1) David Ash is the starting quarterback
Sure, we knew that this was probably already the case. Ash started, and played all of, the Holiday Bowl, and reports were that he'd been having a fantastic offseason. And while the coaches came out and said it was an open competition, it was worth noting that they were saying the same about every position on roster. