For the first time since August of 2010, the Texas Longhorn football team allowed fans and the media to take in a practice on Friday at DKR.
Unfortunately, your humble scribe was unable to attend due to other obligations, but there were plenty of observant fans and members of the media providing updates via Twitter to have some sense of the proceedings on a beautiful early March afternoon.
Coming into the practice, several players were going to be under scrutiny for their performance. At the top of the list, of course, were the two quarterbacks going head-to-head for the starting job. While sophomore David Ash is considered the overwhelming favorite to walk onto the field with the first team in the fall, the rhetoric from junior Case McCoy and Mack Brown has been that the job is still open.
A disappointing sophomore season from wide receiver Mike Davis has ratcheted up the expectations for this spring, while redshirt sophomore Dom Espinosa may lose his job at center if he doesn't increase his level of play. Junior defensive tackle Brandon Moore has been a standout during early practices, as has fellow JUCO transfer Donald Hawkins.
How did they all perform on Friday?
- Mr. March, senior wide receiver DeSean Hales, turned in another strong performance in that other season, protecting the football better than he has in the past and turning in several impressive plays. The question, as always, is whether he can finally translate that to the field in the fall, when it matters?
- After glowing reports out of practice regarding his altered mentality and re-dedication to the program, Mike Davis probably made more plays than anyone else in the receiving corps, including catching what was called a beautifully-thrown deep ball from David Ash on a skinny post that beat sophomore cornerback Quandre Diggs in good coverage, as well as several other big plays.
- Ash reportedly was much better on the deep balls that often troubled him as a freshman. If he can start throwing those passes with touch consistently, there's no question that he's going to be the starter and a guy who can help Texas compete for conference titles, at the least. Most impressively, Ash was able to elude pressure at times to make plays downfield, but showed the ability to check down to shorter receivers instead of forcing longer passes into tighter coverage. Some advancement there in ability to understand the risk-reward considerations on a given play. Ash also made a back-shoulder throw to Marquise Goodwin (participating in spring football!), something he certainly did not do well as a freshman.
- Kevin Flaherty of Longhorn Digest had Ash as the significantly better quarterback on the day than Case McCoy. That should basically be how it is every day as Ash starts to fulfill his upside, which is significantly higher than McCoy.
- Offensive line coach Stacy Searels was reported to be the most animated of all the assistants during practice, particularly in getting after starting Dom Espinosa when he struggled at times. If there was one disappointing performance, it sounds like Espinosa may be in line for that dubious honor.
- Both Donald Hawkins and Brandon Moore drew a great deal of praise. Moore has reportedly been dominant at times during practice and looks like he is headed towards a starting role. Known as a space-eater, Kenny Vaccaro said this week that he's also been strong in pass-rushing drills, which is a major plus. Sounds like Moore has a better first step off the ball than expected. He also provided redshirt freshman Sedrick Flowers some lessons on what happens in grown-man football.
- Kenny Vaccaro reportedly did not practice. Probably not anything to be concerned about, as he's plenty ready for the season already. Could have been a decision to provide more reps for the younger players like Mykkele Thompson and others.
- Carrington Byndom sounds like he delivered the hit of the day against Joe Bergeron in 11v11 drills. Dang. Byndom has never been the biggest dude, but he is willing to put his nose in there and usually gets pretty good results. No easy task stoning Bergeron, who has earned a reputation for punishing defenders who try to bring him down.
- Senior tight end Barrett Matthews was working as the second-team fullback, a welcome development with redshirt freshman Chet Moss out for the spring. Matthews has the skillset to find some success at a position at which the Longhorns need some answers.
- Starting fullback Ryan Roberson won a couple battles against Jordan Hicks and Tevin Jackson, a good sign for a guy who really needs to have a strong spring to feel good about the position moving forward.
- Sophomore wide receiver/H-back Miles Onyegbule has added some weight in the offseason (hence the pending move to H-back), but he struggled at times on Friday with his hands dropping some passes. Unusual for a guy who was known as a natural pass-catcher with huge mitts coming out of high school.