For the first time in the Steve Sarkisian era, the Texas Longhorns held a scrimmage on Saturday that featured 100 plays and live tackling.
According to the new head coach, each position group had positive moments during that scrimmage and each position group made mistakes, but Sarkisian was happy overall with the way that the players responded and the team was able to avoid any injuries, always a positive development for a scrimmage.
With the opportunity for live tackling, Sarkisian was looking for the ability of his defenders to get players to the ground and for the team to avoid penalties, exchange issues at the quarterback position, and blown coverages.
“We didn’t have a lot of that today, so that part was encouraging,” Sarkisian said.
As junior Casey Thompson and redshirt freshman Hudson Card compete for the starting quarterback job, Sarkisian was happy with some aspects of how they performed and less happy with other aspects.
“I thought for the most part we threw the ball pretty accurately today,” Sarkisian said. “Missed a couple throws here and there, but I thought both of them moved the ball pretty well, especially when they were operating with the first offense. I thought that both of the guys stepped in, had good command, moved the ball, and created some explosive plays.”
Sarkisian thought the quarterbacks took too many sacks, though, a result of less-than-ideal pocket presence and an unwillingness to step up in the pocket when pressured.
In the zero-sum game of intrasquad scrimmages, that means that the pass rush performed well, a significant concern entering the spring following the early departure of Joseph Ossai to the NFL and the graduation of Ta’Quon Graham.
Sarkisian praised the efforts of LSU graduate transfer Ray Thornton and senior Jacoby Jones off the edge, both for their performances in the scrimmage and their efforts throughout spring practice. Inside at defensive tackle, sophomore Alfred Collins has started making plays in the last week after overcoming the wrist injury that he suffered last season. Sarkisian also mentioned redshirt freshman Vernon Broughton as a young player who has made encouraging plays.
At linebacker, Sarkisian confirmed that junior Tyler Owens is getting a look in the box and made some plays during the scrimmage.
On the other side of the ball, sophomore wide receiver Jordan Whittington has stepped up with junior Jake Smith out due to a foot injury.
“He’s a guy who’s really learned our system well, is probably the furthest along of understanding and can play multiple positions at the wide receiver position right now,” Sarkisian said of Whittington. “He’s been a playmaker so far throughout the beginning of the spring ball and he’s also been a real asset on special teams.”
Junior running back Roschon Johnson, the first offensive player to meet with the media this spring, is also emerging as a staff favorite.
“Another guy who’s kind of fallen into that same category as J-Whitt has been Roschon,” Sarkisian said. “Roschon has done everything we’ve asked for from the day we got here and he’s worked really hard in the weight room, he’s practicing really well, and he went out and played really well today.”
So, fair warning — don’t be surprised if Johnson receives a heavy workload this fall along with sophomore standout Bijan Robinson.