On Thursday, Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown spoke with the media on Thursday, providing a variety of updates on the team.
On the injury front, there is good news regarding wide receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, who have both worked two out of the last three practices (as of Thursday afternoon), according to Brown. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, junior cornerback Quandre Diggs is back participating in drills, while junior safety Josh Turner is a bit behind the other three, though Brown still expects him back by the season opener against New Mexico State in 15 days.
There hasn't been a lot of scrimmage information trickle out over the last few days, but the coaches were pretty unanimous in saying that the first-team defense was better than the first-team offense on Monday, hardly surprising given the situation at wide receiver.
In fact, Brown said the defense was better against the run than they were at any time last season. The zero-sum game of fall camp means that can be taken as a major positive for the defense or a major negative for an offensive line that needs to take the next step for the offense to improve. But Brown also identified the linebackers at the unit of the team that has improved the most since last season, so perhaps defensive coordinator Manny Diaz does have some ability on the player development side.
The Texas head coach also mentioned the kicking game as a positive in the first part of fall camp, though the competition at place kicker and punter are both still ongoing. Finally healthy after nearly a year on campus, senior Penn State transfer Anthony Fera may be ready to take over the place-kicking duties after Brown declared him the slight leader over sophomore Nick Jordan, last year's starter for most of the season. At punter, it appears that junior Will Russ may win a kicking job for the first time in his four years on campus after back surgery during the spring, though Fera is close on his heels in that competition.
Improved punting will be difficult after Duke graduate transfer Alex King's impressive year in Austin, but more steady place kicking may be a necessity if Texas wants a serious shot at winning the Big 12 this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, Brown said true freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes wouldn't be ready to play if the season had started on Thursday because he has been slowed by a sore hamstring throughout camp. No matter what the depth chart looks like, it appears that senior Case McCoy would be the first quarterback off the bench to replace junior David Ash in case of injury.
The Wildcat formation has also been a subject of discussion in recent weeks and relates to the Swoopes situation because redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet has a chance to steal some of the game reps that could have potentially gone to the early enrollee. Though sophomore running back Johnathan Gray was the triggerman in the formation during the scrimmage Monday, Overstreet has taken reps there in practice and could feature a more expanded package of basic offensive plays if play caller Major Applewhite decides he needs to get on the field in that capacity.
Brown has been impressed with the way Overstreet's speed has translated to the position, though the Tatum product is continuing to work on his ability to run behind his pads. Vision has also been a positive for Overstreet in his adjustments, another area in which he was not guaranteed to have any success. The Longhorns aren't exactly short on potential playmakers this fall, but it never hurts to have another one developing on schedule.
Want to know more about why the Texas defense fell apart last season and how Manny Diaz can fix it? What about insight into Major Applewhite's influences and how they will impact the new Texas offense? Or why you should believe in David Ash making the jump this season? Get all the answers in 2013 In the Huddle: Texas.