A solid crowd was on hand at Frank Denius Field to view the Horns in the sweltering late afternoon heat. The team took the field around 6:45 and spent the majority of the next two hours working out under the sun. As they have been in the fall, they opened up with 11 on 11 quick tempo offense vs. defense. It's easy to see how that drill has set the tempo for practices as guys start out flying all over the field. The highlight of the opening drill was Malcolm Brown and Duke Thomas having a nice collision right in front of one of the bleachers, a stalemate of a hit that got both sides hyped.
The team would then split into drills with their positional groups. Then QBs and WRs joined to run routes and RBs and OL joined up to practice run drills, while DBs worked on coverages and defensive front seven worked on gaps. Then 1v1s with WRs vs. DBs (then 7 on 7 after that) and inside hull with defensive front seven vs. OL and RBs. The day wrapped up with a few series of 11 on 11. It was a lot to take in, but here are some scatter shot thoughts from each position grouping.
- David Ash is just a cool customer. Whether it's drills, live scenarios, or standing on the sidelines talking up his WRs, his demeanor never changes. He was pretty sharp on the day, and spent a lot of time working on throws to TEs and inside WRs over the middle, which is likely the biggest area of his game that needs improvement.
- Case McCoy nearly threw a pick to a walk-on that jumped on outside route. Aside from that, he looked good and showed no ill effects of being away from the game over the summer.
- Tyrone Swoopes still has some ways to go as a passer. He can be accurate, and he can throw a great ball, but when the speed picks up or more bodies added to the situation, he gets a little ahead of himself and can be erratic. Major Applewhite spent a lot of time teaching footwork and reads to the freshman. But his skillset is clear: he's a long strider with a strong arm, and a very quick and tight motion reminiscent of the old flick of the wrist that made Vince Young so successful.
- Jalen Overstreet spent some time at QB as the 3rd guy in team drills, but primarily ran the ball and swung out for screen passes. One formation also had him as the deep back in the diamond formation with Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown as the up-backs.
- Johnathan Gray is clearly the guy. He's so patient in the hole with great vision and an absolutely violent ability to cut.
- Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron both had their fair share of action. The DBs are getting their shots in now, as any run outside with B&B led to a DB squaring up and heading for a collision. When the full pads come on, these encounters should get real fun. For now, you can tell the guys are dying to get into it.
- One formation had Joe Bergeron as the fullback offset to David Ash with John Gray lined up deep behind him. Bergeron told reporters after practice that he's now down to 225 lbs, added weight loss he said was result of hearing he might be moved to fullback. He's still a tailback, but the formation with him as a lead back was successful.
- Marcus Johnson...yo. Much has been made of Kendall Sanders as the first guy up behind Davis and Shipley (who remained out of team drills but on the field), and rightly so, but Johnson was the WR that most caught my eyes today, and was likely the player of the day. He's a very sharp route runner, consistently got open in drills and team work, and was strong catching the ball. I doubt he's a guy that will get lost in the shuffle, and gave Sanders a run for that third WR position.
- Sanders had a solid day. Dude gets open at will down the field and is electric with the ball in his hands.
- Daje Johnson is much the same. He took a bubble screen in 11 on 11, cut to avoid a poor block from Sanders, and exploded into space.
- John Harris is a guy I've been expecting to make an impact on offense, and today's practice did nothing to dissaude me. He moves well for a guy his size, was consistent in pulling the ball down, and is a force in the blocking game. The screen game and swing pass was heavily emphasized throughout practice, and Harris is likely the best outside blocker on the squad.
- MJ McFarland probably had the nicest connection with David Ash on a deep crossing route, only for Carrington Byndom coming up from the safety position (more on that later) making the best play of the day (IMO) and punching the ball right out.
- Geoff Swaim was running with the first team, and is a much more natural pass catcher than expected.
- Trey Hopkins moved to first team center, with Curtis Riser moving to first team LG, the second time the first offense took the field in 11 on 11 work, and it paid huge dividends in the running game, springing a long run play up the middle.
- First offensive line read LT Hawkins - LG Hopkins - C Espinosa - RG Walters - RT Cochran, then later LT Hawkins - LG Riser - C Hopkins - RG Walters - RT Cochran, with the latter group being very successful.
- Second offensive line read LT Estelle - LG Riser - C Porter - RG Flowers - RT Doyle
- Didn't get too much of a look at them today. Chris Whaley was shaken up early in drills, and re-aggravated whatever it was later in the day. Doesn't appear to be anything serious.
- Malcom Brown is the alpha dog of this group. The tackles opened up working on splitting double teams, and his strength is obvious there.
- Like the defensive line, I didn't get to see too much of them. Peter Jinkens made a few very athletic plays in inside hull, and is the loudest player on the team.
- Jordan Hicks is very decisive on the field. Having him out there at 100% is probably the biggest reason the defense should be better this year.
- Naashon Hughes has a great frame. Easily the tallest of LBs, he's got a few years to fill out and could be a very athletic DE.
- Quandre Diggs and Josh Turner (as well as Kevin Vaccaro) were still held out, and Duane Akina used the opportunity to shuffle around the DBs. The starting group was Sheroid Evans and Duke Thomas at corner, Adrian Phillips in the nickel, Mykkelle Thompson as the boundary safety and Carrington Byndom as the field safety.
- Duke Thomas and Sheroid Evans battle for the third corner position is probably the best position battle of the fall. Both had their moments, especially in 1v1s and 7 on 7. In the team drills, give me Duke Thomas, who can cover well and was physical in "tackling". His early collision with Malcolm Brown was both gutsy and impressive. It's no surprise why the staff was comfortable letting him stay on defense.
- Byndom's cross training at safety may help him when he finds himself in zone coverage. He had the play of the day breaking on a deep crossing route and popping MJ McFarland right at the catch, forcing an incompletion.
- The next great press corner on the roster might be true freshman Antwuan Davis. For one, his long frame is already filled out pretty well. It's a strength that easily translates to jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. I can't recall who the poor victim was, but Davis absolutely stoned a WR at the line in 1v1s that got quite the reaction from the defense.
- Mack Brown did not seemed too involved with the drills throughout the day. He did spend a lot of time chatting up a special guest: former Texas DC Gene Chizik.
- Don't recall seeing a Stacy Searels hat toss.
- If I had to give the nod to one side of the ball, it would go to the defense. The offense had their moments, but throughout the practice the defense just flew all over the field. They look fast and decisive. We'll see if it translates come game time.
That's all that comes to mind now. Feel free to shoot questions in the comments, and I'll try to answer them as soon as I can. And if you want something specific looked out through Friday and Saturday's open practices, leave them in the comments and we'll try to keep an eye out for you.