On Thursday, the Texas Longhorn football team had helmets on. Jerseys. Approximating football-like things to the greatest degree since the Holiday Bowl almost two months ago. These things are good.
And the fanaticism of appreciating those things produces strange compulsions, like examining the practice photos released by the school way more than is necessary in any sane way. This is my inner dialogue.
Follow along with the pictures here.
(1/29): Brandon Moore attempting to take a gap against the reach block of tackle Paden Kelley. Interesting match-up since Kelley is expected to back up at one of the outside positions on the offensive line, while Moore has the build (6-5, 330) of a straight zero/shade right over the center. Kelley was probably on the strongside of a zone running play and Moore was slanting a gap over. Or just playing wider than expected in most looks. Or maybe just going through a drill, given how far away everyone else is. See how ridiculous this is, to a certain extent? But I just can't help myself.
Either way, with the dismissal of Calvin Howell, bringing in a guy like Moore who can contribute right away and, according to program insiders, has a chance to become a major impact player at defensive tackle when his conditioning reaches a higher level, could be a major boon for Texas for the next two years while some of the young 2012 defensive tackles develop.
(2/29): Jeremy Hills takes the edge, perhaps on a cutback, as Thomas Ashcraft has two handfuls of Brandon Moore's jersey. Still think that Hills is carrying too much weight in his upper body. With that disproportion, it's not hard to understand he's limited in making defenders miss. Not naturally great feet + 15 extra pounds in his upper body = getting nothing but what the defense gives. And not stressing it much either.
(3.29): Connor Brewer. The no. 7 uniform now has a chance to come back into style for Texas fans. Maybe you were a Garrett Gilbert fan back when it looked like he was the next great Longhorns quarterback (PB and I certainly did), or you just bought low when Gilbert transferred, there's a different narrative now infused into those jerseys.
Rather than oddly clinging onto a past that never fulfilled the hopes instilled into Gilbert (can someone explain why so many people still wore them last fall after he left? Didn't those people have any other Texas gear to wear on gamedays?), perhaps the new (old) no. 7 jersey now represents a rebel, the pro-Brewer segment of the fanbase, almost by necessity those who harbor no positive expectations for David Ash. Or maybe you're just a Mykkele Thompson fan. If you aren't, you should be.
(4:29): Mack Brown and Roy Miller. Gotta love Roy Miller. Former OU commit, but lifetime Longhorn. Yeah, buddy.
(5/29): Josh Cochran at right tackle going against Alex Okafor. Cochran's eyes as big as you would expect with a guy like Okafor attacking, but it's notable how much stronger the sophomore tackle looks in his upper body than he did last season. As for the collision, it's the classic first step versus kick set, with a battle of reach, punch, and quickness to determine the fate on the edge.
(6/29): Early enrollee Alex De La Torre going against a blocking shed. Though I've admittedly never seen DLT in person, this is the first picture that I've ever seen some muscle definition with the kid. DLT triceps, verified!
7/27): Donald Hopkins at left tackle and Trey Hopkins at left guard in three-point stances. I think I like that. Hopkins wasn't too excited on Twitter about the knee braces he was asked to rock for the practice, but those knee ligaments are just too valuable to this Texas team to endanger in a practice. Or a game. Walking around on campus? That can probably slide, but still, be careful, big guy.
(8./29): Defensive tackles coach Bo Davis and defensive ends coach Oscar Giles laughing. Is it the self-satisfied shared laugh of coaches who know that their collective players are going to make for an elite unit in 2012? It's possible...
(9/29): This time Giles by himself, extremely happy, again. Big Oak going what he does, or maybe Reggie Wilson flashing that potential the coaches are trying to bring out on a consistent basis?
(10/29): DeSean Hales. DeSean Hales! With the ball in his hands! Perhaps not ready for the scrap heap and official bust status? Texas SID, FTW! Tease in effect.
(11/29): Camrhon Hughes in a three-point stance with Connor Brewer at quarterback. A glimpse of the future? Stay tuned. /superteaseineffect
(12/29): Case McCoy and the unidentifiable center (Espinosa, Porter?) pointing out the middle linebacker in the Longhorn defense. Alert! Case sighting before an Ash sighting! Does that mean that Case is the starter? o_O #trollface
(13/29): Bo Davis coaching up Brandon Moore. Perhaps this has happened before. Ah, yes, it has, in another place at another time. As mentioned earlier, the word is that Moore needs to achieve a higher level of conditioning, but from this picture it doesn't look like he's carrying too much bad weight on his massive frame. And that could be a scary thing for the interior offensive linemen in the Big 12. Perhaps most? Stay tuned...Okay, officially retiring the teases, there's still a way to go here.
