Texas Spring Game: What to Watch

Zero sum. Vanilla. Unwatchable.

In regards to spring football games, there are plenty of detractors, plenty of negative perceptions about the quality and the ability to take anything away from such a watered down version of football.

But it's still a football-like substance.

The last public football-like substance for the Longhorns until possible open practices in the fall, assuming that head coach Mack Brown again decides to let the burnt orange faithful into DKR come August for a viewing.

For those who can't make it to DKR at 2 pm CST on Sunday for the free event, those lucky few with the Longhorn Network will be able to watch coverage of the Orange-White game.

And despite some of those negative perceptions that exist about the Orange-White game, and spring games in general, it is possible to glean some takeaways, some lessons learned -- it just involves making some calculated and informed choices about which individual victories are more important than others.

For instance, even with sophomore cornerback Quandre Diggs and junior Swiss army knife Adrian Phillips out with injuries, the Texas secondary is still a strong unit with the emergence of early enrollee Duke Thomas and stalwarts like senior safety Kenny Vaccaro and junior cornerback Carrington Byndom.

As a result, it would be much more beneficial to the team to see sophomore quarterback David Ash protect the football and avoid throwing any interceptions -- the secondary with get theirs during the season, but Ash absolutely has to do his part to win the turnover margin, last season a key predictor of wins and losses for the 'Horns.

Likewise, there aren't a lot of worries about the defense as a whole, so offensive victories in the redzone would be more heartening than defensive stops. The same with the interior of the Texas offensive line going against what should be a strong and deep defensive tackle unit.

A host of other questions come to mind as well.

Just how free can DJ Monroe be? Time is running out on the speedster finally making a significant impact on the offense and the general perception is starting to swing in the direction of putting the lack of production on his own shoulders instead of on the offensive coordinator.

Can someone who fought the ball in his last stint at receiver improve his concentration to the point of finishing plays? Was it simply his unfamiliarity with having to watch the ball into his hands after taking handoffs for so long or does he just have stone hands?

The spring game may provide some answers there, depending on how much Harsin even wants to turn him loose in a scrimmage that will be available for other teams to dissect. A true answer may not come until the fall.

The obvious key here is to introduce enough versatility into Monroe's game to keep the playcalling less predictable, as Monroe carries had a wide standard deviation in 2011 -- boom or bust, basically. Speaking of answers, Harsin needs more of them when defenses start taking away the jet sweep. Wheel route, anyone?

As vanilla as the gameplans may be on both sides of the ball, seeing the first extended snaps for junior Demarco Cobbs and sophomore Steve Edmond at linebacker should be nothing short of scintillating. Even with Cobbs missing the first half of spring with his neck injury, the buzz around both is significant. Even with monster shoes to fill from the departures of longtime starters Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, the thought is that Cobbs and Edmond could emerge as big-time playmakers in their own right and should start doing so on Sunday.

Other players worth watching include both junior-college transfers, offensive tackle Donald Hawkins, penciled in at left tackle, and defensive tackle Brandon Moore, who is capable of wowing in short bursts, but needs to show some evidence of improved stamina on the field, especially in preparation for Big 12 play, when it may be difficult to substitute for winded players.

In the defensive backfield, can sophomore safety Mykkele Thompson improve upon what were uneven performances, at best, in the two open practices? And don't forgot about junior wide receiver Mike Davis, either, who needs finish play with catches in a public setting after reportedly doing so throughout the spring, aided by his improved attitude.

Finally, it's not fun to have to worry about the kicking game, even if it isn't yet time to panic. Can redshirt freshman Ben Pruitt and sophomore Will Russ connect on any mid-range attempts they have, at least? Can Russ show some consistency at punter, a major concern for him through the first two and a half years in the program? WILL IT OFFICIALLY BE TIME TO PANIC?

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