April 3, 2011

Spring game post-game

We look at Sunday's spring game, position-by-position:

QUARTERBACK

--Case McCoy
9 of 11 passing for 124 yards and a touchdown and sacked three times.

--Garrett Gilbert 8 of 15 passing for 76 yards and an interception (by Bryant Jackson) and sacked once.

--Connor Wood 8 of 14 passing for 82 yards and sacked four times

--David Ash 2 of 3 passing for 5 yards and sacked two times

THE SKINNY: No matter how hard people tried, Bryan Harsin and Mack Brown were not going to budge on saying if one quarterback had an edge over another. According to the Harsin and Brown, they all have the summer to learn the complete offense and then duke it out in the fall.

Mack said there were plays that were called incorrectly and some rough edges even though the quarterbacks were working with a condensed package for the spring game.

Obviously, everyone wanted to talk about Case McCoy leading the second-team offense down the field for a touchdown against the first-team defense. And Garrett Gilbert throwing an interception with the first-team offense against the second-team defense (Bryant Jackson). But the coaches weren't going to tip their hand whatsoever.


RUNNING BACK

--Foswhitt Whittaker
5 carries for 38 yards (7.6 ypc), 1 reception for 4 yards

--Cody Johnson 5 carries for 25 yards, 1 touchdown (5-yard run)

--Traylon Shead 9 carries for 15 yards (1.7 ypc)

--Jeremy Hills 7 carries for 15 yards (2.1 ypc), 2 receptions for 0 yards

--D.J. Monroe 1 carry for minus-6 yards, 2 receptions for 31 yards

THE SKINNY: Mack Brown had high praise for Fozzy Whittaker. So did Major Applewhite. But already there was talk about Fozzy playing through a shoulder injury in the final days of the spring (the same shoulder plagued by a stinger most all of last season).

"It's been the story of his career since he's been here," Mack said, referring to if Whittaker can stay healthy.

Cody Johnson had a good spring and will be counted on to work at both tailback and fullback. Coaches were happy.

Jeremy Hills and Traylon Shead both fell into a similar category. They both had injuries early in the spring (Hills a groin and Shead a hamstring).

"Jeremy did some good things," Mack said. "I don't think Traylon is 100 percent back from his injury."

Major Applewhite continued to sing the praises of D.J. Monroe after the scrimmage.

"We just have to keep finding ways to get him the ball," Applewhite said.


TIGHT END

--Dominique Jones
continues to look like the starter

--Barrett Matthews has some catching up to do

--Blaine Irby was held out of the spring game

--D.J. Grant still adjusting back to football from a serious knee injury

--Darius Terrell keeps making plays and had a nice 14-yard grab in the spring game

--Trey Graham missed the spring game with a right knee injury

THE SKINNY: This group will get used by Bryan Harsin, who likes having multiple tight ends to use in different packages to create unbalanced lines. Watch out for Terrell.


WIDE RECEIVER

--DeSean Hales
6 catches for 62 yards

--Patrick McNamara 5 catches for 55 yards, including an 11-yard TD pass from Case McCoy

--Mike Davis catches for 37 yards

--Darius White catches for 30 yards

--John Harris 1 catch for 16 yards

--Malcolm Williams 1 catch for 8 yards

--Chris Jones missed the spring game with a left shoulder injury

--Greg Timmons missed the spring game with a left ankle injury

THE SKINNY: Mack Brown said Mike Davis had a "great spring and showed that today" during the spring game. Mack pointed out that DeSean Hales "had a couple drops and made a couple nice catches but has shown the same ability as D.J. Monroe in making plays in space."

Mack likes Malcolm Williams lining up more as an inside receiver because he's 240 pounds and can throw his weight around in there. McNamara drew praise for having a strong spring (not bad for a walk-on).

Darius White had a good spring and made a couple big plays in the Sunday's Orange-White game. Mack said the coaches want to see more consistency out of White.


OFFENSIVE LINE

THE SKINNY:
Mack feels good about the first-team offensive line, which on Sunday was Tray Allen at LT, Trey Hopkins at LG, OT and O [db]David Snow at C, Mason Walters at RG and Paden Kelley at RT.

It's the second-team offensive line where Mack was shaking his head. There were two and three walk-ons with that group on Sunday because of the injuries that group has suffered. Even Mark Buchanan, who played RT with the second team, missed a week of spring with injuries (and it showed as he got whipped by Alex Okafor on a regular basis Sunday).

Missing from the spring game were OG Dominic Espinosa (right shoulder), OL Kyle Kriegel (left shoulder) and OT Luke Poehlmann (right knee).

Mack said this group and Stacy Searels will get markedly better when the three injured OL return for the fall and when five talented freshmen hit campus.


