Here are the game highlights (from the Longhorn Network) and my thoughts on the offense. Once we get a torrent of the video, LonghornScott will be along to dazzle with all of his fire zone fury.
There won't be a lot to take away in a game that never saw 1 v 1's and had way too many 3's vs 3's with walkons in starring roles throughout the second half, while anxious fans baked in the sun. Tthe one readily known positive development with David Ash since last year is his improved poise in the pocket. Real-time decision making, even in a protected setting against a lackluster second team pass rush, seemed a tick faster and he made the right calls on nearly every play, whether it was a checkdown to an RB in the flat, scrambling up the gut for a first down once the LBs had cleared out, or keeping the ball on a rollout run/pass option in the second half for a gain of six. On his three yard TD run in the second quarter he slipped trying to catch a low snap, pivoted around and ran in for six as if it was a designed bootleg all along.
There is no question who the starter is after watching the Ash and McCoy yesterday. And it's not because Ash dominated as much as McCoy really struggled save for a few nice plays -- one on a post route to DeSean Hales where Case actually looked off the safety long enough to throw an adult ball into the wind for a 40 yard TD. The annual spring coronation of DeSean Hales is right on schedule! Case threw a regrettable pass to what we can only presume was intended for Mike Davis in the endzone, even though Leroy Scott was the closest player within 10 yards of the ball and Davis had been double covered. The correct read was to Shipley who broke off an intermediate route across the middle zone that Davis had just cleared out but McCoy never saw him. The audible wincing throughout the crowd sounded like the 20,000 on hand had just sustained a cracked rib. It was ugly. But not as bad as the would-be pick six to Carrington Byndom that Case slinged off his back foot. Byndom did his best Rod Babers impression and hot potatoed the ball into the turf while already running for the endzone.
The things that Case executed well were the predictable 5-7 yard hot route dump offs to move the chains. His one other noteworthy play was a 30 yard touch pass down the seam to McFarland, who separated from the LBs just enough to haul in the pass but not enough to separate after the catch. It was the same play Jermichael Finley torched OU for on 4 / 154 yards / 2 TDs.
The play of the day was Ash's first quarter fade pass to Shipley in the corner of the endzone against tight coverage from Duke Thomas. It was a confident throw where he took his beats, stepped into it and put just enough loft to let Shipley go up and grab it over outstretched hands.
Connor Brewer logged a lot of snaps in the second half and showed pretty solid poise and command of the offense for a true freshman. Most of his passes where checkdowns but he did hit Cade McCrary on a nice fade pass to the endzone, predicted by LonghornScott two plays earlier. He's still learning the game. McCrary was the hero of last year's spring game after all and you knew DeSean Hales would come out with something special. It's hard to say how Brewer would have fared had walk-on Heath Hohmann not softened up the defense on 14 carries for 90 yards. I applaud the 5,000 people that stayed for the fourth quarter to watch this unit plod its way down the field on a game-clinching 7 minute drive as their wintery white epidermal layers bubbled in the sun. The smart folks left at half time.
Bergeron and Brown logged 6 carries total (4 and 2, respectively) and Malcolm once again lost a shoe. This is easily the most disturbing trend of spring practice. Can somebody show Malcolm how to double knot his Nike's? Joe B sprung a few big runs from both inside zone and power sets that were well blocked at the first level and then made his own hay dragging safeties another 5-10 yards. Bergeron continued to dictate the outcome of the play more often than not, hitting the hole hard, trucking safeties and getting skinny to sneak out an extra 3-4 yards. Max effort on every carry, every time. That may be the reason he started over Brown. Either way, we have two high quality backs. Neither made it through a full season last year and we're going to need both of them to stay healthy, along with Jonathan Gray and DJ Monroe, to shoulder the bulk of the offense.
DJ did his usual thing, housing his first carry on a 60 yard jet sweep off left tackle against the second team D. That's probaby a ten yard carry against our first team defense but it showed what he can do if you give him a sliver of daylight, can't get off a block, or take one bad angle. Pretty much the same play he took to the house against OU. NEEDS MOAR TOUCHES.
Jeremy Hills would start for a lot of FBS programs but not many elite ones. The senior is buried a young depth chart of future NFL draft picks but you have to love his effort and commitment in the weight room. He's added about 20 lbs of muscle since he arrived seven years ago. I think some Fozzy may have rubbed off on Hills, who showed a good burst through the hole on his second half carries and a great cutback across the field on the 30 yard screen pass. He's also the only known ball carrier to have successfully bounced off a Steve Edmond tackle. He'll probably get some Wildcat action along with Jonathan Gray.
