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Texas Longhorns Orange-White game observations

Thirteen more thoughts from the scrimmage.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A handful of thoughts and observations on the Texas Longhorns Orange-White game from Saturday at Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to augment the five major lessons from the spring-ending scrimmage.

-- Senior running back Johnathan Gray didn't receive many carries during the game since he doesn't need the reps and needs to stay healthy. When he did have a chance early on in the game, he avoided several attempted tackles in an extremely positive sign for him heading into his final season at Texas -- there's no question that his elusiveness right now is as good as it's ever been.

-- The most impressive performance at running back was from sophomore D'Onta Foreman, who was consistently able to take the edge and trucked a number of walk ons once he got into the open field. Even though caveats apply due to the defenders he was going against, Foreman was running angry on Saturday and that's a quality that should help him see the field and make an impact this fall.

-- The Texas offense didn't show a lot of the perimeter run game today, using an end around to junior wide receiver Jacorey Warrick and a jet sweep to junior wide receiver Ty Templin late. Based on some limited practice footage that showed the Horns working fairly extensively on that series, expect it to receive more usage this fall. As it should.

-- On two running back screen passes during the day, the timing and execution looked rather poor. In 2012, the Longhorns were able to pick up some big plays in difficult down-and-distance situations by running screen passes effectively. Right now, that doesn't look likely in 2015 without some significant improvement.

-- Early enrollee Connor Williams was the starting right tackle and appeared to spend most of the scrimmage working with the first-team offensive line. Though I wasn't specifically watching him, he seemed to hold his own.

-- Neither offensive line looked dominant against a depleted defensive line that still features plenty of talent, but the performances from both groups were much better than the abysmal showing last year. Notably absent from action was the former starter at right tackle, Camrhon Hughes, who doesn't look likely to ever appear in a meaningful snap for the Longhorns. Junior college transfers Brandon Hodges (left tackle) and Tristan Nickelson (right tackle) worked with the second-team offensive line at the tackle positions, with Garrett Thomas also spending time at right tackle.

-- Senior Alex De La Torre was the starting tight end and made an excellent kick-out block to spring Foreman's longest gain of the day. While it wasn't particularly surprising to see him starting, the fact that he got some work as an in-line tight end was a bit of a shock -- listed at 6'1, he just doesn't have the size and length to hold his own against defensive linemen. Consider that a challenge extended to sophomores Andrew Beck and Blake Whiteley.

-- The two best throws on the day from redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard came on passes up the seam, one to senior wide receiver Daje Johnson early that he had to fit into a small window because of excellent coverage from redshirt freshman nickel back John Bonney and another to Templin on a similar pass that was much more wide open.

-- Speaking of Bonney, he looked like he's ready to start, showing well in coverage and making another big hit. With no other legitimate options at nickel back currently on campus, Texas may have to ride with him even if he's not ready when September arrives. Fortunately, his performance on Saturday was incredibly heartening in that regard.

-- One of the other big hits on the day came from junior safety Dylan Haines, who forced the first incompletion by Heard when he arrived with the football. There weren't any spectacular plays from the former walk on, he just delivered another solid performance, which is exactly what the coaches expect from him now.

-- Sophomore safety Jason Hall wasn't noticeable for much of the game, which isn't always a bad thing for a defensive back, but he did miss a big opportunity when he jumped a short out route and then dropped a pass he could have returned for a touchdown. With much of his upside dependent on making plays in the passing game, Hall needs to come up with interceptions like those to maximize his talent.

-- Senior kicker Nike Rose had one kick go off the right upright, but otherwise looked much more consistent than he did last season, hitting from over 50 yards with ease and connecting all of his other attempts, including one from 49 yards. If he can continue that accuracy into next season and maintain height on his long kicks, the Longhorns should have a chance to end drives with made field goals, even from great distances.

-- In the punting game, sophomore Mitchell Becker will handle those duties this year and avoided any bad shanks on the day. The hang time, tight rotation, and length weren't there for him on Saturday and one punt went for barely more than 30 yards, so he doesn't exactly project as a weapon as this point.