PB and I had to chance to make it out to a warm (hot, actually) and sun-drenched DKR on Sunday to take in the annual Orange-White game, also known as the bittersweet end to spring practice.
That means no more live viewings of the team until the fall, no more media availabilities, just a smattering of reports about how summer workouts and 7on7 are going. Yes, that is sadness you're picking up on.
Since the two of us decided to divide and conquer, PB will be along with some defensive thoughts shortly, while I'll be taking a look at the offense.
Lucky me, as the offense impressed on the day, aided by the lack of depth at certain spots on defense, especially defensive end and in the secondary, missing three starters overall due to injuries. Aided also by an extremely vanilla gameplan from Manny Diaz that showed a completely base 4-3 look the entire day.
Still, it was the offense that needed to have the strong day, as most of the major question marks still reside on that side of the ball, while there's little doubt that the first-team defense will be a salty group come the fall.
- As always, the offensive discussion starts out with the quarterbacks. David Ash started out with the first team before giving way to McCoy for the third series and alternating a bit thereafter, but it was clear, at least to this viewer, that Ash has created separation. Unfortunately, he didn't have the same opportunities in the passing game that McCoy did, for whatever reason, but he managed to avoid the interceptions that plagued McCoy on the day. Ash hit Jaxon Shipley in the end zone on a fade to beat good coverage on pass that showed off his touch and drew a pass interception penalty on a downfield attempt to Bryant Jackson. Other than that, his best plays came when he opted to pull the ball down and pick up positive yardage, something he did well at the second open practice, too. Again, not a ton from Ash on the day, but added to his strong performance on the Saturday open practice, it's clear that the Belton product is making discernible progress and that's why he's going to be the starter next fall, even if it isn't official yet.
Case McCoy looked like what he will likely be at Texas over the next two years -- the back up. Mack Brown will surely talk about how much quarterbacks need to be ready to play, but McCoy made too many poor decisions to make up any ground on Ash, even after he apparently recovered from his shaky start, which included an interception on a poorly-thrown post route that Leroy Scott corralled and a near-pick six that Carrington Byndom simply dropped when McCoy tried to throw from one hashmark to the opposite sideline and predictably had the ball float on him. The difference in how the ball comes out of McCoy's hand is in sharp contrast to how it jumps from the hand of Ash. There were some good throws from McCoy, including a ball down the seam to MJ McFarland that was well thrown, and a touchdown pass to DeSean Hales just before halftime. Some positives for McCoy, but his inability to take care of the football is a major concern considering that the coaches have stressed doing so all spring.
- Connor Brewer worked almost exclusively with the third team and looked sharp for the most part, showing off his touch on a throw down the sideline that dropped nicely over the shoulder of a walk-on receiver, then showing that touch again by letting Cade McCrary climb the ladder and high-point a ball in the endzone to convert a third and goal from just outside the endzone. There's some promise for the future there, but there seems to be little doubt at this time that he will redshirt and be the third-string quarterback this season. Which is what he needs.
- Coming into the game, one of the major question marks was how redshirt freshman tight end MJ McFarland would perform as a blocker. The early returns? Without going back and watching the film, what really stood out was a holding penalty on a wide receiver screen to the perimeter and a peelblack block against Scott that was flagged for hitting him above the shoulders. Both effort penalties, but not the kind of thing that the team can afford in close games. Consider him still a work in progress. Despite a drop, he was strong in the passing game, with his notable play the throw down the seam from McCoy that went for big yardage, though he did drop a pass later.
- One issue for the Texas offense in the utilization of DJ Monroe is that he's essentially been a one-trick pony on the jet sweep. Whatever advances he made as a receiver during the second half of spring weren't apparent, as the coaches opted not to use him there. Monroe did, however, look strong with his one trick, turning the corner and jetting past Scott on a 60-yard jet sweep touchdown run early in the scrimmage and picking up significant positive yardage on another late.
- Most of the reps in the running game went to Joe Bergeron and Jeremy Hills today, as Malcolm Brown apparently lost his shoe at some point, which may have limited his reps. There was some speculation that Brown might have been injured, but Mack Brown shot those down afterward. Bergeron ran with what is becoming his trademark toughness, though it did look like he might have missed a couple of holes on one drive. A noted spring star in the past, Hills appeared to run as well as he has during his time at Texas, breaking tackles from Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond on one play -- something he didn't do last season -- and even throwing a big block on Jaxon Shipley's long punt return. Will Hills challenge for any time in the fall? Probably not, but he will provide solid depth.
- The Longhorns did not run the Wildcat formation at all and may be waiting for incoming freshman Johnathan Gray to install it in the fall.
- The first-team offensive line had a solid day, generally keeping the quarterbacks clean and from having to scramble too much, while also opening up some holes in the running game by producing 138 rushing yards in the first half. The most impressive efforts from the line as a whole probably came in the second half when they opened up room for DeSean Hales and Jeremy Hills on consecutive screen passes with strong blocking efforts downfield. The second-team offensive line? It doesn't look like any of those players besides possibly Sedrick Flowers will be able to challenge the starters and the unit struggled until the end of the first half, especially in the running game, where there was little room to work. There's more depth than there was a year ago, but not enough to feel comfortable dealing with any injuries, particularly to the first-team tackles.
- For a team that has struggled now for two years converting in the redzone, it was a major positive to see the 'Horns convert on every opportunity until McCoy's late interception, doing so with both passes and runs. Some improvement there would be a long way to taking pressure of what could be a shaky kicking game.
- There was also the Jaxon Shpley trickeration everyone loves, as he opted to pull down the first throwback to him and run for positive yardage, which he did as well in the second open practice, then find DJ Grant wide open streaking down the field to convert yet another Shipley pass into a touchdown. That's all he does throwing the football. Unless he's simply clinching a game, as he did hitting Ash late against BYU.