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Texas offense outplays defense in first spring scrimmage

Even without starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger, the Horns made big plays on offense.

Casey Thompson

Recent first-team reps for Texas Longhorns redshirt freshman quarterback Casey Thompson paid off when the team ran 105 plays in its first spring scrimmage, as the offense played better than the defense, even though starting junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger sat out due to an illness.

“Casey was pretty nervous yesterday, so I think that affected him a little bit,” Herman said. “Today, he looked good. Got a long way to go. For a guy who has never taken a snap in a game to be running with the first-team offense, I thought he operated it well and made some real good decisions.”

With numerous defensive players out, including four safeties — Brandon Jones (ankle), Caden Sterns (knee), BJ Foster (concussion), and Chris Brown (lung issues) — the offense had an advantage, even though senior wide receiver Collin Johnson (knee) wasn’t available and senior wide receiver Devin Duvernay (pubic bone) was limited.

Herman said that redshirt freshman Malcolm Epps made plays, as did running backs Keaontay Ingram, Jordan Whittington, and Kirk Johnson.

The school also shared a handful of plays from the scrimmage that provided more insight into what happened.

One touchdown by the first-team offense against the first-team defense came on a short run by Ingram behind a big block from junior right guard Denzel Okafor:

The most notable aspect of this play? Okafor playing inside with junior Derek Kerstetter playing outside, in contrast to previous open portions of practice during which the two switched roles. Since both players are capable of playing both positions, co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Herb Hand could opt to switch Okafor and Kerstetter situationally this season.

And how about the big blow delivered by sophomore cornerback Jalen Green? A little late, to be sure, but the physicality that last year’s starting cornerbacks brought to the field won’t be easy to replace, so every evidence of it this spring from potential replacements is definitely a positive.

One of the most heartening plays was made by senior running back Kirk Johnson, who was healthy last season for the first time since 2015, but didn’t receive a carry. Johnson bounced a run outside past walk-on linebacker Hank Coutoumanos and then cut back inside to break an attempted tackle by walk-on defensive back Mason Ramirez:

Nice to see Johnson looking fast and confident after all of his injury issues — perhaps he will be able to contribute this season.

At tight end, junior Cade Brewer is looking to take over for the departed Andrew Beck and the passing game is where the former Lake Travis wide receiver can represent the biggest upgrade over Beck. On Saturday, he went up to pull in a nice touch pass from Thompson over senior linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch, who recorded an interception during the scrimmage:

This is the type of play that coaches love to see in the zero-sum game of intrasquad scrimmages — a better play by one side of the ball beating a good play by the other side. In this case, it was a perfectly-placed throw by the quarterback and excellent ball skills beating out tight coverage from a player who hasn’t played much pass defense in his career.

Another play showed Thompson rolling right, planting, and then throwing back across his body to sophomore wide receiver Brennan Eagles on what looked like a crossing route for a nice gain:

On defense, redshirt freshman nose tackle Keondre Coburn helped make a play in the backfield when he slanted into and separated from junior tight end Cade Brewer in front of a blitz from redshirt freshman middle linebacker Ayodele Adeoye:

Following the kidney issues for Coburn in recent months, just having him back at practice and fully participating is a positive sign since he provides the most potential for playmaking ability at the nose tackle position this year.