The Texas Longhorns kicked off spring practice on Tuesday with an afternoon session that was open to the media for the first several minutes, providing a little bit of perspective on where the team is at the start of spring.
The biggest news from the available portion of practice is that senior left tackle Desmond Harrison was not participating with the team, perhaps due to an injury. With only three experienced players at the tackle position, another setback for Harrison is not particularly encouraging news, as the Horns desperately need to get production out of the junior college transfer this season.
In slightly more positive news, redshirt freshman Rami Hammad was working with the starting group at right guard, so presumably junior Sedrick Flowers is the starter at left guard and Hammad has moved ahead of both redshirt freshman Darius James and sophomore Curtis Riser in the battle for the right guard spot.
Of course, the bigger news for 2014 at the quarterback position is that junior David Ash was out practicing, as expected:
Texas QB David Ash back on the practice field. Looked solid in 30 mins we saw today. pic.twitter.com/xt4YlVFmHr— Max Olson (@max_olson) March 18, 2014
One receiver stood out on the day, at least to the Statesman's Cedric Golden:
Receiver that caught my eye was Marcus Johnson. Doesn't drop any balls. Looks bigger than last season. #horns— Cedric Golden (@CedGolden) March 18, 2014
The roster was also finally updated, somewhat surprisingly featuring senior linebacker Demarco Cobbs, who didn't play in 2013 after a knee injury late in 2012 and has been an attrition candidate since that point. It appears that there's a chance he will remain a part of the program this fall for his final season.
The bigger, if unsurprising, news is that offensive lineman Garrett Greenlea is no longer listed on the roster after a medical redshirt in 2013. There were high expectations for the Klein Collins product and US Army All-American coming out of high school, but injuries and lack of focus kept him from seeing the field other than brief action against New Mexico in 2012.
Ash is now listed at 227 pounds after playing at 220 pounds. With his concussion history now, the quarterback run game will likely be dialed back significantly from where it was at the start of last season, but the added weight indicates that not only is he back to full strength, he's actually gotten bigger and stronger, which could aid his durability.
One player who lost weight from the last roster update is James, who weighed at least 330 pounds at one point in high school and perhaps as much as 340 pounds. Listed at 320 last year, he's now listed at 311 pounds, a weight that should help him maximize his elite movement abilities for his size and perhaps allow him to play tackle, where he excelled at the Under Armour All-American game despite his weight.
Perhaps a reason for Riser getting passed on the depth chart is that he is now up to 327 pounds from 310 last season, a weight that probably is not benefiting his athleticism. If the weight gained is poor and a sign of how hard Riser has been working, it doesn't bode well for his ability to contribute this season or moving forward.
Sophomore right tackle Kent Perkins has also gained some weight, up to 325 pounds from 310, while junior left tackle Kennedy Estelle will almost certainly have to play on the left side after dropping five pounds to get down to 285. At that weight, it may be hard for Estelle to anchor in pass protection -- he needs to make some strength gains before the season starts and try to add another 10 pounds of mass, preferably good weight.
Meanwhile, a player whose weight has always been a hot topic for discussion is redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson, who played at about 250 pounds in high school and always had trouble gaining weight. Unfortunately, Raulerson isn't reported to have gained any weight this offseason, as he's listed at 279 after being listed at 280 last year.
At wide receiver, redshirt freshman Jake Oliver continues to grow, as he's now up to 216 pounds from 205 pounds last year.
The development of one redshirt freshman has been on the radar for a position change and that's linebacker Naashon Hughes, who could eventually grow into a defensive end. That isn't happening yet, however, as Hughes is listed at 231 pounds currently, up six pounds from last season.
Fellow redshirt freshman linebacker Deoundrei Davis is up to 228 pounds from 215 last year, while junior Peter Jinkens is up to 230 pounds from 218. Senior Steve Edmond is up to 253 pounds after playing at 245 last year -- hopefully that increased mass will help his functional strength instead of inhibiting his speed, as his weight often did earlier in his career.
The biggest transformation at linebacker, however, is that of senior Kendall Thompson. The Carthage product played at 239 pounds last season, but has apparently cut nearly 20 pounds down to 222 now.
The frame of junior defensive end Shiro Davis has continued to fill out. After playing at 249 pounds last year, the Louisiana product is now up to 258 pounds -- the rush end now has the mass to hold up against the running game as a strong side defensive end, though he's likely to stay on the weak side opposite of senior Cedric Reed. Reed himself is now up to 271 pounds, up from 258.
Sticking along the defensive line, junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown is now up to 320 pounds from 305 last year.