AUSTIN, Texas — Back from spring break, the Texas Longhorns held the fourth spring practice on Tuesday in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts on a cool, foggy morning at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Here’s some observations from the four periods of practice made open to the media:
- As usual, the open portion of practice was designed to limit any real takeaways, but on a basic level it’s surreal to see Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning throwing next to each other — two of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the modern era and one with the extraordinarily famous last name. Without much to gain from the actual throws that they made, mostly to a coach working on RPOs or to wide receivers against air in the final period, there was plenty of opportunity to step back and think about how improbable this all seemed two years ago when Ewers committed to Ohio State and Manning was still in the early stages of one of the most high-profile recruitments ever.
- Noticing Ewers working to keep his feet alive on RPOs, the type of throws that he often made off platform last year, didn’t exactly what make him stand out from his teammates, but it did put into relief the importance of offseason storylines surrounding his need to focus on those little details.
- Manning may not have the arm strength of someone like Josh Allen, but he can put plenty of velocity on throws like the glance RPOs over the middle in a way that looks different than Ewers, who always seems effortless.
- Quarterback Maalik Murphy did not look limited by the foot issue that was bothering him before spring break, taking a lot of the second-team reps over Manning.
- Running back Jonathon Brooks was dressed and took reps with the other running backs, taking the first reps in a drill that featured position coach Tashard Choice calling out which gap to hit as the running backs approached the line of scrimmage. Brooks underwent hernia surgery following the Alamo Bowl.
- Running back Keilan Robinson did not participate during the media window of practice.
- Compared to the other running backs, CJ Baxter just looks different — he’s significantly taller than everyone else but Brooks. While Baxter profiles as a player who will benefit from summer conditioning, he’s got some obvious strength in his lower body.
- Wide receiver Isaiah Neyor was also a participant wearing a brace on his surgically-repaired right knee. Given the wet conditions, that was a bit nerve-racking, but Neyor looked to be running about three-quarters speed through drills and looked comfortable even when he was forced to spin to catch a pass on the move.
- The wide receiver corps just has a different feel to it with the addition of early enrollees Johntay Cook and DeAndre Moore Jr., but it felt particularly notable to see AD Mitchell and think, “that dude has two national titles and made big-time plays to help win both of them,” a contrast to former NCAA transfer portal additions like Ray Thornton and Ben Davis.
- Offensive linemen Cole Hutson and Connor Robertson did not participate in offensive line drills.
- Defensive lineman Jaray Bledsoe was participating in drills with the edge players early in practice, the expectation based on his weight entering the spring. He drew praise from head coach Steve Sarkisian before spring break for his strength and explosiveness.
- Cook and Moore both took part in punt coverage drills during one period. While wide receivers don’t often end up on coverage units, Moore is an intriguing option there because he was a two-way standout in high school who was good enough on defense to play there at a Power Five school.
- Walk-on kicker Charles Feris, a sophomore, was working as the punter on Tuesday with Stanford transfer Ryan Sanborn and preferred walk-on Ian Ratliff not yet on campus. Texas will clearly need both of them for special teams coordinator Jeff Banks to feel comfortable at that position going into the position.