Newsflash -- Jaxon Shipley is good - Sarah Glenn
A few observations from the Longhorn Network telecast.
The Texas Longhorns practice on Wednesday and the Longhorn Network chronicled about a half hour of it during the evening. I was able to catch most of it and came away with some thoughts.
-- Mack Brown singled out Mykkele Thompson as a player who is standing out at safety and also mentioned Adrian Colbert. As down as some are on Thompson, it deserves to be said again that while his learning curve hasn't been as steep as some might have hoped, the learning process is very much ongoing for him, leaving a significant amount of untapped potential.
-- Dominic Espinosa won a big battle in defensive line one-on-ones with Malcom Brown being able to stand his ground. No small feat against Brown and with the biggest knock on Espinosa remaining his ability to battle bigger defensive tackles to a stalemate.
-- Hassan Ridgeway is an absolutely monstrous person now. Last year, Brandon Moore was obviously the largest defensive tackle, but among the contributors it was big Malcom Brown who was the most imposing. Now that title belongs to Ridgeway, whose lower body makes Brown look like a bit of a lightweight. The defensive tackles were just working on a drill shooting their hands, so they weren't moving around at all, but Ridgeway was looking like one of those guys who are first off the bus.
-- Not much from the quarterbacks, but Tyrone Swoopes is now not only the tallest quarterback on the roster, he's also the most imposing, and David Ash is all of 6-3 and probably closing in on 230 pounds. It's really remarkable how different Swoopes looks since the Army Bowl. He's a guy who never really had an offseason before and is clearly taking to the process.
-- The only other portion of practice that provided any insight was the one-on-one drills with the wide receivers and defensive backs, which were actually quite telling.
-- For a college defensive back, there are probably few things more scary than backpedaling with Jaxon Shipley eating up your cushion with two-way go. This isn't exactly news, but Shipley absolutely befuddled Josh Turner on a double post to a post route that was completed because he sells everything so phenomenally with his upper body. There's been some talk about playing Shipley outside, but the preference for him is to play inside because then defenders don't have the advantage of the sideline helping them. If he's going to the most outside receiver, he still needs to being playing tighter on the hash.
-- Based on a couple plays, Sheroid Evans just isn't there yet -- both cornerback and safety positions feature some heavy competition for basically two available big spots in the rotation and Evans lost both of his battles against Kendall Sanders, who in fairness may be ready to have a breakout year. Ahmad Brooks was talking about Evans not using his hands well enough in press coverage with the proper placement and then about allowing his head to get in the wrong spot, making it hard to track the quarterback. Evans was raw coming out of high school, but the lightbulb just hasn't come on for him yet. Participating in spring football instead of running track will hopefully make some difference for him this year.
-- Daje Johnson used his pure speed to beat a defender, perhaps Orlando Thomas, but wasn't able to come up with the over-the-shoulder catch on a ball that wasn't perfectly placed. While Johnson has better hands than DJ Monroe, they still let him down at times, especially when he has to make those types of catches. It happened last season, it happened in the International Bowl last year to close his high school career. Johnson needs to make some improvement there because he's going to be able to get open deep next season and not every pass will be exactly on target. His hands in those situations will be the difference between touchdowns and major missed opportunities.
-- Mike Davis had a good battle with Carrington Byndom on a double move down the sideline that Byndom was able to bat down, but got the best off Quandre Diggs with his quickness of his cut on square in. Davis and Shipley both have outstanding quickness in those situations.
-- John Harris used his big body to make a play after creating inside leverage on a cornerback. The quickness just isn't there for him to get open in the same way that Davis and Shipley do, so it's hard to tell how effective he will be in that flex tight end role. The LHN folks were talking about his foot injury in 2011 that set him back -- it's not clear how far, but Harris is one of those players who will need to make an impact this spring or risk getting lost in the mix.