(14/29) David Ash sighting! Walking up to Miles Onyaybule, who may be slowly making the transition to H-back or flex TE. Judging by the fact that Miles has his hands on his hips, it looks like there was a miscommunication. This is clearly a picture chosen by #teamMcCoy to undermine Ash. /sarcasmfont
(15/29): Mack clapping. Yes. Mack claps, therefore there must be pictures of Mack clapping. Mack clapping is good. Right? I mean, Mack wouldn't just clap, just to clap, would he?
Of course not. Mack clapping with President Bill Powers? That's some serious clapping power. Behold.
(16/29): High clouds over the practice fields as the Longhorns put on helmets for the first time since the Holiday Bowl. Of course, that was probably a respite from the County Fair.
(17/29); Breaking news: John Wilder, who must have preceded one-time Texas eval Del Barnes at Henderson, is the new John Paul Floyd, except wearing no. 17! All that's left is learning his middle name. I mean, that has to come into play here, right?
Actually, this picture is really more about co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin with Ash, Brewer, and McCoy, but, hey, might as well throw out Wilder for the those fringe fans who might be incredibly tantalized by the potential of the newest walk-on at quarterback. A strong hipster pick, perhaps?
(18/29): Stacy Searels, the offensive line coach, surrounded by scholarship offensive linemen. More than 7! More like 8 or so who have the potential to contribute at a reasonably high level in 2012. He may not show it on the outside, but there's a bit part of coach Searels that is quite happy about that.
(19/29); Jaxon Shipley running an out route against an assistant popping him with a pad. Jaxon Shipley running. This can only be a good thing for Texas football, ever and always. Frame assessment? Maybe a little extra power there to turn some effort into more success on the perimeter helping his teammates out as a blocker. The one thing you can know about Jaxon, though? He'll be as happy as anyone else if he can become a better blocker.
(20/29): Evidence Jaxon can separate in live action? A catch against Jordan Hicks.
(21/29): Mack introducing the team to Bill Powers. Cool, I guess.
(22/29): Major and Harsin demonstrating a drill. Like them both (a lot), but we're losing momentum here.
(23/29): Bryant Jackson trying to shake early enrollee Duke Thomas. Yeah, Jackson is still wasting away near the bottom of the offensive chart at wide receiver. No, there don't seem to be any plans to move him. No, that does not bode well for him ever contributing at Texas.
(24/29): Kenny V and a smiling Duke. Kenny V in a Texas uniform. Days after having his first child. Still in a Texas uniform, because he wants to win a Thorpe Award and take the 'Horns to South Beach for the MNC. This is a good dream.
And any day that the artist formerly known as [REDACTED] is in a Texas uniform is a day that didn't have to be that way. Forced to think about KDVIII, could anyone have blamed him for skipping town for the security provided by an NFL contract?
KDVII in a Texas uniform. So much better than talking about who is going to step up to replace him. Save that for next year.
(25/29): David Ash, looking for Darius Terrell towards the outside.
(26/29): Connor Brewer showing of his high release. Pretty sure now picture of Case McCoy could possibly exist that would look like this, which is how a quarterback is supposed to deliver the football.
(27/29): Mike Davis catching the football. SEE, MIKE DAVIS CAN CATCH THE FOOTBALL!!!!1!
(28/29): Bill Powers in the middle of the team, with Kenny Vaccaro right in front of him. And Darius Terrell, who may be the most interesting follow on Twitter of all the current players (@Dnt_Do_It_DT), though he's spent some time in "Twitter jail" as a result. And Roy Miller standing in front of Tank Jackson, still the strongest player on the Texas team. One bowling ball next to another. So similar. Now Tank just has to step into those big shoes.
Also, Garrett Greenlea has the widest and longest widows peak that I have ever seen. It just goes on until you can't see it any more. This is not relevant to football in the least, but it's still fascinating to me.
(29/29): Darrell Wyatt peering intently into a drill. The dude has been a witch on the recruiting trail and his track record definitely suggests an ability to develop wide receivers in a way that Bobby Kennedy was never able to do. Some evidence of whether Wyatt can do that should be apparent this spring.