Thoughts from Open Practice 2.27

I know, I know - it's only going to make things worse. The fact of the matter is that I'm hopeless addict and I needed my fix, and this seemed like the only way to get it. I would feel bad about it...but I just...I like it. I mean, I love it...

Just so we're clear, I am talking about Texas football. Spring football to be exact. The unavoidable, scrumptious midnight snack after the smorgasborg that is College Football Season. The prelude to the preview of the season to come. Out of curiosity (and necessity), I decided to make a trip over to Denius Fields to get a feel for what will be going on for the next month. As expected, it was a mix of good and bad, and I wasn't able to see everything I wanted since Coach Muschamp had the defense down on the far field for most of practice, until the short scrimmages. I did, however, get a good look at Chiles in his new job at WR alongside the rest of the Longhorn offense.

It's obviously much too early for anything definitive, but here are some nuggets from today's open practice...

The overall mood this first practice was great. The team had an upbeat, competitive attitude, but was loose and didn't hesitate to joke around some. Colt played some safety during the offensive drills, nothing more than a warm body. I think he scared the bejesus out of Tre Newton one play, pretending he was going for the tackle...but anyway, here's the skinny on each team. It's mostly focused on players I think will be starting, but there are some other raw bits in here as well.

  • Offense.
    OK...where to start. Colt McCoy?...looks like a Heisman winner to me. He threaded a few needles at practice, while also saving a kitten stuck in a tree, disarming a nuke, and curing cancer. Nothing unusual here except the occasional oerthrown ball to Malcolm Williams. I have yet to be disappointed by Williams, and I didn't focus on him much because of it. The two big stories coming away from practice today were the running backs and the wide recievers. I didn't pay much attention to the TE poisition - the WR's were the most visible. So:
  1. Wide Recievers - Malcom Williams was very much himself, showing good hands on deep throws. The most interesting two for me were James Kirkendoll and Brandon Collins. Both of them had great timing and ball anticipation on thier routes, but Collins showed that he had great hands in close for the short yardage plays, so I imagine he will be filling the gap that Cosby left. The only bad thing I noticed was that he doesn't turn the corner incredibly well. However, I really liked what I saw from Kirkendoll: versatility. He has decent hands inside (not quite Collins), but speed enough to get around the corner and stretch the field. He's also a decent deep threat because of it, though he's not quite as good as Malcolm. It will be interesting to see how he develops. Other highlights: Brock Fitzhenry's one-hander, and Desean Hales making some statements about his speed.

  2. Running Backs - As of now, Fozzy Whittaker has my vote for starting RB (pre-Chris Whaley). Fozzy showed both his quick cutting ability and burst speed during practice, but the cuts are what puts him above McGee and Johnson in my view. He needs to work on his vision to find his best route, but runs pads-first and lower than McGee or Johnson, and is quick turning the corner and making positive yards. McGee still seems like the best flat out runner because of his speed, but he looks like he'll need a big hole to run through, especially after the number of times we saw him run into the back of his blockers. Johnson is showed that he is still, far and away, the most powerful runner we have and can pretty much make his own lane and still make a good play. Tre Newton seemed like a happy medium between Fozzy and Vondrell - but nothing really to write home about. I'd like to see how he performs in a game situation, but I guess I'll have to wait until April.

  3. John Chiles. He has the potential to be a contributor at WR. He runs his routes well, and has decent hands. Understandably, he dropped a few more balls than the other WRs, but that's something that I feel will come with reps and practice. What really set him apart from the others was his burst and his ability to separate from his coverage. He got a definite "wow" from the spectators at one point where he absolutely burned his matchup right off the line on one play. If he can keep that up through the spring and develop his hands, he will become a force at WR.

  4. Sherrod Harris. I saw some good things from him. He's always been a good, underused quarterback and it always bothered me that he didn't get much playing time. He needs to work on his accuracy somewhat, and had a few underthrown balls, but he is an intelligent player and good at finding the open man. I am excited that we're going to work on his development, and I think he'll be a decent back-up for McCoy with some accuracy improvement. However, I didn't get to see him run.
  • Defense.
    The little that I did get to see of the defense was mostly good. Blake Gideon (I agree with dimecoverage, we give him way too much hell for that dropped ball) had a nice interception on a fake punt pass and some good reps overall. His problem right now is that he drops a  too low when trying to cover, and gives the receiver a little more running room than he should have. On the other end, Deon Beasley did a great job of reading his reciever and sticking to his man. Christian Scott also had a few reps with the second team and held his own. He doesn't seem to be the smart player that Gideon is, but he's the better athlete. Things will get interesting during fall practice, but I think Gideon will still come out as the starter if he can work on his quickness. I think I'm as excited about Earl Thomas as anyone. He had a great read on one mid-yardage play, sticking with the reciever all the way and anticipating the ball enough to dive for it and nearly catch it. Not the fastest guy today, but great nonetheless. Opposite him, Chykie Brown did just fine, with one good, stand out pass-break up during preactice. Aaron Williams also had some decent reps.

  • Special Teams.
    The two punters that I saw were John Gold and Justin Tucker. Trevor Gerland, as many of you know, is out with a knee injury at present. John seemed to have more distance on his kicks, but Justin had better hangtime and was consistent with his kick placement. Probably a little known fact - Justin Tucker is quick. They lined up a fake punt run, and the kid's got some wheels for a kicker (and ran a 4.56 two years ago, according to Rivals). I also saw Greg Smith and Blake Gideon make some appearances on Special Teams O.L.

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