Texas Longhorns football: Press availability notes

Brett Deering

Notes and thoughts from the early-week media availabilities.

Horns_bullet_mediumSwoopes update. A decision won't be made on whether or not to play true freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes until closer to game time. On Monday, co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite indicated that it will primarily hinge on Swoopes being healthy enough to play after a sore hamstring has plagued him through camp. Playing Swoopes is a priority with Case McCoy exhausting his eligibility this fall and redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet not looking like a viable option there.

Horns_bullet_medium"Red-headed and on the sideline." As the relationship between Applewhite and his starting quarterback, junior David Ash, the new play caller was candid in saying that it has grown significantly since the bowl game, when he only had a matter of days to prepare.

"Getting to know David and coach him all of a sudden in the bowl game, I didn't have a feel for him as a player or a person quite honestly," said Applewhite.

"Spring ball helped us out quite a bit, spending more time with him in the off-season.  Got a chance to see him work, how he thinks.  Now it's much more of a personal level instead of the football side of things.  See how he ticks more, know how to poke and prod at him, motivate him in that different way.  He also understands where I'm coming from, certain calls, certain ways of coaching."

Where quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel revolves around avoiding setting off anything caused by what Wright Thompson believes is some immaturity combined with a bit of a temper, Ash is on the other end of the emotional spectrum -- not prone to the same natural confidence justifiably possessed by Manziel, but rather consistently walking the thin line between being self critical and self aware, which requires a much different type of management.

Applewhite was asked about the biggest change from the Harsin era on Monday and replied, "I'm red-headed and I'll be on the sideline."

From his response to the follow-up question, it sounds as if Applewhite isn't locked in to staying there, though he wil

"I want to be on the field, (have the quarterback) see me, me see him.  I think you can see things on the sidelines.  I've coached up there, but I have all the trust in Coach Wyatt.  Having a chance to be around the quarterbacks, try it out, see how it works."

According to Inside Texas, even though Harsin was in the box last season, it was Wyatt who noticed times when the Longhorns had an opportunity to exploit defenses with deep passes, something Ash was able to do more effectively than either Matt Barkley or Geno Smith last season, despite some early struggles with accuracy.

From the vantage point of the press box, Wyatt should continue to find ways to attack defenses with vulnerabilities to long throws. But Applewhite is really doing this because he wants to be able to look Ash in the eyes and see where he is, to more effectively manage a quarterback who can be his own worst enemy.

Horns_bullet_mediumThe next Tavon Austin/De'Anthony Thomas? Those are the players sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson is modeling his game after this season. High standards, but Johnson matched the 40 time Austin ran at the Combine (4.34) when he was at The Opening in 2011, though it's hard to measure Johnson's speed against Thomas since Johnson's 100m times are limited in high school and Thomas doesn't have any verified 40 times.

Either way, verified times say Johnson is every bit as fast as Austin and could be as fast Thomas. Listed at 180 pounds, he's also bigger than both.

The bottom line is that the only thing that might be able to hold Johnson back is fatigue, which he believes will be the only thing that has a chance of keeping him off the field for long. And he's been working hard at wide receiver with the help of a tutor in Mike Davis, whose effectiveness suggests his route-running capabilities. Davis had the opportunity to spend extra time with Johnson while he was out early in fall camp because of his offseason surgery.

Why is the fatigue thing big news? Because last season it was his immaturity that was holding him back. Remember how he managed to get himself suspended for the opener before he had even set foot on the football field for Texas?

Horns_bullet_mediumOffensive line more versatile. With Desmond Harrison back, the opportunity to play him at left tackle if the junior college transfer can acquit himself well could allow senior left tackle Donald Hawkins to slide around on the line. Hawkins said that he's played four positions -- all but center, most likely -- and feels comfortable at guard after playing there in high school.

Just as interesting were his thoughts on technique. Hawkins said that he was trying different things last season in an attempt to adjust to the college game and experienced inconsistent success, but believes that he now has a refined approach to his technique that will reduce those peaks and valleys.

Other than Hawkins perhaps sliding in to guard, there has been plenty of talk about senior guard Trey Hopkins playing some center. In fact, head coach Mack Brown said that Hopkins has played every position on the line and that junior Dominic Espinosa has also seen some time at guard -- if Hopkins moves over to center, it's not a given that Espinosa would come out of the game. After all, going against three-technique defensive tackles and helping out on double teams with the center would keep him from facing the nose tackles he has always struggled against.

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