The Texas Longhorns completed spring practice with the annual Orange-White scrimmage at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Here are five major lessons from the game.
1. Charlie Strong wants Tyrone Swoopes to start against Notre Dame
Junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is still the No. 1 quarterback after the Orange-White game, even though he didn't necessarily create a lot of separation from redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, who impressed at times with his arm and legs in his Texas debut.
With that being said, Strong didn't name Swoopes the starter, so the competition will continue through the spring, but the head coach did notably say that he doesn't want to start a redshirt freshman against Notre Dame when the 2015 season opens.
The best passes on the day came from Swoopes, including a fade route down the sideline to junior wide receiver Jacorey Warrick and two long passes to sophomore wide receiver Dorian Leonard that Leonard dropped. However, there were also flashes of the inconsistencies that have plagued Swoopes throughout his career -- he threw one bad interception on 3rd and 23 when he lofted a pass that was intercepted by a walk-on defensive back (eventually negated by a penalty) and had another throw that was ill-advised. Several other passes were off his back foot.
Since he spent most of the game going against the second-team defense, it's reasonable to expect Swoopes to play better than he did. In that regard, it was much of the same for him, with some really nice moments and a couple plays that were cringe-worthy. Still, he's much better than he was last spring and slightly improved from the end of last season.
Where Heard was able to separate himself was with his feet, showing off his burst in scoring an early touchdown on a scramble up the middle and making several other off-schedule plays in important moments. He also started out by completing his first nine passes. The issue with him is that he didn't show any ability to drive the ball down the field and made a couple of bad decisions of his own, throwing one interception and forcing another dangerous pass into double coverage.
One other area where Heard needs to grow? Going through his progressions, a common problem for young quarterbacks, as he often seemed to lock in on his primary target.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the scrimmage is that even though neither quarterback was perfect, both should be better options this season than Swoopes was last season.
2. The WRs aren't quite ready for prime time
After multiple impressive one-handed catches and some significant praise from Strong, sophomore wide receiver Dorian Leonard went into the spring game with high expectations, but delivered a disappointing performance that featured three drops and another potential touchdown catch that he got his hands on and could have caught.
Leonard cost Swoopes completions on two long passes when he went up with one hand down the sideline on one nice throw he should have caught and then dropped a potential 34-yard touchdown catch when he couldn't secure the football after going to the ground in the end zone.
With senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson out, he didn't have a chance to show any improved consistency or deep-threat ability and fellow senior wide receiver Daje Johnson had a disappointing performance. It wasn't just that he spent most of the day working with the second-team offense, it was his two fumbles -- including one deep in his own territory on punt return -- and the continued lack of playmaking ability from him. As a result of his issues with ball security, his punishment after the game was rolling the entire length of the end zone with a ball in his hands.
On the positive side, sophomores Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe flashed at times, but Joe did while basically working with the third team and Foreman bobbled a catch that probably wouldn't have stood in the regular season and then couldn't keep his feet in bounds on a potential touchdown catch.
3. Bryce Cottrell could start at strongside DE vs. Notre Dame
Strong has been pushing the junior defensive end to play with some confidence and it happened on Saturday, as Cottrell emerged with five tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. With a secondary behind him mostly made up of walk ons, putting pressure on the quarterback was key for the second-team defense and Cottrell helped provide much of it.
Considered a project coming out of high school, Cottrell has been stuck behind some talented players, but with senior defensive end Shiro Davis once again failing to stand out, Cottrell made a serious statement about his candidacy for the starting strongside defensive end position.
4. Malik Jefferson is still learning, but he flashed his potential
There were some rough moments early in the game for the state's No. 1 prospect, as he whiffed on an attempted tackle of senior running back Johnathan Gray and earned a tongue-lashing from linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary when he appeared to slow up when attempting to chase Swoopes to the edge on an early touchdown run.
However, he sandwiched a tackle for loss in between those two plays and made one of the game's defensive highlights when he chased down Daje Johnson and forced a fumble that redshirt freshman linebacker Edwin Freeman picked up an returned 35 yards for a touchdown.
Chris Bennett (@chrisgb00) April 18, 2015
Jefferson didn't have a chance to play what may be his most natural position of Fox end with the injuries and lack of depth at linebacker and took some false steps, but he also showed the upside that caused such fanfare when he committed and arrived on campus.
There will be some growing pains with him this season, but based on how he played, he's still on track to contribute early.
5. This team is probably still a year away
The lack of depth at linebacker and in the secondary are both extremely concerning, especially since the veteran linebackers didn't stand out during their time on the field. And with the quarterback situation still up in the air and no truly proven wide receivers, the offense should be better, but may not be enough to carry a team that won't have the same level of defensive play as last year.
So fans need to be aware that another difficult season could be on the horizon sine the staff will have to play numerous young players on both sides of the ball.