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BON Roundtable: Spring practice sleepers?

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And we settle the Final Four or Omaha debate

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Quinn Ewers has stirred up a lot of conversations around the Forty Acres and beyond this spring, but who’s a player that isn’t being talked about enough?

Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - Quinn Ew- oh sorry I didn’t read the question. Assuming my counterparts take offensive sided players, I’ll go defense with Anthony Cook. Texas will still be a young team in 2022 and will need some of the upperclassmen to step up. Reports of Cook at safety so far in spring have been encouraging, with 247sports saying Cook has had four interceptions in eight practices. Cook was a bright spot on a troubling defense last season and I look for him to make an even bigger leap this next season at the safety position.

Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I think Isaiah Neyor will be impactful to the offense, regardless of who wins the quarterback battle. With Xavier Worthy in the fold, Texas doesn’t have a second option, Neyor means they have two first options. When you look at this offense in Sark’s last year at Alabama, you had three receivers average more than four receptions and 70 yards per game. If Neyor is as good as advertised and Whittington can finally stay healthy for the long-term, the passing game could prove to be deadly.

Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) - Xavier Worthy. The newcomers have drawn a lot of the focus and position changes in the secondary have received plenty of justified attention, but I feel like no one is really talking about how much better Worthy can be. He was sensational last year without the benefit of a spring practice or a healthy Casey Thompson after the Oklahoma game. Given Brennan Marion’s reputation as a strong teacher of the technical aspects of playing wide receiver, I think there’s some serious room for Worthy to grow in the 2022 season, especially if Jordan Whittington can stay healthy and Isaiah Neyor is as good as expected. Not to mention the impact the running game could have with all the talent in that room if the offensive line takes a step forward.

The Longhorns bounced back with a series win over Oklahoma at Globe Life Field thanks in part to 11 unanswered runs on Sunday. Ivan Melendez has matched his 13 home runs from last year already and Murphy Stehly leads the country with 55 total. Whose numbers are more impressive?

Cameron - I’m not going to take anything away from Melendez, but what Stelhy is doing this season is absolute bonkers. Pierce has moved him all over the lineup and he continues to produce. Leads the team in doubles and has 10 HR’s, only behind Melendez and Faltine. And of Texas hitters with 60 AB’s or more, he’s last on the team in strikeouts. But he’s second in at-bats…

Gerald - I lean toward Melendez because he has also had less to work with as far as hittable balls. He’s been walked in 31 of his at-bats, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of his at-bats. He’s also driven in more runs and has a better slugging percentage, so it seems like the Titanic is my pick.

Wescott - Melendez has been incredible, making major strides in reducing the swing and miss in his game. And even though he took a step back in that area last week, he’s been phenomenal. But the obvious answer here is Stehly – I thought it might be a little bit of a stretch to call him a starting-caliber player in my season preview, but he’s been so much better than that. One of the best hitters in the country, in fact. David Pierce has touted his work ethic to improve and he’s putting it all together with one of the most surprising seasons I can remember for a Texas baseball player in the last 20 years. What Stehly is doing is truly an awesome story.

The Texas pitching staff leads the Big 12 with a staff ERA of 3.55…are we too critical of the Horns pitching this season?

Cameron - David Pierce and this team have an expectation of winning the College World Series. The staff ERA in conference play jumps to 5.68 but what’s more disappointing is the individual ERA’s of Aaron Nixon (14.73), Tristan Stevens (12.79), Luke Harrison (16.20), and Travis Sthele (20.25). It’s a very small sample size, especially for Harrison and Sthele but Nixon and Stevens have struggled early on. Without Tanner Whitt, Nixon has to be a rock out of the bullpen.

Gerald - That’s the season ERA, but in conference matchups that number balloons to 5.68 – I think that 3.55 is floated by some stellar performances earlier in the season, while they’ve given up 32 runs in six conferences games.

Wescott - I can only speak for the high standard I’ve set for Texas pitching – with national championship aspirations, I’ve held them to an extraordinarily high standard and one that may be a little bit unfair given how much of an impact Tanner Witt moving to the starting rotation and then getting injured had on the bullpen when combined with the loss of Cole Quintanilla and, to a lesser extent, Parmer Wenzel. But that standard still holds in large part because Texas has enough talent across the pitching rotation to position this team to win in Omaha. So I think that framing is extremely important – there aren’t issues of ability this year, it’s about execution.

Earlier this week the Burnt Orange Nation social media accounts posted the question “Would you rather attend the College World Series or Final Four?” with Texas playing. What is y’alls answer?

Cameron - Final Four. It’s an atmosphere that is unmatched and not even the CWS in Omaha can rival it. Of course, the host city might dictate how much fun you’ll have outside the game but it’s still a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Gerald - I think the Trip to Omaha for the CWS is the move. I am not super in love with the way the NCAA handles host sites and cities and honestly, it kind of feels more like a production to me than anything else. I know some of the same things can be said of the CWS, especially after the change from Rosenblatt, but it’s still Omaha. I also think there’s something magical about a baseball tournament that just can’t be beaten.

Wescott - I don’t think the Final Four is really a great event for fans. It’s so often hosted in football stadiums meant to cram as many fans in as possible. Students in particular get stuck in those sections right off the floor where most of them can’t even see the court. It doesn’t seem like a particularly appealing fan experience – I never regret not going to the Final Four in 2003 when I was a freshman at UT. I would really like to go to Omaha, which at least guarantees two games and seems like a significantly better fan experience. Regardless of the venue, you won’t be catching me doing a shoey. Excuse me while I get this take off – I guess it’s a great thing to do if you want to be put on national television, but it’s legitimately disgusting. If your shoe is clean enough to justify actually drinking out of it, then you’ve just ruined some fresh kicks. If your shoe isn’t clean enough to be ruined, then you definitely shouldn’t be drinking out of it. And all of that isn’t even considering the unpleasantness of having to walk around in a shoe soaked with beer afterward.