Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss the start of spring practice, which officially begins on Wednesday and ends with the annual Orange-White game on April 18.
The team will begin practicing in pads on Saturday.
Here are some high points from Strong:
-- Sophomore offensive guard Darius James is still working to recover from the knee injury that prematurely ended the 2014 season for him. The good news is that James is with the team, but Strong did say that he has some work to do in the classroom, which raises some questions about whether he would have been available for the bowl game had he been healthy.
-- There's pressure on the coaching staff this fall. Strong said that this is the type of year when the staff as a whole sees what kind of coaches they are. Observers could also take the comment as a sign that the head coach believes his team may be another year or so away from seriously competing on the national stage.
-- One of the underrated storylines this spring is the competition for the job at punter. Will Russ and Michael Davidson split those duties last year, but neither one is still in the program, leaving sophomore Mitchell Becker and senior Nick Rose to compete for the job. The concern with Rose is that if he handles the punting duties, he would be in charge of kicking in all three phases. If that's the case, he better get that right leg of his in good shape.
-- New tight ends coach Jeff Traylor is now in charge of special teams duties to take pressure off of defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn because coaching tight ends isn't nearly as time intensive as handling the defensive backs. However, the entire coaching staff will also pitch in to help in a phase that was downright terrible last season.
-- Junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will split reps this spring in an effort to foster a true competition at quarterback Strong hopes to have a feel for which one will win the battle by the end of spring, but said that he wouldn't be opposed to playing both next fall if necessary. Strong said that Swoopes was winning drills with the skill position players in offseason workouts.
-- Strong continued to call the alterations to the offense "tweaks" and reiterated his point about so many high school offenses running the spread. To take advantage of the athleticism of both quarterbacks, the team will spread the ball out more this season, but the team won't throw the ball 60 times a game.
-- Creating big plays is a state need for this season and the improved maturity of senior wide receiver/running back Daje Johnson should help in that regard. Strong said that his speedster has "come a million miles" since his suspension last summer, when Johnson promised his new head coach at the time that he wouldn't be in his doghouse again. So far he's followed through. Noting that Johnson hasn't made a play since the game against Oklahoma two years ago, Strong is challenging Johnson to make a bigger impact.
-- As for the other pass-catching Johnson on the roster, Strong said that senior Marcus Johnson "got lost" last season, even though he has all the tools to succeed. When asked about the wide receiver position, the head coach lumped all the young players together without discussing any names, though he did bring up sophomore Dorian Leonard as a guy who comes in and works hard.
-- Will the Longhorns add a transfer quarterback for 2015? Strong said that the staff won't be able to make a decision about that until after spring practice because they don't know who will be out there.
-- Strong singled out early enrollee offensive linemen Garrett Thomas and Connor Williams as guys who have done "amazing" work so far. Is it possible that those two players are further along right now out of high school than junior college transfer Brandon Hodges? Strong wasn't that specific, but if true, it could reduce the odds of Hodges contributing at left tackle immediately.
-- The loss to Arkansas still burns Strong and he said that it will likely continue to burn him until the season opens this fall. He said he takes it out on the team at times when they lag during conditioning work, a clear indicator that the practice habits still aren't up to standard. At one point, Strong wanted to stop a conditioning session to make the team re-watch the Texas Bowl. There were also some issues last year with cliques in the locker room, a subject Strong addressed in a Sunday evening meeting with the team to start spring practice. As a result, building chemistry is still a point of emphasis.
-- Senior Peter Jinkens and junior Tim Cole will compete with senior Dalton Santos for the middle linebacker position this spring. The player who wins the role will also need to have a strong understanding of the overall scheme, as Strong called it the "glue" of the defense.
-- In an effort to hit the reset button with the team, the helmets will not feature the Longhorns logo for a second straight spring.