The Texas Longhorns made it through one week of preseason camp, so it’s worth taking a visual look position by position and tease out some of the themes for group as it transitions to the leadership of new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.
QB1 is a senior who leads all active FBS quarterbacks in completions (571), attempts (879), passing yards (6,955), total offense (8,100) and total touchdowns (80) since the start of the 2018 season.
Stop and think about that for a minute.
Coincidentally enough for a quarterback who wears No. 11, it’s been exactly that long since the Longhorns had a quarterback who could boast a similar resume. Since Colt McCoy got knocked out of that national championship game, Texas spent more than a decade waiting to get to that point again.
As long as the season can happen, we’re finally there.
And there’s no mistaking that Sam Ehlinger looks ready.
How about the comment from Ehlinger’s new center Derek Kersetter, the senior who has now played three positions along the line — “Can you flex any harder for these pics?”
We’ll give Ehlinger the benefit of the doubt because it certainly doesn’t look like he was standing around at the home gym set up in Westlake during quarantine while some of his teammates worked out there.
Plus, since it’s been the longest offseason ever, here’s some “Sam Ehlinger throwing release” porn, as a treat.
The future looks bright, too, no matter what happens with the development of redshirt sophomore Casey Thompson — freshmen Hudson Card and Ja’Quinden Jackson are now getting their first reps after becoming a remarkable recruiting coup for the Longhorns.
Listed at 185 pounds when he signed, Card is now 193 pounds, according to the school, and looks visibly bigger in his upper and lower body. Like he’s an offseason away from having the necessary padding, as head coach Tom Herman would put it, to survive a season as a quarterback who can add value in the running game and scrambling.
As for Jackson, it’s an extremely positive development that he’s already taking passing reps after suffering the knee injury that so unfortunately ended his high school career last December in the state semifinal. So after it appeared that Card would get a head start by enrolling early and healthy, the Lake Travis product’s early arrival didn’t result in a single extra rep this spring compared to Jackson, who already participating now.
Behold, Bijan Robinson with a football in a burnt orange jersey. Good combination, no?
Robinson once again drew praise from head coach Tom Herman last week for physically looking the part and for his maturity.
“Getting hit and locking people and all that stuff, can’t tell, but he’s what they’re supposed to look like, you know, he’s 18 going on 24,” Herman said. “In terms of the maturity, that he has not only mentally but physically, I mean you look at his body and it’s, again, it looks like a kid that’s been through Yancy McKnight’s offseason for a good three or four years.”
In a pass-protection drill, Robinson had a rude introduction to college football when redshirt sophomore linebacker Ayodele Adeoye spun off him for an easy win in that rep — something that former linebacker Malik Jefferson said he wasn’t allowed to do during his time at Texas —
Just know that Herman has a high level of confidence that Robinson will quickly translate his talent to the field.
“I’m almost positive he’s gonna be up to that task and excited about it,” Herman said.
One week ago, no one was predicting freshman wide receiver Troy Omeire as the lead story not just at this position, but arguably as the Week 1 surprise of preseason camp. Yes, on the whole roster.
Now up to 230 pounds on his 6’3 frame, Omeire didn’t take much time to make his introduction. For a true freshman who just arrived on campus, reps with the No. 1 quarterback are significant and Omeire quickly took advantage with a big play against preseason All-Big 12 cornerback D’Shawn Jamison.
Omeire isn’t known as a burner, so being able to run past the explosive Jamison is a significant early data point.
A couple of other data points? A lunging grab from Ehlinger that showed his length and strong hands and a one-handed grab that featured insane reaction time. Not to mention the physicality to simply discard the cornerback.
A one-time Texas A&M commit, Omeire dropped in the rankings after flipping to Texas despite producing more than 1,300 total yards as a senior. No matter — he’s making an impression quickly at Texas, not just on fans, but on QB1, too.
Speaking of freshmen, Kelvontay Dixon managed to pull in a bobble catch for a big play against fellow freshman Jahdae Barron. Even before his Arkansas decommitment, Texas pushed for Dixon in no small part due to that 10.71 100m speed that has the potential to take the top off defenses.
