For the very first time during the Tom Herman era, the Texas Longhorns will take the field in front of the masses as part of the closest thing to a real football game until September — the annual Orange-White spring game.
For obvious reasons, it’s an exiting time in The Lone Star State, especially for the burnt orange faithful.
Football is being played, we have a quarterback battle, as usual, and the buzz humming from spring practice is that things may finally be on the cusp of turning around in Austin. While justifying such hype is typically what a spring game is for, at least to an extent, it’s worth tempering expectations entering Saturday.
Along with the Longhorns still adjusting to a new culture and scheme under a new coaching staff, it’s still relatively early in the offseason, and more notably, Texas is far from full strength right now, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
- RB Chris Warren III (hamstring)
- RB Kyle Porter (ankle)
- RB Kirk Johnson (knee)
- RB Tristian Houston (ankle)
- RB Roderick Bernard (knee)
- C Zach Shackelford (ankle)
- TE Andrew Beck (foot)
- S Jason Hall (hamstring)
- CB Davante Davis (shoulder)
What to watch for
There’s no shortage of storylines entering Saturday’s glorified scrimmage and since this is Texas, virtually every aspect of this weekend’s outcome will be overanalyzed and then analyzed some more throughout the coming weeks. To some extent, this is justifiable and Saturday will serve as an opportunity for many on the roster to chip away at reps in the rotation, and possibly towards emerging as a starter once September rolls around. That said, here’s a few things to watch for during the spring game:
- How the quarterbacks perform: It wouldn’t be spring in Austin without talk of a quarterback battle. To this point, most of the buzz favors Shane Buechele and that’s largely due to his experience, which has been evident throughout the spring. Additionally, he’s reportedly taken the expected steps in the right direction this offseason, but it’s only April. While the quarterback battle between Buechele and early enrollee Sam Ehlinger won’t be determined on Saturday, we may exit the weekend with a solid idea of where things stand. Can Buechele truly separate himself with an impressive showing? Can Ehlinger keep things competitive entering the summer with much of the same?
- Is the defense as overwhelming as reported: Virtually every report stemming from scrimmages to this point have indicated that the offense is having very little luck against Todd Orlando’s defense. Obviously, D’Onta Forman is no longer in burnt orange so that helps, and injuries have plagued the offensive line and running back room throughout the offseason, but any news of defensive dominance is a plus after last season. While Saturday will need to be taken with a grain of salt due to injuries and such, it will be an encouraging sign if the defense swarms to the ball and is as overwhelming and physically imposing as many reports have suggested.
- It’s the small things: Among the criticisms directed at Charlie Strong during his time in Austin was how often the little things were an issue — penalties, clock management, play-calling, etc. Herman, on the other hand, has built a reputation for stressing every little detail so that’s something to watch for on Saturday. What’s the overall effort level like? Are guys playing through the whistle? How many penalties and careless turnovers will we see? Has special teams play improved; primarily in the kicking game?
- Can any wide receivers separate themselves: The Longhorns wide receiver corps has received plenty of praise this season as a deep and talented bunch, from both Herman and those observing spring practices. While the rotation can easily run five-to-seven deep without skipping a beat, nobody has really solidified their position and separated themselves from the pack just yet. Can Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay have a statement scrimmage or will guys like Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps continue to make their push and make things interesting entering the summer?
- Will the secondary still be an issue: The Longhorns secondary was fairly horrible last season. Such is life in the Big 12, but even by those standards, the secondary underperformed. Now under the guidance of Jason Washington, and as a more experienced unit, we’ll get a glimpse at how the unit holds up against a talented receiving corps and a pair of talented quarterbacks. Many clamored for a safety tandem of Brandon Jones and DeShon Elliott in 2016 and that’s the current paid of starters behind cornerbacks Holton Hill, Kris Boyd and P.J. Locke. Will finally get to see what that looks like in a game setting.
How to watch, listen, and stream
TV: Longhorn Network
Time: 1:00 p.m. CT
Radio: 104.9 The Horn
Online Streaming: WatchESPN, TexasSports.com, Texas mobile app
To help ease the agony and pass the time as we wait for the closest thing to a real football game on Saturday, make sure to tune in to Longhorn Network on Friday at 7:00 p.m. CT for a Spring Practice All-Access special.
The hour-long feature provides the burnt orange nation with an inside look and Herman and his staff’s team meetings, positional group meetings and the coaches are mic’d up on the practice field, giving fans a personal look and how the staff interacts and works with the players!