It's hard to fairly judge the collective play of the offensive line against a second team DL that rotated in walk-ons at tackle and defensive end. They did look more cohesive as a unit and physically stronger at the point of attack than what we witnessed last year. Cochran held the edge nicely on DJ Monroe's jet sweep. Walters stoned Brandon Moore on a few occasions, including a nice seal block on Bergeron's TD run. We'll need to re-watch tape that doesn't exist to accurately grade this performance, inherently handicapped by a mismatch in competition. But they fired off the ball, protected the QBs well, and generally finished blocks. it's a long march back to dominant OL play but we're making strides.Camhron Hughes needs some work. Not just in the weight room but with his feet. Nice project though. He certainly has the frame you want in a young lineman. Trey Hopkins already looks far more comfortable inside at guard than as a young, undersized tackle. Our second team OL depth and overall play remains underwhelming and we can't afford to sustain an injury to one of our starters at this point or you can expect a good dropoff in play. The wake up call still sounds for Paden Kelley, Thomas Ashcraft, Luke Poehllman, and Garrett Porter. Donald Hawkins is already well ahead of those guys. He's meshing well early on and looks the part at OT.
One of the highlights of the day was Case McCoy's pass to M.J. McFarland down the seam for 30 yards. He ran a tight route, turned for the ball at the exact time and didn't break stride. Unfortunately he runs a 4.8 40. MJ also had a huge block on Leroy Scott but I was more impressed how Scott bounced back up as if nothing happened. He also got trucked a few times but Bergeron and seemed no worse for the wear. Tough dude.
The other big play from the TE position was Shipley's pass to D.J. Grant for a 50 yard TD. They had set up this same play earlier in the series but the pass option never materialized so Shipley kept it, faked out A.J. White, and darted up the sideline for 10 yards. The second time they ran it, Ash got the ball of quickly and Jaxon hit a streaking Grant in stride (clothes on), who had come from the other side of the field behind the safeties that bit on the bubble screen. I didn't notice Barrett Matthews but Darius Terrell showed signs of life in the second half. He looks quick but can he block? Will we ask him to? Still some work to be done here but right now the two guys are McFarland and Grant. Durham Smythe needs to graduate a year early.
Jaxon Shipley came to play. He went over Duke Thomas on the fade route from Ash for a first quarter TD. He passed for a second quarter TD (now 4/4 in passing attempts since his arrival), showing no hesitation and a quick release. Over / under on Shipley TD passes this year? 3. Ship also nearly brought back a punt return were it not for the surprising quicks of our kicker, who hustled Jax out of bounds.
Mike Davis didn't do much but can't really be graded on his performance unless you want to fault him for not battling Josh Turner better in the air on the fade INT. He only saw a few targets before the starters packed it in. With Goodwin out right now for track, DeSean Hales and Bryant Jackson saw increased reps and both delivered what we expected. Ash looked Jackson's way a few times on short routes and outlets and he looked fluid in his routes and breaks, catching a few short passes. Hales came up big on the post route from McCoy for a TD and again on a tunnel screen in the second half that he would have housed had Demarco Cobbs not had an angle. Hales also had a MANLY block on Jordan Hicks, if that scenario is believable.
The #3/4 WR positions are still up for grabs and the incoming freshmen will all be in the mix. We didn't see much from John Harris or Miles Onyegbule but Harris looks healthy again and gives Ash yet another big target.
Meet Orange & White Game MVP, Will Russ, ladies and gentlemen! Where the hell did this come from? From open practice reports all we heard was that kickoffs and punts looked like auditions for My Left Foot. But all I saw today were NFL kickoffs that went deep into the endzone (or well through it with the wind) on nearly every attempt. Punts hung long and high. And it was Russ who chased down Shipley on the punt return, closing the angle fast and taking him down Michael Huff style with a leg lock throwdown. Extra points sailed through high and straight. We didn't see any field goals but that may have been by design. Perhaps the corporate field goal sponsor failed to show up?
The other highlight on special teams was the requisite kickoff return for touchdowns against walkons, brought to you this year by Mykelle Thompson. Check the highlights above if you haven't seen it. This dude needs a look on offense, imo.
Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Declarations?