The Texas Longhorns are now well into the first part of spring practice five days after kicking off drills last Thursday, so it's time to look at the expectations for the four 2013 signees on campus.
Tyrone Swoopes | Whitewright quarterback | 6-5, 250 | ****
Mack Brown's take:
He is in camp. He's already up to 250 [pounds]. His body fat is very little, so he's in great shape. But he's big at about 6'5", 250. He can run. Guys have been impressed with him in the workouts. He can't use the ball around us, so we haven't seen him throw or do any of those things yet. But he and [freshman QB] Connor Brewer and [freshman QB] Jalen Overstreet, should be interesting watching them compete this spring. Tyrone seems to be fitting in very well.
The spring will be an important one for the Whitewright product as questions swirl about his long-term position. However, there's not a tremendous amount of immediate pressure because he's locked in to a redshirt season to provide the time for him to develop, so Texas fans shouldn't be surprised if he has some significant struggles both during the open practices and during the spring game.
That may sound a bit contradictory -- and probably is -- but the point is that while there will be plenty of scrutiny of Swoopes and how well his performs in his public viewing, the short-term threat of a position change is not significant.
After all, struggles defined much of the last year for Swoopes, who was ill-prepared for the camp and combine circuit last spring and summer and then suffered through a disappointing season that saw his team basically fall apart around him. Not to mention the hamstring injury he had to play through.
Still, Swoopes was sharp in his last practice at the Army Bowl and consistently displayed the ability to do just enough to keep people believing in his ability, those tantalizing flashes of upside that convinced former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin to make him the primary target in a strong 2013 Texas quarterback class.
Other than his play on the field, the weight of Swoopes is something to watch throughout the spring -- he's already put on about 20 pounds since his senior season to get to 250 pounds, a number that could quickly swell to around 270 eventually.
Quick take: So what are the exact expectations, then? Just to see if Swoopes can continue to provide enough flashes to stick at the quarterback position and illustrate some longterm upside there.
Geoff Swaim | Butte CC tight end/H-back/fullback | 6-4, 256 | ***
Mack Brown's take:
We wanted a stronger presence at tight end with our blocking. He is 6'4", probably 256 [pounds]. He can run. He played fullback and [halfback]. [Former co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and current Arkansas State head coach] Bryan Harsin knew those coaches very well. [Swaim] did not get offered great scholarships out of high school. As we watched him, he's exactly what we're looking for to be more physical at the line of scrimmage. He's working really well in the offseason program. We can't wait to get him out there and watch him work. I think he's gotten the other tight ends' attention with how physical he's been in this video.
The all-purpose blocker was another Harsin take discovered at Butte CC because of a Boise State connection. Since many junior college players typically see interest explode as JUCO Signing Day approaches in mid-December, the fact that Swaim didn't have any other offers at the time of his summer commitment doesn't exactly mean a whole lot.
Stanford has used big players like Swaim -- who goes about 6-4 and should be closing in on 260 pounds -- at fullback in the past several years and that may continue at Texas when the 'Horns want to assert themselves in the running game, where Swaim should be an upgrade over everyone currently on the roster. At least that's the hope.
The upside for Swaim will be determined by his ability to catch the football, something that he'd never really done in his career, up until last fall at Butte, when he was much more involved, especially in the play-action game close to the redzone.
Even at 260 pounds, Swaim looks reasonably fluid for his size -- he adjusts to several passes, spinning to catch, diving to catch several others, and looks like he has enough hip flexibility to turn and make over-the-shoulder catches.
By the end of his junior college career, Swaim may have made more catches in 2012 than he had in his entire high school and junior college career, combined, by a significant margin. No joke.
And then there's the blocking. Swaim is a powerful player coming through the hole and absolutely destroys a number of overmatched linebackers on lead/Power plays. And then he destroys people on the edge as an H-back. And on and on. Quite vicious stuff, actually. No confirmation of this yet, but the film probably gets the Maulerson stamp of approval.
