Vasherized spent some time watching the lads and filed this report. - SR
I arrived at the first spring practice today a little late because I got sucked into an infomercial on Time Warner Cable by some guy named "Mad Dog" promising me I could bench 550 within 14 days. I bought it. After a few minutes strolling around Denius Fields, I realized that half of our two deep bought it as well.
There are a few certain truths oft repeated after the first open practice that give some hope of an imminent national championship merely from viewing young men wearing shorts and helmets. But they're also wrong so they won't be repeated here.
And we could very well win every game in 2009 -- our schedule certainly opens itself to that possibility. But nothing one can glean from a spring practice is a reliable barometer of our projected success next season. In fact most of the things you’ll overhear could also be heard at a NAMBLA conference. Or on Sailor Ripley’s Twitter feed:
"Chiles’ calves look better then ever. He’s clearly taking the move to wide receiver seriously."
"Alex Okafor looks like a man … the man I always wanted to be."
"David Snow looks like a Siberian grave digger."
(Actually, that one was from my notes. And I just learned about another David Snow ... he was an infamous serial killer. See where I'm going with this, McWhorter?)
In reality, the first spring practice is only good for a few things: leaving work early, hitting on players’ girlfriends as a pseudo-deathwish to instill new meaning in your life, confirming Sergio Kindle and Colt McCoy are indeed still enrolled at UT, and handing out fake depth charts to Rivals interns. Love those guys!
A few things I was able to glean from watching the guys run around in what was a pretty lackluster practice on an 88-degree day in late February:
Naturally, David Snow lined up with the second team OL and gave Muschamp heartburn for much of the afternoon. Conversely, our second team interior DL will give you Tourrette’s. Let’s hope Kheeston Randall and Lamarr Houston can play every snap this year. Wilcoxon needs to put on another 20 lbs and he already looks maxed out physically. Alexander looked ... round. We needed Jarvis Humphrey to play right away but it looks like he's sidelined indefinitely.
DeSean Hales is a fast motherfucker but DeSean Jackson he ain't. Not yet anyway. He caught a great deep ball that would have been overthrown had any other wide receiver been running the route. Then he dropped a few easy ones and ran some lazy routes. Sometimes I get the feeling Bobby Kennedy wants our receivers to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem before learning to run a simple post route. I like the Crabtree approach: "When I look up I just see footballs". And coke dealers. And pirate ships. And Dedfischer's briefcases full of cash ...
Dan Buckner looks a lot better having spent a year in the "EXPLSV PWR(!) Strength & Conditioning Program". He came to UT a big, soft body and is well on his way to benching the mythical 550. He lacks an explosive first step but he’s physical, uses his body well and seems to want the ball more than the DB. Ya feelin me, Montre?
If Malcolm Williams doesn’t end up All-Big 12 come early December then something is really fucking wrong with our economy. Bernanke needs to hang. It's the only feasible excuse. Not only is Malcolm a physical freak in the Roy Williams mold, he actually seems to give a shit. In both 7-on-7's and 11-on-11's he ran crisp routes with a purpose, caught everything thrown his way and made our two best DB's look downright absent on post routes from each side of the field within a five-minute span. Chykie and Aaron Williams each had great coverage both times but Colt put the ball on the money and Malcolm used his body to shield the ball and exploded out of the catch. Rinse and repeat.
Kirkendoll and Collins also looked great: sharp routes, quick feet, great hands, and just enough speed to cause problems. Chiles has some work to do and I’m not sure he’ll ever be a factor at WR but he’s got a good first step off the line. Don't expect him to pile up YAC. He’s got thick Sergio legs yet Deon Beasley can tackle him just by thinking of tackling him. No pinky required. Chiles might look back at his time on the 40 Acres with regret but give him some credit for sticking it out. At the very least he can make the catch and get out of bounds with a ten-yard cushion from any tackler a la Terrelle Pryor.
Fozzy Whitaker looked great flaring of the backfield in the passing game. So did Tre Newton. Both guys can get upfield in a hurry. Vondrell had some quick runs inside but without tackling its hard to say if he makes it past the LOS. Hills has great feet and pretty good speed. Cody Johnson is handcuffed in our offensive scheme but wields his chicken-fried frame as a weapon. Would be tacklers slide off him and happily lie on their backs while licking greasy fingers as Cody strolls into the endzone. For all the talk from the staff about wanting a downhill running attack, the Song Remains the Same -- shotgun zone read.
We’re in serious trouble if Colt goes down to injury. For all the talk about Chiles never being a QB, Sherrod Harris has been spared of the scrutiny by virtue of being buried on the depth chart. Beasley pulled down the easiest pick of his career on an underthrown Harris duck ball to the short corner of the endzone that got tagged by a 12 gauge at the 10 yard line. An SUV with a Lake Travis Football sticker was seen peeling off down Manor Rd. Muschamp had some words of praise for #7. It’s been a while, eh Deon? (Don't let Scipio get you down. Many an undersized DB lay in his wake ... you can make up for it with INTs for TDs for Bitches.)
Everything you’ve read so far has been a wandering preamble to the introduction of Alex Okafor. If this dude doesn’t look like an instant just-add-water Freshman All-American then you might as well hire Bill Little for your next guest column. He’d tell you of how tonight’s near collision of Venus and the waxing crescent moon colluded to provide a fitting backdrop for the inauguration of the next pass-rushing phenom from the University of Texas. And he’d be right. On one play in 7-on-7s, Okafor left DJ Grant wishing he was running Spring track at Austin High. I don’t even know if he ran track or went to Austin High. And that’s the conundrum of spring practice: for every great play there’s a potential indictment.
We're in real trouble at TE if Blaine Irby can't go. Ahmard Howard looks the part and got some reps with the first team but the next play he makes in a Longhorn uniform will also be his first. Complete unknown but hopefully he can at least block. E. Acho lined up in the Buck position at one point and ran through TE Ian Harris like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. Incidentally, both of the Acho's looked to be in fantastic physical form. Muschamp knows what he has in those brothers and will extract their raw talent with the precision of a Nazi chemist and manifest it in the form of sacks, TFLs, batted balls, and QB pressures.
For now, we can be content with the fact that guys Kheeston Randall, Jared Norton, and Emmanuel Acho looked to be in amazing shape and ready for the pads to come on. Russell Carter looks ready to explode. We are loaded at DE, even with Eddie Jones in a protective boot honing his sideline comedy skit. Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams look like All-American lockdown corners with NFL backpedals and hip turns. Earl Thomas has a bloodhound's nose for the ball and maintains total disregard for his body. Will Muschamp is our Defensive Coordinator.
And we now have something semi-tangible to talk about other than the and/ors/ifs/buts/can I haz? on the depth chart.
As I left the practice fields and made quick progress towards the Crown & Anchor to steep my practice thoughts in Black Butte Porter(s), I realized we're pretty lucky. I could have been at the Dixie Chicken drinking Bud Light trying to figure out why the first practice of the Shermanator's second season felt like an open casket funeral.