Ding dong, the spring is dead. Spring football, that is.
Sad news, but before the coaches and players went on to the other side also known as the offseason, head coach Mack Brown, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, and several players met with the media to discuss the final scrimmage.
Head coach Mack Brown on the tempo employed for the first time...
"We're going to try to be snapping the ball every 15 seconds. So that's something we need to continue to do...It will be faster. One thing we are already going to change for the fall is we will not flip the outside receivers. They are going to stay on the same sides. That will really speed the game up. We didn't want to confuse them. If you leave those guys set and just flip the inside receivers, you aren't running all across the field. That will help us create a lot faster tempo."
The average for most of the night was about 20 seconds or more, so the Longhorns are a bit slower than they would like to be in terms of getting off plays.
As Brown mentioned, one thing that they needed to wrinkle out from the spring game was flipping the receivers from side to side, a process that takes a much time as the trading and the shifts that used to go on with the tight ends and H-backs when Bryan Harsin was the offensive coordinator.
The need to keep things simple, perhaps in part because Duke Thomas was working with the receivers after spending only a couple of days there in practice, was an indication that there is still some learning for the team to do in fall camp in terms of being able to operate at a high speed with efficiency.
It's a growing process and one that apparently is going to take a little bit more than 15 practices to perfect.
Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite on the restrictions placed on the tempo by the spring game...
"There were some times when we were trying to operate up-tempo, but we weren't really doing everything. Part of the deal when you go into the spring game and don't have enough guys and you're playing everybody, is you don't want to put too much on the guys."
Brown on sophomore Duke Thomas and whether he will keep getting reps on offense...
"He has only been over there for three days, and he can really catch. You can see he hadn't handled the ball much. We will have to work on that, but we will really talk about the ability to utilize his speed. He did a really good job at receiver, and he is fighting Sheroid Evans for the other corner position. We feel really good about Duke. We will just have to look at it and probably play him both ways in the fall. We have got more depth right now in the secondary than we do at wide receiver. We have to continue to increase our speed at wide receiver."
The experiment with Thomas was brought about by the absences of sophomore Cayleb Jones, junior Jaxon Shipley, and a minor injury sustained by sophomore Daje Johnson early last week, Brown said, mostly because Thomas was a dynamic quarterback in high school at Copperas Cove, though the emergence of Sheroid Evans at cornerback played a role as well to enable the move.
With three catches for 27 yards, Thomas looked pretty natural out there as a receiver and flashed as a kick returner as well with two returns for 65 yards. He's the type of player who seems able to pick up a position quickly because of his athletic savvy.
There weren't a lot of touches for Johnson, so it's good to see that the coaching staff is committed to getting speed onto the field offensively, even if they have to be a little bit creative and move a guy competing for a starting job in the secondary to achieve it.
Thomas is probably a little bit faster on the top end than incoming freshman Jacorey Warrick, so there is a legitimate chance that he could make an impact as a slot receiver next fall.
The potential problem? Diaz said he would be fighting to keep Thomas on the defense side of the ball, noting that the team needs to use him "the best way possible." Knowing the toughness of defensive backs coach Duane Akina, he'll probably be joining Diaz in that fight.
Applewhite on Thomas...
"We took a look at Duke this past week. He's a guy from Copperas Cove that has tremendous ball skills and competitive toughness. He reminds me a lot of Quandre [Diggs] as far as just having that feel of a player. He loves football. He's a competitor and I'm excited to have a guy like that on offense."
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on how his defense played...
"Hard to say without watching the film, but my expectations for tonight were for us to play fast, play tough and play physical. From what I saw over the course of the night, I think we accomplished that goal. That's been our big thing this spring. We need to establish ourselves as fast, tough and physical as the three ways we will be described next year."
The opinion of Diaz essentially held with what was seen on the field -- the defense looked like it mostly played base, with only a couple of blitzes thrown in and it didn't look like there was much, if any, twisting and stunting.
As Diaz acknowledged, the film will provide a better perspective than the live viewing and Kendall Thompson wasn't out there, one of the players who has had the most problems with his run fits last season and in the open practices.
Again, the film will tell the true tale, but it looks like there was some improvement this spring as Diaz emphasized the basics that seemed to be so lacking last fall.
Applewhite on who stood out during the spring offensively...
"Kennedy Estelle. With Josh Cochran going out early, Kennedy has done a good job. He needs to have a good next four months and his body really needs to change. If it does, he can play great football. Sedrick Flowers did a tremendous job, and he is becoming a little bit more of a leader. When players go down, it forces you to play younger players. Sometimes that is a blessing in disguise, because it forces others to step up. That can make them better and your team better."
Brown cited the offensive line depth as the area for continued improvement for the team. Some development happened in the spring because two starters were out and then Sedrick Flowers suffered his concussion, which was disappointing because his development has not been as quite as hoped for and he will have to play a big role in 2014.
So Applewhite picking out Estelle was a positive -- if he can continue to develop, Texas could have two legit back-up tackles for what would seem like the first time in years with junior college prospect Desmond Harrison coming in and being expected to compete for a job.
As the former Texas quarterback mentioned, Estelle has a long way to go physically. Looking at him out on the field, he looked like a tight end, with a relatively thin lower body and not a ton of upper body mass. Listed at 300 pounds, Estelle appears to be much closer to around 280 or so, though perhaps he just carries it well.
Of all the offensive linemen with a strong chance of playing, Estelle may have the most development left physically for this offseason.
Bennie Wylie needs to be his best friend.
Senior offensive guard Mason Walters on Estelle and Flowers...
"When Sed was going, he was really coming into his own. That is what we expected out of him going into the spring. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to go tonight. Kennedy has risen to the opportunity and all the challenges that go along with that. He has worked really hard, and football is important to him."
As a senior leader, Walters would be diplomatic about his teammates even if they weren't coming through in practice, but it is good to hear that Flowers might have made that next step or was at least closing in on becoming a starting-caliber player.
Junior running back Malcolm Brown on a more comfortable David Ash at quarterback...
"Like Mike Davis said, he has a swagger about him now. When he first came in, he was a freshman that was just thrown into the fire and he had to play. They put him on the field, because he was the best guy. Now that he has it down, he's a lot more comfortable. He's loosened up with us and he talks more now, because he knows what he's doing."
Brown's statement has followed a common theme this spring for Ash, who has clearly benefitted from knowing that he's the guy and that he doesn't have to look over his shoulder for Case McCoy every time he makes a mistake.
As for the interceptions that he threw, Ash said that they were "uncharacteristic" for him right now and his head coach noted they were more than he had thrown all spring in live drills. His offensive coordinator said it looked like Ash had "left his body" for a few minutes at the end of the first half, but did say that his starter helped get the team into better plays at the line of scrimmage, an area in which he is improving and one that could really help the offense next fall.