Myself and the great Vasherized made it down to DKR for the Open Practice/Football Fan Day Fandango. While sweating alcohol on enthusiastic nine-year old Longhorn fans and wondering if God had suddenly moved the Earth a few million miles closer to the Sun, we made some stream-of-consciousness practice observations. Here are some of them:
One on Ones
One on one drills are wildly tilted in favor of the receiver (there’s no pass rush, no help from safeties or LBs and the corner has to defend every route in the tree with no context as to what’s coming,) but with that said John Burt was almost comically dominant. Davante Davis got a good jam on him to break up one route, but it was the only time that Burt was stopped, slowed or significantly challenged. He cooked Davis up the sideline for a gorgeous touchdown, cleanly beat Sheroid Evans inside on a slant that he could have turned up for big yardage, ruined Evans again up the sideline and generally looked terrifically smooth and polished in everything he did. If you find yourself in a CFB Fantasy League, there may not be a bigger sleeper on the board - assuming Booshell doesn’t swallow his tongue or get wrecked by middle pressure, Burt is going to go bananas in this O.
Collin Johnson had some short grabs but got denied any Vine-worthy highlights. Holton Hill and Kris Boyd each managed to track the big man and deny reasonably well-thrown sideline balls.
Armanti Foreman mainly showed up on shorter stuff in the one on ones, but had a particularly nice slant route where he won a physical battle with Hill to get inside and win the ball.
Donovan Duvernay looked more crisp on his short routes than the film showed on Saturday - his best moment was driving PJ Locke off the ball and then catching a hitch and turning it up for what would have been a serious gain up the sideline.
Dorian Leonard had an eye-opening day all around. He managed to get loose up the sideline against Davante but Heard airmailed the ball about eight feet over his head.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey ain’t so little - he looks every bit of 6’4” and is already reasonably filled out. He worked exclusively on the outside, and though he battled a case of the dropsies in one on ones he redeemed himself in team work.
Kris Boyd was the best DB on the field in pretty much all phases - in addition to tracking CJ, he made a great aggressive breakup on a slant from Buechele to Lorenzo Joe.
Chris Brown also showed some nice instincts to break fast and break up a hitch route.
Swoopes got the first set of reps as the team moved into skeleton passing drills, and he largely looked...OK. He was fairly accurate on the underneath stuff - and today was largely a hitch-fest in both skellys and eleven-on-eleven work, and his arm is still as live as ever. The ball just doesn’t come out on time as often as it needs to, though, and a late/dubious decision on a throw to a well-covered Caleb Blueitt got the ball popped in the air and picked by the safety. Swoopes did hit a nice seam throw to Blueitt, but he airmailed a couple more and threw another seam route into double coverage and was lucky not to get it snagged. It was good to see him eschew a couple of forced throws in favor of outlets to Foreman and Warren in the flat - getting either of those guys isolated in space against a terrified corner is an enticing proposition for this season.
This wouldn’t have been a terribly discouraging drill performance for a sophomore...unfortunately, Swoopes is a senior.
Buechele got the ball out faster and was much more effective attacking up the field in the skeleton stuff. His best two throws came on tight-window downfield shots. The first hit Jacorey Warrick on a perfectly-lofted drop-in job despite a jersey grab from Chris Brown in coverage, and the second saw Devin Duvernay get a step on the defender up the sideline on a switch route and haul in a perfectly-thrown ball. Boosh’elle was fine on a steady diet of quick hitches, but where he really stands out from the rest of the QB competition is on his anticipation/accuracy on out routes. He and Jake Oliver have a real connection on Oliver’s patented 5-7 yard out underneath a clearing route from the outside defender - those throws don’t carry Favreian mustard, but the timing and placement had the pair batting 1.000 on at least five attempts over the course of skeleton and scrimmage work.
Jerrod Heard ran a couple of skeleton series and looked shaky at best. He did manage a long gainer on a skinny post to Lorenzo Joe, but the ball just looked...odd and probably would have been broken up or worse had Davante Davis (who had a tough morning, all things considered) hadn’t mistimed his jump. Heard seems like the kind of QB who could thrive on sprintouts - the kind of play where his legs let him be a threat and give him a limited set of reads. His sprintout attempt in this drill didn’t present a limited enough set of reads, though, as he rifled the ball right into Shark McCullough’s chest for a pick six. Add in a slant throw that was at least a yard behind its intended target and it was a day that did nothing to advance Heard’s standing on the depth chart.
Matthew Merrick is back to full health, and he had a few nice moments. He hit Collin Johnson up the sideline on a kind of wonky ball, but put a much better ball on Reggie Hemphill on the far sideline to beat solid coverage from Eric Cuffee - to be honest, it was as well-thrown a ball as any QB managed all day.
We had a Kai Locksley sighting! Locks has apparently at least nudged his nose out of the doghouse, earning reps in skeleton and 11-11 work. He managed a couple of solid throws in this phase, connecting on a hitch and then finding Lil’Jordan up the sideline against “coverage” from John Bonney.
Eleven on Eleven
The final part of practice saw the O and D square off in 11-11 work. Forgive the lack of any detailed observations around winners and losers amongst the big boys - when you’re switching units in and out and running a play every eight seconds, telling the 97’s and 98’s apart from the 73’s and 76’s gets a tad tricky.
The global observation on the ground game was that there wasn’t much room aside from a draw play that got D’Onta Foreman and Kyle Porter both loose for long gainers - the QBs’ willingness to work in a pass fake after the handoff seemed to fool the linebackers on multiple occasions.
There were sacks aplenty once the pass rush got turned loose, and while none of this means much without pads it was a little concerning to see how often a blitzing LB came free up the middle.
Swoopes mainly hit short stuff during the full team work, but he did throw a really pretty fade to Dorian Leonard to beat Donovan Duvernay. He took several sacks - some his fault for holding the ball too long, some not, and avoided any major mistakes.
Buechele made his one bad decision of the morning during his second 11-11 series - he decided he was going up the sideline to Burt before the snap, and when Davante Davis bailed back into Cover Three he threw the ball anyway. Davis was the receiver the entire time and came down with an INT in the end zone. Other than that Buechele was solid, though he mainly worked underneath and didn’t have the same precision on hitches that he showed in skeleton work.
Heard pulled the ball down and ran more than he threw during full team work, and the D had little trouble corralling him when he did so. Heard isn’t really built to keep the ball on Power Read stuff inside but the staff kept calling it anyway - he never found much room and might have been hospitalized by D’Andre Christmas had this been live action. He completed a couple of balls but badly turfed a throw to Hemphill that drew some actual mutters from the crowd.
Merrick hit a couple of hitches, but also found DeMarco Boyd for a Pick Six when Boyd flowed under a quick out from the tight end. Sign me up for living with Boyd’s mistakes over Tim Cole’s...Tim Coleness should a backup Mike be pressed into service this season.
Locksley looked nifty on runs and lost on throws in full-team work, and he was late on an out route that nearly got taken to the house by Eric Cuffee.
Michael Dickson bombed the hell out of the ball during the punting portion, and it was Foreman, Hemphill and Warrick at punt return with no sign of The Duve.
It looked to be a reasonably clean day on the injury front, but Naashon Hughes limped off the field on the last scrimmage play. No word yet on severity.
Jake McMillon turned in a minimum of four bad shotgun snaps during his backup center work. As of now, this team does not have a backup center.
The absurd Halloween black/white/orange practice unis have been deservedly shitcanned. It was O in orange, D in white, nice and clean and easy. Coach Royal is nodding in approval.
A lot of what we saw on Sunday lined up with the predictions that we made in the best Longhorn Preview on the market. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, what are you waiting for?