Big 12 notebook: Texas picks up the pace

Dane Brugler, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- The Big 12 will be the first conference in the NCAA to add an eighth on-field game official, a tactic designed to help the crew keep up with the fast-paced hurry-up offenses prevalent in the college game.
And after finishing in the bottom half of almost every offensive category last season, Texas and head coach Mack Brown plan to jumpstart the tempo for the 2013 campaign.
Brown said the Longhorns averaged only 68 plays per game in 2012 while Oregon had 82 and Marshall was in the 90s. He wants Texas to average 80-plus plays per contest this season. Brown believes quarterback David Ash can be the maestro of the new scheme.
"We think that David is ready to go up tempo now with the offense," Brown said about his junior quarterback. "He's in command, he's very confident, he knows what we want."
Ash, who passed for 2,700 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, identified the main advantage of the hurry-up is preventing defenses from blitzes. Texas' co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Darrell Wyatt haven't changed the playbook; it's just a matter of speeding up the pace of that offense.
But Brown also thinks that boosting the tempo on offense, will also help on the defensive side of the ball, a unit that finished 88th in the nation last season in rushing defense.
"Last year I saw, during the season in our league, defenses having trouble getting defensive calls in the game because nobody was substituting and the ball was being snapped so quickly," Brown added. "We felt like it was a real disadvantage to our defense because they didn't get to see tempo at any during practice. But they handled it much better this spring because they saw it every day."
Brown did acknowledge that the high-tempo style could hurt his defense. Clearly, if the offense is going three-and-out and not sustaining drives, the defense will tire. But after allowing almost 30 points per game last season, Brown is hoping the all-in approach to speeding up the game in Austin could prove to be a benefit.
Two seasons ago, quarterback Robert Griffin became the first player in Baylor history to bring the Heisman Trophy to Waco.
It's possible junior running back Lache Seastrunk will drum up some interest from Heisman voters and others across the country with a productive 2013 campaign. And head coach Art Briles is banging that drum early.
"Lache has some qualities that give him an opportunity," Briles said about his running back possibly making a run for the Heisman. "He's a dynamic football player that's very engaging, and those are good qualities to have. They help you with voters."
Seastrunk led the team in rushing last season with 1,012 yards on 131 carries, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. Although he led the Bears in yards on the ground, he finished far behind senior Glasco Martin in carries and touchdowns. They will share the backfield again in 2013, but Briles expects Seastrunk's role to grow.

"We're happy with where he's at and how he's prepared," Briles said.
Despite RGIII's recent success in Waco, Briles was quick to dismiss any notion that he would be able to help Seastrunk or any other player with the Heisman hunt.
"Honestly, Robert helped himself with the Heisman. You have to do phenomenal things in phenomenal moments, and that's what he did. The timing was perfect and he was an exceptional player without question."
West Virginia has a new look on offense in 2013 after losing dynamic stars, including quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL. But the most accomplished offensive starter for the Mountaineers in 2013 isn't a player many would have considered a few months ago, mostly because he recently transferred to Morgantown.
Senior running back Charles Sims came close to entering the 2013 NFL Draft last January after another productive season at Houston. Ultimately he decided to return to school for his senior season. In the spring, Sims announced he was transferring from the Cougars. He enrolled at West Virginia earlier this month and will have less than two months to learn head coach Dana Holgorsen's offense.
"We're extremely fortunate to have his services for one year," Holorsen said regarding Sims addition to the roster. "He's a great kid, a tremendous football player."
But Sims, who wasn't present at Big 12 media day, isn't totally unfamiliar with Holgorsen's play-calling style or the coach himself.
"I was fortunate to be able to be involved with recruiting him when I was at Houston and I had him for the first year there in 2009," Holgorsen recalled, saying his only year with him at Houston was probably Sims' best.
With such a dramatic change during the summer, Holgorsen didn't promise Sims anything, especially with junior Andrew Buie entrenched as the starting running back.
"He knows what I'm all about," Holgorsen added. "He knows how I coach, he knows what our offense is about. So we need some playmakers on offense, especially after losing 90-percent of our production last year."
Sims already graduated from Houston and received his degree so he's eligible immediately to play for West Virginia in 2013. And Holgorsen added that one of the main reasons Sims transferred to the Big 12 was to increase his NFL draft stock.
"We'll put him in position to be able to get that done."