In front of roughly 35,000 fans, the White team beat the Orange 23-13 in the annual spring scrimmage for the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
In the zero-sum nature of spring football, assessing the positives and negatives isn’t always easy — on every play made by one player, another player was beat.
One positive was the the play of the first-team offensive line in the first half. With only eight healthy scholarship players, it was a difficult format because the linemen were wearing the old black and burnt orange practice jerseys and playing for both teams. Head coach Tom Herman clearly wanted to see both quarterbacks play behind scholarship linemen.
The first-team offensive line lead several long drives in the first half to earn Herman’s praise. The results from the back ups were quite as good, though late in the game, the group really hit its stride in the running game, consistently collapsing the line of scrimmage for walk-on running back Tim Yoder on a touchdown drive.
There were good moments from both of the experienced quarterbacks — neither one threw an interception on the day and each made good throws. For Sam Ehlinger the best moments came when connecting with Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who had seven catches for 100 yards in the first half. Ehlinger finished with 151 yards on 13-of-22 passing.
Humphrey also got some work at running back with three scholarship players out with injuries and scored two touchdowns in short yardage. At 6’4 and 220 pounds, Humphrey is hardly a prototypical running back. He’s also a unique talent who showed excellent pad level and leg drive when he flashed back to his days as a high school running back at Southlake Carroll. There’s something to think about there for the coaching staff.
Back to Ehlinger though — the Austin product flashed some downfield accuracy and didn’t throw any interceptions, but there’s still clear room for growth because his ball placement was still off at times. Though the windows were mostly small that Ehlinger was throwing into, it was a little bit disappointing not to see more development in that area.
There was a fumble, too, as Derek Kerstetter, who normally plays right tackle, didn’t quite put the snap on target from center and Ehlinger dropped it. Running back Toneil Carter had fumbled earlier, continuing a disappointing trend on an evening during which Carter only gained 25 yards on 10 carries. Neither Carter nor prospective starter Daniel Young had particularly notable performances.
For Shane Buechele, there were also good moments and bad in going 12-of-21 passing for 130 yards and a touchdowns. On two occasions, wide receiver John Burt ran free on deep route. Both times, times Buechele overthrew him. The first time, he was under pressure from Malcolm Roach, but the second time the pocket was clean.
In better moments, Buechele displayed his connection to longtime friend Collin Johnson, throwing a touchdown pass and another fantastic effort down the sideline. For his part, Johnson was consistent catching the football, so his play on Saturday was a major positive moving forward.
Early enrollee quarterback Cameron Rising came in the game during the second half and made a nice throw down the seam to Jordan Pouncey for a significant gain. On the Orange team, fellow early enrollee quarterback Casey Thompson flashed the speed on scrambles that showcased his best attribute, even though the spring game can’t feature called quarterback runs.
In the fourth quarter, Thompson showed off his touch, too, hitting Jerrod Heard for a big gain and then throwing a pinpoint pass to Johnson in good coverage. Those two efforts were as good as any throws that the other quarterbacks made on the evening.
Defensively, there were some breakdowns in the secondary that freed John Burt. Most of the time, however, the coverage was solid, with BJ Foster ranging over for a pass breakup and Chris Brown flashing his striking ability. The open-field tackling was excellent, too.
On the defensive line, Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu were the standouts. During one play, Hager pushed back-up right tackle JP Urquidez back into the quarterback for a sack on a day when he also caught a screen pass on offense. The punch from Hager on that pass rush was really remarkable and significantly displaced Urquidez. Omeihu easily beat Denzel Okafor with a bull rush on another play.
From the linebacker position, Malcolm Roach flashed on multiple occasions stunting behind a defensive linemen and causing problems. That’s an area where he could be extremely successful next season — even if opposing linemen are in position to pick him up, stopping Roach coming downhill at 270 pounds is a difficult proposition.
On special teams, early enrollee Ryan Bujcevski boomed a 59-yard punt on his first effort and then struggled with his consistency. It did appear as it the focus was on pinning the ball along the sideline, which resulted in multiple punts out of bounds.
At place kicker, Joshua Rowland hit both of his attempts, with one coming from 29 yards and the other coming from 50, which would be his career high. So while it wasn’t an actual game, seeing Rowland hit both of his attempts and one from a long distance was heartening. Back-up Chris Naggar missed his only attempt.
Overall, the play from the back-up quarterbacks was probably more positive than the play from Ehlinger and Buechele. Still, there were good moments from both, even though each player needs to improve before the season starts. The same goes for the offensive line overall and the back ups in particular.
There was enough on both sides for Herman to feel positive about things, but was it enough offensively from the viewpoint of Lake Travis wide receiver to pick Texas over Ohio State in the coming days? Unfortunately, it’s easier to feel okay about the offense than it is to believe that Wilson saw what he wanted to see on Saturday.
When it’s teammate on teammate in the spring, it’s all about perspective.