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Texas Longhorns Orange-White game storylines

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It may be a spring game, but there will be plenty of intrigue when the 'Horns take the field on Saturday.

Texas athletics

If there are only two seasons for Texas Longhorns fans -- football season and spring football -- the latter comes to an end on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT on Longhorn Network when head coach Charlie Strong's team takes the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium for the annual Orange-White game that marks the 15th and final spring practice for the burnt orange and white.

Here's a look at some of the biggest storylines to follow during the scrimmage:

The quarterback battle

During virtually every offseason since Colt McCoy departed the program in early 2010, the Longhorns have held an ongoing quarterback competition of varying degrees. With the minor shoulder sprain that sophomore Jerrod Heard suffered several weeks ago keeping him out of the spring game, senior Tyrone Swoopes and early enrollee Shane Buechele will battle for pole position heading into the summer.

It's hard to find much more to say about it at this point, but the major pressure in on Swoopes to prove that he's improved over a junior season that began with a terrible performance in South Bend that cost him the starting job until a head injury to Heard afforded him the start at Baylor. Most of all, Swoopes needs to show better accuracy on deep balls to convince skeptics that he's not the same quarterback he's been since he enrolled in Austin.

For Buechele, the stakes aren't nearly as high -- he just needs to show a command of the offense and do the things that he's always done so well. As long as he can prove that his floor is as high as so many believe, at worst he's an emergency option to provide steady play next fall in case Swoopes and Heard falter.

The new offense

Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert surely won't go deep into his playbook at any portion of the Saturday proceedings, but he will have to put his base offense on film. That means a lot of tempo, a lot of run-pass options, and a heavy dose of vertical routes to take advantage of a defense spread sideline to sideline and forced to commit numbers to the box or to the edges to deal with the wide splits of the wide receivers.

The install process is ongoing, so don't expect the tempo to be as fast as it will be during the fall or all the reads to be absolutely crisp, but Texas fans will get to see the new scheme in action that will play a huge role in deciding whether Strong has the program on the right trajectory to keep his job and land another big class.

Line depth

Keep an eye on early enrollee center Zach Shackelford and junior left guard Brandon Hodges coming off a redshirt season, but the ability to showcase some depth on both sides of the line will be important for the Longhorns heading into the 2016 season. So players like junior offensive tackle Tristan Nickelson, sophomore guard Elijah Rodriguez, sophomore defensive tackle Jake McMillon, and sophomore defensive tackle Chris Nelson.

The defensive end position is worth monitoring, too -- sophomore Charles Omenihu may need to provide some pass-rushing ability from the strongside this year and sophomore Breckyn Hager may get some time at the hybrid Fox position to showcase his best traits coming downhill.

Offensive playmakers

The search for explosive players at the wide receiver position hasn't lasted quite as long as the search for a reliable quarterback, but it has been a frequent topic of conversation for Strong over the last two years. With sophomore wide receiver John Burt out for much of the spring, early enrollee Collin Johnson will have a chance to back up his superlative play in practice with some public displays of athleticism.

But Johnson almost seems like a known commodity at this point, so now it seems like other players showcasing some big-play ability may be more important. There are so many scholarship wide receivers on this team that some separation will have to happen on Saturday, whether it's sophomore DeAndre McNeal, junior Armanti Foreman, or someone else.

Likewise, the running back position features some intriguing depth in redshirt freshman Tristian Houston and junior Roderick Bernard. After spending most of the 2015 season recovering from an ACL injury, Bernard is particularly intriguing because of his quickness in space.

Context matters

It's possible that the Longhorns could pit the first-team offense against the second-team defense for large portions of the scrimmage, but that would be a change from the past. So even though it's popular to talk about spring football as a zero-sum game, the reality is that the context matters when it comes to the spring-ending scrimmages.

When former fullback Alex De La Torre couldn't block defensive end Bryce Cottrell last year, it said more about De La Torre's size and overall ability as an in-line blocker than it did about Cottrell's pass-rushing abilities.

So there will be match ups that favor the offense and some match ups that favor the defense. Assessing the scrimmage at the end will ultimately be an exercise in determining which players winning specific match ups will most favor the ultimate development of the team. Doing so is not easy and it's definitely subjective, but going through that assessment process will set the narrative for the long summer to come.