AUSTIN, Texas -- Balance is a boring word when used by a football coach, a simplistic summation of saying an offense can be anything and everything.
It’s common-sense coach talk, and it’s a word Joe Wickline throws around liberally and insistently when discussing the scheme he’ll construct as Texas’ new offensive coordinator.
The thing about it is, balanced never looked boring at Oklahoma State. Being balanced led to 41 points per game and 485 yards per game over the past five years.
For that, Wickline won’t accept much credit or praise. He says his success in Stillwater was the byproduct of a great system. Wickline likes to talk up the offensive geniuses he learned from: Larry Fedora, Todd Monken, Dana Holgorsen. Each one brought their own twists and tricks.
And now, after nine years at OSU, it’s Wickline’s turn to offer up his take on winning offensive football, to install his philosophy at Texas and build something that can rival the Big 12’s most powerful offenses.
That philosophy? Balance, running the ball, and some more balance.
“If you really look at what Coach (Mike) Gundy tried to get done, and what we tried to do as a staff, we’re not going to be one-dimensional,” Wickline said. “We’re not going to throw, throw, throw or run, run, run. It’s about balance in down and distance. Balance in run-pass. When we run, inside-outside. It’s about balance on types of runs, speed, tempo.”
The mission is not to build a replica model of the Cowboys’ wildly and consistently successful offense. There will be obvious influences, but Wickline has more to offer than that.
He’ll be the play caller down on the sideline, but he says his offense will be run by a committee of coaches. Quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson, running backs coach Tommie Robinson, receivers coach Les Koenning and longtime tight ends coach Bruce Chambers will all have a say.
Someone will specialize in the run game, someone will oversee the pass game, another will focus on situational playcalling. This isn’t a one-man show.
As Wickline puts it, he’s constructing a University of Texas offense.
“What does that mean? We’re going to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’re going to have some of Louisville, some Mississippi State, some Oklahoma State. The bottom line is, we’re going to do what our personnel allows us to do and get in multiple formations and be balanced and play fast.”
At Oklahoma State, the offensive scheme was revisited annually. It might’ve all looked the same on TV, year after year, but every spring Wickline and the offensive staff met to evaluate their personnel, their previous season’s play-calling and found ways to adjust. New wrinkles, new options, new ideas.
He’ll do the same as the Longhorns’ OC and offensive line coach. All those years in Stillwater have made him far more familiar with what he’s inheriting at Texas than he might’ve realized. He’s seen enough film, and recruited enough of these players, over the years to have a solid sense of what Texas can put on the field in 2014.
“I will say this: We have a very impressive looking group of guys, in terms of maturity and in terms of the physical combativeness of them,” Wickline said. “In terms of where they’ll fit and where they’ll end up, I think we’ll know more at the end of spring.”
Watson said the staff has spent the past three weeks working to piece together their offensive system. Thus far, the staff has stuck to running this show by committee, and this marriage of his ideas with Wickline’s is off to a good start.
“The other aspect, and what I think is a real important part of the multiplicity, is the speed part and the no-huddle part, which we have all been a part of,” Watson said. “At Louisville last year, we did that quite a bit to help us out with some injury situations. Joe has a great background with that and so does Les. Everybody has had experience with it, but everyone has had a unique and different experience.”
Wickline and Watson didn't spend much time Wednesday talking about their new players. There's plenty of time for that this spring, once they've put Texas' talent to the test. They've got an offense to construct first, but they're in agreement on the blueprint.
"Right now," Watson said, "we're working together and just putting it all together."