The scrimmage tonight was supposed to be the definitive battle for the starting quarterback position. The Asset tells us it wasn’t. Not to say the QB play was poor, it was actually pretty good, but there wasn’t enough separation in the Asset’s opinion to turn the reins over to Garrett Gilbert just yet, and that's mainly because the running game was so dominant. Now we’ll still use conventional wisdom and say Mack goes with experience, but there is still some meat left on the bone if Gilbert wants to have the starter’s role wrapped up. As for other players, there were some surprises and some names you’d expect that showed out tonight, but the main story was a dominant power rushing attack. If you're a zero sum person when it comes to practice reports, then maybe that's a scary thing. You be the judge.
Gilbert moved the ball really well only had one bad throw. The Asset was really surprised by his play because he looked much more confident and in command than he has at any other point in fall camp. It seems a fire was lit. Gilbert made a lot of good reads and created time by showing great pocket presence. When Okafor would create pressure, Gilbert was adept at moving up to buy an extra tick. He only had one throw that could have been picked. Otherwise, this is the best he's looked. He looked like the experienced QB fans and coaches have come to expect.
Ash played solidly but not as well as Gilbert. The weird part about Ash's play was that Ash didn't get in until the fourth drive. He still looked good delivering the ball where it needed to go but the Asset told us he looked like freshman at times. Ash made some plays with his feet that continue to tantalize but he tucked it down a time or two when he could have found an open receiver down field. It was a weird practice because he only got around 20% of the reps with the ones.
As for Case McCoy, he had some nice throws and moved the ball. But again, the real story is the running game which was a huge crutch for the QB's tonight.
The running backs all had terrific nights, but Bergeron may have had the best. He was a wrecking ball who might have broken three tackles per run, we're told. The Asset tells us that no defensive player is real excited about tackling him and it usually takes gang tackling to bring him down. Joe's a load, folks. Bergeron ran with the first team for 25% of the snaps. He and Fozzy got most of the carries with first team and Mal Brown got the rest including a nice twenty yard TD run. The first team tailbacks probably averaged 6 yards per carry against the first team defense. Just a dominating run performance. The offense showed a lot of motion, the Oline played a dominating style, and the backs showed tremendous vision, we're told.
Speaking of the Oline, they were the story of the scrimmage. Allen, Snow, Espy, Walters, Hopkins were the ones and they simply dominated. The only downside to their performance was that they had a lot of penalties but other than that they dominated in the run game. The triangle of Snow, Espinosa, and Walters mauled Randall and Texas' second tackle in their inside zone plays, one resulting in a long Malcolm Brown TD. Texas also pulled Snow and Espinosa leading to some big runs by Bergeron and Fozzy. The Asset says this was the best run blocking performance he's seen in a couple years, and he said Searels, for the first time he's been in Austin looked happy...err...at least not pissed off. Those five are your co-MVP's.
At WR, the surprise of the night is John Harris, who may have been the most physical after the catch today. On several occassions Harris would make a catch and then fight for extra yards. Shipley and Davis had a few highlight catches including a TD each, while Darius White had some screen work for some nice yardage, but not a lot of stuff down field. Again, the theme of the night was the running game, so a lot of these catches were set up by playaction giving the WR's lots of real estate to work with. Funny, that.
The starting tight ends were Grant and Irby, but coaches weren't very happy with them because they blew some assignments. Not a great day for them as they were constantly getting chewed. Grant didn't have any big plays to speak of. Irby had a nice catch for 15 yards. These guys did a nice job in the running game getting seals on the edges, and oh yeah, they were in motion virtually every play pre-snap.
We were told by another source that Cody Johnson looked like Craig Heyward out there leading the way on some runs. He's starting to take to this full back stuff. DJ Monroe had a quiet night as did the other backs.
Defensive line was shockingly bad holding the point. Randall and Howell were DT's and they were getting knocked off the ball. Okafor had a stalemate against Hopkins in the run game for the most part, but Hopkins didn't give up any sacks. Huge. The battle there is epic. Jackson Jeffcoat once again had some trouble as the playside defensive end and that can't happen. Kudos to Tray Allen for taking his game up a notch and getting the better of JJ in the run game.
Linebackers got a lot of blitz pressure to draw holding penalties in the passing game, but they struggled getting caught in the wash vs. the run. Several times pursuit angles were cut off by the damage Snow, Espy, and Walters were inflicting on the interior. The outside backers were getting out-leveraged from motion and the Texas counter game. The one bright spot for the LB's was Benson and Hicks applying pressure off the edge, which drew a couple of holding penalties. Robinson was pretty solid in pass coverage but again, he has to be clean to make a play in the running game. He didn't fill very well tonight and the Texas backs benefitted.
In the secondary, Vaccaro had a great PBU and a near diving interception in zone coverage. Texas really needs him back there. Otherwise the group of Byndom, Phillips, Gideon, and Diggs was pretty quiet and that's more of a function of the offense not passing a bunch.
Overall, the Asset tells us that it seemed like for the most part it was a battle of my seven vs. your seven. Searels and Applewhite vs. Davis and Diaz. There wasn't a whole lot that was cute on either side. We're going to line it up and run it and let's see if the defense can stop it. The bad news is they didn't--or good news depending on your belief system. I for one like the running game so I'm pleased.
Also, if you're worried about how the defensive line looked in this scrimmage, I'd encourage you to read Longhorn Scott's article on how Harsin attacks the defense in the run game. I found it reassuring but I'm a "half-full" sort of fan.