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Texas Longhorns Sunday Practice Notes: Freshmen Ascending

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Had a good talk with a couple of friends who were at the practice and took notes.  Cleve Bryant wasn't around to kick them out.  In fact, I'm pretty sure you'd could film our entire practice and write up formations on a white board and this staff would just shrug.

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We played a lot of base 4-3, which we won't see much of during the season.

DeAndre McNeal has a good shot at logging significant TE/H-back snaps.  He's up to 235+, has a strong lower body and he likes contact (something I've mentioned before that didn't seem to register with the McNeal is a WR camp). He's actually a bigger framed guy than former Mesquite teammate Malik Jefferson.  We don't want him with a hand down taking on defensive ends, but he won't have any problems taking on safeties or outside linebackers from the backfield or split out.  We compared him to a young Bo Scaife in the TTF Preview and that comp is holding up nicely. He also got snaps at punt returner, which should give you some insight into his athleticism.

John Burt got several reps with the 1s.  He plays bigger than his 6-2, 185 pound frame and the former hurdler has a strong ability to maintain his stride while a DB is trying to disrupt it.  We still want Marcus Johnson to be the guy outside, but adding Burt to the mix will help spread the field.  Swoopes needs to recognize an open post route for it to matter though.

Swoopes got the reps with the 1s.  Heard's arm strength doesn't compare and he'll need to state his case with his feet, accurate throws on the run and better poise.

The staff is auditioning Antwuan Davis for nickel.  They're looking to start best four or best five and John Bonney and Duke Thomas are non-negotiable - the question is whether Bonney best serves us at nickel or cornerback opposite Thomas.  That answer is determined by who can make up the value gap between Bonney at either position.  Davis, Echols or one of the freshmen is the key consideration here.  Davis at nickel makes sense if he can feel comfortable there - he has the best size/strength ratio in the DB group and he'll set the edge against the outside running game.  He lacks instincts and this may help address that - a lot of nickel play in our defense is about playing man on the slot while your teammates are in Cover 3.  Davis may thrive simply being told "you've got that guy, and if it's an outside running play, drive the WR into the RB."

Dorian Leonard's hands are a sieve.  I expect Lorenzo Joe to assert himself.  Drops were epidemic across the board.

Patrick Vahe is already pushing to be in the two deep.  As with Burt, that's an exciting commentary for the future, but a sad commentary on the current state of affairs.

Say what you will about safety Dylan Haines and fellow walk-on WR Ty Templin, but they're pretty good at football. Templin gets open and has reliable hands and Haines has better range and anticipation than his raw 40 time suggests. Props to the staff for giving these guys a shot.  If word gets out that Texas is a place where walk-ons with a chip on their shoulder can earn playing time and get a fair shake, it could have positive effects for our preferred walk-on program.

Caleb Blueitt and Dalton Santos are still hobbled and working their way back.  Tank Jackson seems OK, but the coaches are working him back slowly.  Hassan Ridgeway was held out as a precaution.

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If you guys haven't figured it out yet or you haven't bought the best Longhorn and Big 12 preview on the market so you can get the lowdown, we're going with a youth movement.  Veterans aren't going to be discarded - in fact, if anyone wants to pull a John Harris senior revival act the staff will welcome it - but the staff is going to start the guys who love football and don't view landing a scholarship to Texas as the end of their football journey.  We're going to have some very rocky moments because of that youth movement, but opponents should probably get their licks in now.