Swaim plays to the whistle, keeps his feet moving on contact, and doesn't content himself with walling off defenders, a common problem for blockers at the high school and junior college levels. Heck, it was something that the last two Texas fullbacks struggled with a lot.
Analysts talk a lot about players sinking their hips when coming out of breaks for wide receivers and transitioning as cornerbacks, but it is also equally important in the leverage game that happens in the trenches and at the second level. In that area, Swaim excels for someone of his size, which explains why he's a legitimate fullback prospect.
Given his ankle and hip flexion in the blocking game, perhaps it's not that much of a surprise that Swaim showed that aforementioned upside when he finally got a chance as a receiver.
All told, the sophomore film from Swaim significantly raises his expectations and will make him a player to watch during open practices and the spring game. It may just be spring optimism talking, but Swaim appears to have had a breakout season in terms of addressing the major deficit to his game and looks like he could turn out to be an underrated part of the 2013 Texas recruiting class.
Drink some Geoff Swaim kool aid, y'all!
Quick take: Even if Swaim doesn't flash in the passing game, he'll be expected to knock some heads around as a blocker, especially at fullback and H-back.
Jake Raulerson | Celina center | 6-5, 270 | ****
Mack Brown's take:
He is a guy that played everywhere in high school. I talked to him a few minutes ago at our team meeting. He's already up to about 268 lbs. We look at him at both places, but right now in the offensive line first. He can really run, and he's very aggressive as you'll watch him throughout this video. He's a very bright young man, very driven. He's done an outstanding job in our off-season program. He and I really haven't sat down to talk about it. He played offensive line in the All-American All-Star Game. I think that's what he liked.
Maulerson, the bellcow of the Texas recruiting class, is reportedly up to around 270 pounds now -- though he hasn't experienced the shocking weight gain undergone by Swoopes, he has slowly been adding weight since the end of his senior season and will benefit in college from not losing weight during the season from playing virtually every snap.
As Raulerson slowly approaches his ultimate playing weight, which will probably be somewhere around 290 pounds, the main area to watch with his development is his playing strength. At times, Raulerson got pushed around by bigger players at the big events and it was mostly a result of his lack of mass.
The Celina product has gone about his development in the weight way -- not sacrificing his athleticism just to put on bad weight that won't help him functionally as a football, and put a great deal of trust in Bennie Wylie when he committed.
Of all the offensive linemen in the 2013 class, Raulerson might be the most long-term project, but he's a guy who will go about his business with a great deal of intensity, so there shouldn't be much concern about him maximizing whatever upside he possesses.
Quick take: The expectation for Raulerson is that he shows the ability to put on good weight -- he'll get to a playing weight at Texas, but there are some questions about how much his frame can hold before he starts sacrificing athleticism.
Deoundrei Davis | Cy Woods linebacker | 6-3, 215 | ****
Mack Brown's take:
We feel like he is a big-time player. He's tall and he can run. He's another guy, his mother said he was talking about the Longhorns when he was 3-years old. One of the first words he [said]. He's really physical and rangy. He's the type of linebacker you want in this league because he can play Sam [strongside linebacker], Mike [middle linebacker], play in space, cover backs and he probably can cover receivers. We feel like he has a chance to be really good. Right now in the Big 12, it is a speed game, as we all know.
Davis is rather difficult to project right now -- he's going to be spending his time rehabbing from his ACL injury last fall, so he won't be participating in spring practice, but the fact that he's doing that work at Texas instead of his high school should increase his odds of getting on the field next year.
So while Davis won't be a factor during the spring, he's still one of the most likely defensive players to make an impact next season given the need for speedy linebackers who can tackle and also make plays in coverage, descriptions that absolutely describe the Cy Woods product who was highly impressive at 7on7 last summer making a difference in space.
Quick take: The only thing that Davis really needs to worry about is getting healthy and becoming confident in his knee again.
So Texas fans, what are your expectations for these four players this spring?