When Texas landed graduate transfer Tarik Black from Michigan, it was clear that the Longhorns were getting a player with some size and explosiveness, but he hadn’t really flashed any dynamic ability with the Wolverines.
So although this is just one play in shells, it was encouraging to see this type of cut from the 6’3, 217-pounder, because that’s a big-time move in any approximation of football.
Through one week, there isn’t a lot of buzz yet surrounding sophomore Jake Smith and redshirt freshman Jordan Whittington.
However, this cut from Smith illustrates what it means to sink your hips into your break to crisply come out with maximum velocity.
For the H receivers, being able to get open on the dig is a huge part of the offense, especially on third down, so that’s one of the most important routes that Smith will run. If he can create separation on them, he has to chance to answer the key question of how effectively the Horns replace Devin Duvernay’s contributions.
As for Whittington, how nice is it just to see him with a football in his hands again? He’s practicing after dealing with a recent hamstring issue.
He’s got two offensive linemen blocking for him on this play — perhaps a slip screen — and that’s just a hint of how Yurcich will potentially deploy Whittington in his offense. Just get him the ball and let him make plays.
Jared Wiley now looks like a dude.
The sophomore benefited from some early playing time last season after the injury to Cade Brewer and now looks physically ready to hold his own in the trenches at 6’7 and 254 pounds. In fact, since Brewer hasn’t really taken the next step as a blocker yet, it’s possible that the size, length, and added strength of Wiley could make him the team’s best blocker at the position this year.
Perhaps Brewer’s development has simply been held back by his two major injuries, but there’s no question that he lacks the ideal physical measurables that Wiley possesses. In fact, Wiley has the most prototypical frame of all the tight ends that Herman has recruited at Texas, including redshirt freshman Brayden Liebrock.
Barely ranked inside the top 700 players nationally, Wiley had limited experience when he arrived in Austin last summer. Even so, coaches quickly started talking about his NFL upside. For a developmental prospect, that was some high praise for that discussion to happen so soon and come from multiple coaches, including Herman.
Texas hasn’t even been in full pads yet in preseason camp, making it hard to say whether Wiley has improved technically, but from a physical standpoint, his stock is a buy right now.
If junior Jack linebacker Joseph Ossai is going to have the big-time season everyone expects, he’ll have to perform better than he did on these two reps against potential first-round draft pick Sam Cosmi, the junior left tackle.
The pancake on the second is just disrespectful. Ossai tried to rip him and Cosmi wasn’t having any of it — Ossai wanted to get his hips past Cosmi for that move to work, but Cosmi was too quick his set and too strong with his hands just stoning Ossai as soon as he made contact. Then, when Ossai tried to swim over, Cosmi buried him.
Texas hasn’t had a first-round pick on the offensive line since Mike Williams since 2002 — a longer streak than the Horns have endured at quarterback by a significant margin. As Ehlinger tries to improve on his habit of leaving clean pockets, Cosmi should ensure that those pockets stay clean from his side in ways that the program hasn’t seen in a really long time.
Senior center Derek Kerstetter getting beat by a spin move from sophomore nose tackle Keondre Cobun doesn’t mean much, but the transition from blocking edge players to a 350-pounder like Coburn is an underrated storyline for preseason camp.
As lean as sophomore guard Junior Angilau has always looked for an offensive lineman, he looks more lean than ever at a listed 294 pounds.
Here is perhaps the biggest story along the offensive line.
Redshirt freshman Isaiah Hookfin was recruited as a tackle, but took a guard rep in this video against senior Ta’Quon Graham who is expected to play the three technique this year. That’s notable because, according to multiple reports, Hookfin is now in the mix to start at right guard after a strong start to camp.
Originally recruited as a tackle, Hookfin didn’t have much experience in high school and was listed at 6’5, 270 pounds when he signed as a developmental player. Now he’s gained about 45 pounds and still has an agility advantage over fellow redshirt Tyler Johnson at the position, so Hookfin is a player who could potentially be an impact guard on run concepts like Power and Counter, as well as in the screen game.