Spring practice may mostly be closed off to the public and a sign that football season is still off over the horizon, but the press conferences by the coaching staff contain more useful information than the weekly press conferences during the season when the great majority of what is worth talking about and evaluating happens on the field on Saturday.
Greg Davis and Will Muschamp both spoke with the media on Monday and had some revealing things to say about the current state of the team.
- Michael Huey has moved from the right side to the left side to pair with Kyle Hix, who is currently playing left tackle.
- Greg Smith is cross-training at H-back and Barrett Matthews is working at tight end to increase flexibility and prepare for any injuries that may occur.
- In 11 personnel, it looks like James Kirkendoll is the starting flanker, Malcolm Williams the split end, and John Chiles inside at slot receiver, a change from last season when he mostly worked at flanker.
- Davis says that the two running backs who have separated themselves are Tre' Newton and Fozzy Whittaker because they give the offense the most flexibility -- Davis says both can pick up the blitz (probably more questionable for Whittaker than Newton) and can also split out as wide receivers. Considering his penchant for wanting to bounce everything outside and a desire at times to avoid hits, it's remarkable that Whittaker has separated from most of the other running backs and it probably speaks to a greater desire to work between the tackles in what has become a downhill running scheme for the Longhorns.
- Playing running backs with the ability to pick up the blitz and split out wide is important for the Longhorns as they seek to be truly multiple offensively -- able to switch between using an H-back or fullback and then still be able to spread the field by flexing out the running back or H-back/fullback without changing personnel.
- There is no separation currently between Connor Wood and Sherrod Harris. Davis mentioned Case McCoy in that mix as well, but it was clear from watching the open practices that the youngest McCoy simply doesn't have the arm strength and ability to throw the football downfield or any type of out pattern to the sidelines at depth. The lack of separation probably says more about Harris than it does about Wood being exceptionally mature for a kid who should still in high school, although Wood does spin the football nicely and has a quick release, something that hasn't always been the case with him.
- David says that Garrett Gilbert is still working on his "synergy" with the wide receivers, but apparently the criteria is the McCoy/Shipley mindmeld, so the standard is high at Texas.
- The offensive line is adopting a much more nasty attitude as they continue to work almost exclusively downhill -- music to these ears.
- Coach Boom mentioned Kenny Vaccaro, Tevin Mims, and Alex Okafor as players who have not played a lot yet in their careers but have stood out during spring practice so far.
- The defense, particularly the defensive line, is working on cross-training at the moment, with Tevin Mims, Tyrell Higgins, Kheeston Randall, and Sam Acho all mentioned as guys along the line who are working at different positions. Acho is currently the starting three tech next to Randall as a zero/one tech, partly to challenge to younger players like Calvin Howell and Derek Johnson to step up their respective games, but also because Muschamp flat-out wants to put the best players on the field with an emphasis on speed and is willing to sacrifice some size to do so. Mims is likely working at defensive end in both the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments and probably at three tech as well, while Higgins works as a three tech and defensive end in the 3-4. Randall is seeing time as a three tech and nose tackle.
- The depth chart looks pretty shaky at linebacker without Emmanuel Acho and Jared Norton, but Muschamp says that he is confident about the depth at the position even without Jordan Hicks, Tevin Jackson, and Aaron Benson on campus yet, but is surely factoring the younger Acho and Norton into his current confidence level. Boom mentioned Tariq Allen and Patrick Nwkopara as two players who need to elevate their games this spring.