It was a lovely day for spring football in Austin today -- clear skies, warm sun, and a nice-but-not-too-stiff breeze. Yes, it's the Spring Game, and no, there isn't too much you can take away from these kinds of scrimmages, but today's performance gave us a nice snapshot of the roster we'll be working with this fall.
Big Roy just posted a few quick reacts on the offense, and below are my ten thoughts on the defense and special teams.
1. The defense didn't show us anything today. Literally nothing. Manny Diaz stuck his charges in a base 4-3 and kept everything simple and straightforward. That's neither good nor bad, but worth noting as a point of context -- for both the defense and offense. On the bright side, I'm told from a couple folks who have had the privilege of watching some closed practices that our defense is really comfortable doing a lot of different things, much more so than at this time last year. We just didn't see that on display today.
2. There's lots of great young talent in the secondary. We're going to have a great secondary this year, but the outlook is also bright for the foreseeable future. Duke Thomas, Josh Turner, and Leroy Scott are all playmakers who will blossom with seasoning.
3. If they stay healthy, our linebackers will be a strong asset. Jordan Hicks is going to have an All-Big 12 season, Steve Edmond is the Mike we've been waiting for, and Demarco Cobbs absolutely flies out there. I don't know how I feel about the depth chart behind them yet, but the top three are going to shine.
4. Speaking of Cobbs, my God does he close fast. You can tell he's going to take a few lumps on misdirection when he overpursues the ball, but as he refines his understanding of the position, he's going to be a hell of a playmaker on the outside.
5. The defense as a whole looks like it has a lot of potential to be a big-play defense. I'll set the over/under on defensive touchdowns at 3.5. And take the over.
6. The defensive tackle situation is fluid in an interesting way. There isn't a dominant 1A guy out there, but it looks like the sum could be greater than the parts. I didn't see a whole lot from Ashton Dorsey today (although I liked the way he was coming on at the end of last year), but Des Jackson was excellent and really stood out. The dude is strong, with a motor that doesn't stop. Add in Brandon Moore, who looks very promising as a gap-filling hoss, and Chris Whaley, who is really rounding into a weapon, and this group should be fine, at the worst.
7. There are some depth concerns with this defense, but I like the potential for the starting unit to be one of the better units we've had under Mack Brown, and I expect the depth situation to improve as some of the young talent picks up game experience. In the coming weeks I'll put together a "Can't Lose To Injury" list for the defense to highlight where we're most exposed to potential depth problems.
8. Turning to special teams, it was a good day for Ben Pruitt, who looked good place-kicking both in warm ups and on extra-points. It would have been nice to have had him kick some field goals in the game, but he looked solid in nailing his PATs, kicking a consistent ball with lots of early lift.
9. Will Russ had a very good day handling kick-off and punting duties. He blasted his kick offs out of the end zone with the wind, and two-yards deep kicking into it. And his punts were almost all excellent. He didn't crush them terribly long, but they were mostly high, long-hanging kicks that allowed our coverage to get down the field. Russ also carried on Justin Tucker's spirit in making a nice touchdown-saving tackle of Jaxon Shipley on a punt return.
10. We have an embarrassment of riches in terms of options at kick returner, and it'll be fun to see which of the many burners we have seizes the kickoff returning jobs. Speaking of which, a salute to my boy Fozzy Whittaker, who at halftime received a gigantic trophy for winning the national kickoff returner of the year last season.
Your thoughts on the defense? Anything/anyone stand out to you?