AUSTIN, Texas — For the first time in a long time, Texas football is soliciting applications.
This is not an EOE thing. The right candidate has to be fast, have an eye for the hole, be a quick decision maker and have big play capability. In other words, someone just like Fozzy Whittaker.
It was Whittaker who turned Texas’ wild formation from an oddity into a threat.
“No one was really as good as Fozzy at it,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Whittaker took a direct snap from center on almost 40 percent of his carries (24 total), averaged nearly seven yards per carry, had six rushes of 10 yards or more and scored five touchdowns. Most of that production was inside the red zone, a place where Texas struggled mightily with the passing game. And all that production stopped when Whittaker went down with a knee injury at Missouri.
Texas went down as well, going 2-3 without the wild and Whittaker. Now Brown and co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin are looking at anybody and everybody run the wild.
“People have said, could Daje [Johnson] do that? Could Johnathan Gray do that? Marcus Johnson was a wild guy in high school,” Brown said. “So which one of those guys do you look at? Can you look at both quarterbacks to do that? Can you look at Jalen [Overstreet] to do it? So that's a wide open one.”
It’s not going to be closed anytime soon. Most of the players Brown just rattled off aren’t even on campus yet. So Texas will have to wait until the fall to really hold the open tryouts.
But that doesn’t mean there cannot be some tinkering this spring, particularly with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Neither of the two freshmen was very successful in the wild last season because they basically wanted to run wild. Young players have a tendency to press the action.
While the formation itself is all about forcing the action on the defense, it is also equally about reacting to that. Again, that is not a young players forte. But now Brown and Bergeron are slightly more seasoned and aware of what to expect. So both are being given another shot to see if they can add a different dimension to the wild, despite not being the go-to guy in the formation.
“The freshmen backs will be better with it because it is just such flow and a feeling of the faking with patience and waiting, and the young backs did not have that,” Mack Brown said.
Another player who might be poised to have marginal success in the wild formation is Jaxon Shipley. But that would be more for his arm than his legs.
“He is not a physical, inside runner, so your counter plays would be missed,” Brown said.
But Shipley does have a solid arm — he had three touchdown passes last season, just one less than starter David Ash — and is a good decision maker.
So while Texas waits on the likes of Overstreet, Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson and others to see who could replace Whittaker, it can still tinker with variations. That, in turn, could make the formation more versatile, make Texas much less predictable in the formation and push defenses even further back on their heels when Texas sets up in the wild.
“We love that formation,” Brown said.
Now they would love to find the right person or people to run it.