the offense well (in Sunday's scrimmage)…We hung onto the football. We want both guys to play. There are strengths and weaknesses with both quarterbacks. And what we found out is that each guy, they both operated well in situations. We're looking at different schemes that both quarterbacks can be successful at. If we have David in or Case in, what's their strengths? How do we manipulate the offense to help them out? They're both very close. David can do some more of the run game stuff. Case does a great job getting the ball out of his hands. There's things that show up in the scrimmages and practices, but the one thing I've really been impressed with, both guys have really improved. Now you take them to the classroom and you start popping on the tape and you listen to those guys spitting it out: 'Here's what we've got to do here, here's a hot here, here's a Q here' and just listen to them regurgitate the offense, it's encouraging."

Harsin did admit that both quarterbacks would play against the Cowboys, and mentioned also that he realized that you have to "roll out" one of them at the beginning. In other words, UT is not ready to name a starting quarterback for the opener. You get the impression that Harsin would just as soon never name a starter.

Harsin was a tad more open in his assessment of the Wildcat formation, and who might run the scheme for the Longhorns. The first name he mentioned when someone questioned him about the "operation" of the Wildcat formation was Joe Bergeron, followed by Johnathan Gray and Jeremy Hills. In that order.

"Joe is taking reps at wild, I feel like he's doing a nice job with that, he looks comfortable back there," Harsin said. "Johnathan Gray, the more he does it the more comfortable he gets at it. He's a guy who's an explosive back back there who can do some things as well. Jeremy Hills is taking some reps at it…Joe took a few in the scrimmage, and I thought he did a nice job with that. Johnathan, it was his opportunity to take some, I thought he worked well there as well. I feel good about where we are. I feel like with Joe, Johnathan and Jeremy Hills, those guys can go operate that. They got the most reps at it."

Harsin admitted also - in so many words - that he's trying to figure out how to mold a tight end unit from individuals who bring entirely different skill sets to the equation. D.J. Grant, M.J. McFarland and Greg Daniels have all seen significant time at the position in fall camp, with Grant the likely frontrunner. Harsin told the group Monday that Texas is still working on the strengths and weakness of that group - some run better, some block better, some catch better - and added that tight end, like quarterback, will be a position that will continue to evolve. But yeah, bet the house on Grant starting.

One thing Harsin was completely transparent about was his distaste of turnovers. Offensive coaches feel toward turnovers like hikers feel toward poison ivy, and the close-to-the-vest Harsin would never use that terminology. But clearly, based on his Monday answers, he is happy with the fact that his offense has played a pair of scrimmages against one of the best defenses in the country without turning the ball over.

"We're always a little paranoid, as offensive coaches, about turnovers," Harsin admitted. "And so we've had a few practices and scrimmages where we've been really really good at that. And just not letting up, being relentless in terms of turnovers and not letting up on the standards that we've set in practice, that's what we need to keep doing. We've always got to take care of the ball."

The Longhorns also appear to be "taking care" of heralded quarterback recruit Jalen Overstreet, according to Harsin. When asked if Overstreet is taking a significant role in Wildcat snaps in practice, Harsin said he is taking a more cautious approach with the true freshman.

"What we're trying to do with Jalen is primarily quarterback," Harsin said. "He's done a nice job. He's been really impressive out there, but he's behind everybody else. Everybody else in that room, including Connor Brewer who came in the spring, has a grasp of what we're doing offensively, and so he's playing catch-up. He's in his book, he's studying, he's taking notes and the more opportunity he's gotten, the better he's been, both fundamentally and scheme-wise. The focus has been on playing quarterback and learning the offense. He's got a lot of ability, he throws the ball well, he can run, he's physical. But I think right now what we're doing is helping him. He's excited about it, he's learning and been playing really, really well."

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