Afternoon Brewsky: Fall Practice Notes, Thoughts From Harsin, Diaz

Horns_bullet_mediumJohn Harris impressing during practice. One play from Tuesday, as relayed by Horns Nation writer William Wilkerson, is emblematic of the type of things that sophomore receiver John Harris is bringing to the offense ($) this year:

This was Adrian Phillips' ball to lose.

The 5-foot-11, 201-pound defensive back must have thought he was the wide receiver as he made a break for a ball thrown by a Texas quarterback during one-on-ones at practice on Tuesday. It was a crossing route and he had the inside track on the ball's destination.

That was until he was bodied out of the way by the 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame of sophomore receiver John Harris.

Like a savvy post player positing himself for a rebound, Harris darted in front of Phillips' path, effectively eclipsing Phillips' view, and came down with the reception.

The receiver depth last season couldn't recover from the injuries to Harris, Jaxon Shipley, and Mike Davis, but the group this season should have a little more margin for error and the possible emergence of Harris could be a big reason why.

Horns_bullet_mediumWildcat candidates emerge. In his media availability Friday, co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin spoke about a topic Longhorn fans have been wondering about since last season -- who will step in for the departed Fozzy Whittaker as the triggerman in the Wildcat formation? Harsin revealed that freshmen Johnathan Gray and Jalen Overstreet are candidates to run it this season, in addition to sophomore Malcolm Brown and senior Jeremy Hills.

Neither Brown nor Hills showed much aptitude for it last year, especially compared to Whittaker, so it would be a bit of a surprise to see them get a shot during the season. Gray and Overstreet should be the leading candidates.

Here's what Harsin had to say about Overstreet:

Does he have potential to do it? Absolutely. He can move. He's thrown the ball very well in practice. He's a threat.

There was a discussion about the subject in the practice thread from Thursday's practice notes about whether or not Overstreet should redshirt. Harsin weighed in my saying that the decision about that hasn't been made yet, but likely will in the relatively near future.

I'm of the opinion that Overstreet could help the redzone offense with his ability to run and pass the ball. But does it make sense to take David Ash out of the game? It may depend some on how the more conventional plays work to determine how great the need is there.

Harsin also singled out freshman Daje Johnson out for praise, who reportedly had a big play in practice on Friday on a jet sweep.

Horns_bullet_mediumDiaz likes defensive line depth. Whether it's spring practice or fall practice, the coaches will spend a lot of time talking about achieving ideal depth. For defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, he's just happy about how far his defensive line has come in his time at Texas:

Our defensive tackle room is a changed room, and it's no different than the offensive line. Our two lines don't look the way they looked 18 months ago. What's been fun the last couple of days since we put the shoulder pads on is there are some grown men running into each other out there. That's fun. That's who we want to be.

Adding Brandon Moore, Malcom Brown, and man-child Hassan Ridgeway doesn't hurt in that regard either, as well as Donald Hawkins on the offensive size. Definitely some grown men there.

Unsurprisingly, Diaz doesn't feel quite as good about the back-ups in the back seven. The linebackers are all unproven there, even at the starting positions, and he feels that the team needs to go eight defensive backs deep. Again, he's talking about the ideal here -- it's hard to imagine that he stays up at night worrying about his seventh and eighth defensive backs.

Sure, there isn't a lot of experience behind the starting group, but it's not like Texas has to replace three starters as they did going into last season, and there are also plenty of talented young players who appear ready to emerge, including Josh Turner, Mykkele Thompson, Duke Thomas, and Leroy Scott, as well as Sheroid Evans. The talent is there.

Diaz is also growing a beard at the moment:

It happens every year. It just sort of matches with what this week is all about: kind of rugged out there. It's the time of year when we're in our shop. We're under the hood and getting our elbows dirty. Hopefully when we bring the car out in three weeks it'll look the way we want it to look.

Maybe he can get Mack Brown to join him. I get the impression that Major Applewhite doesn't have the capability to grow much facial hair. No worries, Major, I can't either.

Horns_bullet_mediumReggie Wilson may finally be ready to break out. Opportunities for playing time haven't exactly been plentiful for junior defensive end Reggie Wilson, who is still relatively new to football having spent much of his childhood in Africa. However, entering his junior season, it's time for him to start flashing on the field.

For his part, Diaz thinks Wilson is getting closer:

"I'm his coach. I have to think that. He has to, and I think he has," Diaz said. "He's already made strides. He really improved in the spring from where he was last fall. It's early in fall camp, but all signs are still pointing positive."

Maybe Wilson will finally provide some validation for all those people who ranked him in front of Jackson Jeffcoat in the state of Texas coming out of high school.

Horns_bullet_mediumA few more practice notes. Practice notes! Everyone loves practice notes. Not a whole lot to report, but there are several tidbits worth passing along.

  • Freshman receiver Kendall Sanders notably beat Carrington Byndom on a fly route that was well thrown by David Ash. Heartening not only because there's no question regarding the talent level of Byndom, but also because it provides some evidence of Sanders' reported 4.34 speed, as well as some possible development with Ash in how well he can deliver passes down the field.
  • Duke Thomas continues to make plays.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, defensive tackle Ashton Dorsey is not working with the starting unit, giving way to Desmond Jackson and Brandon Moore.
  • Mike Davis doesn't seem to be having the issues with his hands that plagued him for so much of last season.
  • Marquise Goodwin is back with the team, but will have to go through several days without pads before he can join his teammate in full-contact drills.
  • The team has been spending a lot of time on ball-security drills for the running backs, as usual. Since Major Applewhite returned to Austin, the group has been pretty good about not putting the ball on the ground. The Longhorns will need that to continue this season.
That's all I've got for now. Y'all enjoy your weekend.
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