DEFENSIVE LINE

--Alex Okafor
5 tackles, including 4 sacks

--Reggie Wilson 6 tackles, including 3.5 sacks

--Dravannti Johnson 3 tackles

--Calvin Howell 2 tackles, both behind the line scrimmage, including a sack

--Jackson Jeffcoat 2 tackles, including 1 sack

--Ashton Dorsey
2 tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage

THE SKINNY: The defense came up with 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the Orange-White game. That's great for the defense, but alarming for the offense.

Mack Brown said Kheeston Randall had a good spring and that coaches have seen some good things from Calvin Howell and Ashton Dorsey. But they want the young tackles like Taylor Bible and De'Aries Cotton to really come on in the fall.

At end, Manny Diaz said he thinks Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat can be special, and Mack Brown said Reggie Wilson really came on in the final 8 practices of the spring.

Diaz said Okafor is going to have to be "great" for the Texas defense to be great.

"He's an imposing guy out there at end," Diaz said. "If Alex just plays so-so for us, then we'll be just so-so as a defense. For us to be great, he has to be great."


LINEBACKER

--Chet Moss
5 tackles, including a sack for minus-9 yards

--Keenan Robinson 4 tackles, including a TFL

--Patrick Nkwopara 4 tackles

--Aaron Benson 4 tackles

--Demarco Cobbs 3 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs

--Emmanuel Acho 1 tackle

--Jordan Hicks missed the spring game with a right foot injury

THE SKINNY: The coaches know what they have in Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Jordan Hicks. They are starting to get excited about Cobbs and Moss. Cobbs had a knifing tackle for loss on RB Jeremy Hills for a loss of minus-8 yards. Moss has shown he is more than a capable blitzer.

More help is on the way in Steve Edmond and Tevin Jackson.


SECONDARY

--S Nolan Brewster
10 tackles

--CB A.J. White 7 tackles

--CB Adrian Phillips 5 tackles

--CB Carrington Byndom 5 tackles

--S Kenny Vaccaro 3 tackles

--CB Quandre Diggs 2 tackles and a pass breakup in the end zone against Mike Davis

S Bryant Jackson 1 tackle and 1 interception of a pass by Garrett Gilbert

--S Blake Gideon 1 tackle

--S Christian Scott 1 tackle

THE SKINNY: The talk of the spring game was Quandre Diggs. He had great position on a pass breakup in the end zone against Mike Davis, and he came up and delivered a knockout blow on FB Ryan Roberson on a pass in the flat. At 5-10 and 192 pounds, Diggs is a compact package.

"There's only so much you can coach, and then the instincts have to take over, and Quandre has that," Manny Diaz said. "For a guy who should still be in high school taking English 4, he's showing he can make plays and is willing to stick his face in there."

Added Blake Gideon, "Corners have to learn to read a receivers hips and when they are going to stem routes, and Quandre is already doing that kind of stuff as a freshman. That will grab your attention."

S Bryant Jackson made a nice break on a poorly thrown ball by Garrett Gilbert for the interception. But overall, Mack Brown said there is a lot of work that needs to be done at corner to get anywhere close to the personnel that just left (Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown and Chykie Brown).


SPECIAL TEAMS

--Darius White
51-yard kickoff return

--D.J. Monroe 46-yard KO return

--Quandre Diggs 17-yard punt return and 29-yard KO return

--Justin Tucker 2-of-2 on FGs from 45 and 28 yards; 1 punt for 43 yards; 6 kickoffs, 1 touchback

--Williams Russ 5 punts for an average of 45.2 ypp, including one downed inside the 20

THE SKINNY: The kicking and punting appear to be in good hands with Tucker and Russ. Both also had to make tackles to save touchdowns Sunday and did so.

There's also something to get excited about on these return teams. White showed some vision on his kick return, and Mack Brown is really pumped about Diggs as a return guy.

"He's got that compact body, and he's really hard to bring down," Mack said. "We're excited to see what Quandre might be able to give us in the return game."


FINAL ANALYSIS:

Manny Diaz said if the defense doesn't improve dramatically from where it is right now, "We'll be in big trouble. We are the kind of group that's going to have to do everything right to be successful. We have very little margin for error.

"Right now, we think we know. We have to know we know."

Those are strong words, but refreshingly candid from Texas' new defensive coordinator. He's right.

Harsin wants his QBs to know the entire offense when they get back in August. Those who put in the time, will have a leg up on the QB race. But right now, no one is handicapping it. That's good and bad news for Garrett Gilbert, who would probably like some assurances he's the guy.

But he's not getting those right now.

Mack Brown said he thinks this year's team can improve on last year's 5-7 simply by taking better care of the ball. He talked about how in the 5 wins last season Texas had a positive turnover margin, and in the 7 losses Texas had a negative turnover margin.

"We can turn things around by taking better care of the ball and then knocking some loose on defense," Mack said.

Mack is happy with the chemistry of the coaching staff and said some critical relationships like Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite as well as Manny Diaz and Duane Akina are working well.

"I'm even happier now with these coaching hires than when I made them at the time," Brown said.

Lots of work ahead.

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