The most substantive news coming out of the weekend was the lower leg/ankle injury suffered by freshman center Zach Shackelford. The severity of the injury isn't known, and Charlie Strong characterized it as "day to day" and avowed that Shack will be available for Notre Dame. As against that, it sounds like Shackelford had trouble putting much weight on it after the injury so this one could potentially sideline him for a couple of weeks or more.
Right now Jake McMillon is handling backup center duties to decidedly mixed reviews. He's a player that has some pop/power/aggression to him, but he's still learning blocking technique and put a few snaps on the ground in last Sunday's open practice. There hasn't been definite word of anyone else cross-training at the spot, but in his post-scrimmage presser Strong metioned Patrick Vahe and Denzel Okafor as guys who have at least some prior experience snapping the ball. You'd hate to lose Vahe's ability to be a hammer on the pull and Okafor would mean thrusting ANOTHER true freshman (albeit a mean and powerful one) into a tough and cerebral position when he's more of a natural G/T. But if Shack looks to miss significant time then you're tasked with figuring out the least worst alternative, and McMillon might not be it.
Before diving into the rest of the weekend's news, notes and rumors let's take a look at the highlights released from Saturday's closed scrimmage:
Here's what you're looking at:
- Paul Boyette (93) slips off a block by backup center Jake McMillon (64) to wrap up Kyle Porter (21)
- Shane Buechele (16) throws a slightly wobbly but on-target bubble screen to Collin Johnson behind reasonably good blocking from Jacory Warrick (11) and Jake Oliver (86)
- Patrick Vahe (77) sticks a good block on Chris Nelson (97) and Connor Williams (55) climbs to the second level to dump Tim Cole (30) and spring Porter for a nice gain whereupon he shakes Dylan Haines. A safety’s job gets a lot harder when the guys in front of you get beat and you’re subjected to looking like an asshole in the open field - but sometimes safety is a hard job and you have to get it done anyway. At least Haines got a piece and allowed P.J. Locke (11) to come in for the cleanup.
- Buechele boots out around an unblocked Quincy Vasser (92) and makes an accurate TD throw to Andrew Beck (47) who beats Haines to the pylon.
- Tyrone Swoopes (18) avoids a blitz from Antwaun Davis (25) and completes a short dumpoff to Tim Yoder (30) who is promtply detonated by Sheroid Evans (29). Nice to see a safe decision from Swoopes and physicality from Evans, and Davis’ blitz angle makes you think he was maybe working at safety or out of a funky dime package on that play.
- A WILD FIELD GOAL KICKER APPEARS! An unidentified kicker (maybe Domingue, who
isn’t currently listed on the Texassports.com rosteris listed as #17 and is in there as a K instead of PK and I'm dumb) drills what looks to be a 40-yarder or thereabouts.
- Buechele lobs a fade to Devin Duvernay (80), who has cooked his corner up the sideline but Haines is in the right spot and cuts him off to go up and haul in the INT. Not a ball that you can really throw if the free safety is THAT free and in the neighborhood - a back shoulder throw on a line might have worked, but this feels like Buechele didn’t properly read Haines’ location and coverage.
The consensus among the (scattered, fragmented and decidedly non-comprehensive) scrimmage reports was that the DL got the best of things for the majority of the day. The Boyette v McMillon clip above is probably illustrative of one of the key reasons for that state of affairs. While they didn't make the highlight reel, Jordan Elliott and DeAndre Christmas (no more Giles, apparently) have been the consistent head-turners among the freshman DL and both guys figure to be in the rotation against Notre Dame.
Last but far from least, let's talk quarterbacks. It sounds like it was a fair-to-middlin' performance for both Swoopes and Buechele on Saturday, though per the Brainiacs Boys Buechele was able to earn more reps by sustaining more drives. On a day where the offense apparently didn't do a ton, seeing Buechele go one for two on end zone shots would seem to corroborate the notion that he moved the offense towards paydirt with better frequency.
So what does that add to the current Swoopes v Buechele debate? Not a ton. Strong's early avowed preference to swiftly name a starter seems to have gone a-glimmering, and right now it appears unlikely that we'll get resolution on that topic until next Saturday's scrimmage at the earliest. Strong has all but said that both guys will play against Notre Dame, and while you'd have certainly expected Swoopes to run some 18-Wheeler in that one it's feeling like he may have a broader role in executing the base offense.
Based on the secrecy surrounding Saturday and Strong's public avowal that he wants to make the Domers prep for both QBs, it looks like I might have been a tad premature in dismissing a maskirovka as motivation for the seemingly out-of-left-field assertion that Swoopes was "miles ahead" in the QB race. I'd still say that assessment is garbage (even if it was a verbatim quote from a source), but the public-facing storyline out of Longhornland at this point seems to be pushing a co-starters scenario. Some word about reps, packages, success rates or something else may leak out in the coming days to help clarify the picture, but with the staff in apparent lockdown mode we're likely locked into guesswork for the time being.
For many more thoughts on how the pieces will fall into place during the 2016 season, check out the best Longhorn preview on the market.