Texas Longhorns assistant head coach for the offense/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson met with the media on Tuesday to provide insight into where the offense stands heading into Saturday's season opener against the North Texas Mean Green.
Here are the highlights from Watson's availability.
-- Along the offensive line, senior center Dominic Espinosa has been a big part of the offensive line's growth during fall camp. Watson called Espinosa a "true quarterback of the offensive line" and noted that he makes all the call for the group.
"Conceptually, he gets it," Watson said. "He's a really good football player. He's really solidified what we've done."
Watson also singled out junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle and sophomore offensive lineman Kent Perkins as two other players who have stood out. In addition, he named junior offensive lineman Marcus Hutchins as someone who has played "really well."
The question with Hutchins has been whether his elevation is a result of actual improvement or incredibly thin depth. The answer is probably a little bit of both, but the rhetoric is positive, at least.
-- According to Watson, freshman wide receiver Lorenzo Joe will have an impact at some point this season because of his ability to prepare. Joe is also an excellent athlete for his size, as he completed nearly 60% of his passes as a senior and ran for more than 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. After observing his work ethic in high school and how much time he spent keeping his wide receiver skills sharp, it is both unsurprising and a testament to Joe that he's been able to readjust to wide receiver so quickly.
-- Freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard looks headed for a redshirt season after losing the back-up job to sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, but Watson said that Heard is improving and becoming more comfortable in the offense.
"I want him to learn to execute plays as opposed of running plays," Watson said. "There's a major difference and he's beginning to understand the detail in the execution of plays, so it's a process. I think he's right where I would expect him to be right now."
-- Freshman running back Donald Catalon may not play against North Texas as a precaution after he suffered an injury in fall camp that has gone mostly undiscussed by the coaches. If he doesn't play, the Horns will have only three available running backs, including freshman D'Onta Foreman, who just recently joined the team.
-- There have been some questions about the hands of sophomore wide receiver Jacorey Warrick during fall camp and Watson said that his speedy pass-catcher has been good catching the football, but said he started shaky at the beginning of camp and needs to calm his mind. When he's on task, Watson said, he's "very effective."
Senior wide receiver John Harris is a "changed person" who has been "our most steady performer and biggest performer of our whole entire training camp," said Watson. It's a major development for a player who was close to washing out under the previous regime.
-- Watson had some effusive praise for junior wide receiver Marcus Johnson, who is expected to take on a much larger role with this team.
"He's such a brilliant football mind," Watson said. "He gets football easy. He has an explosive speed that you can't coach and he's got the hands to go along with it. He's an easy guy for me. I gravitate to him and I want to target to him all over the place."
Just call a wheel route or two, coach.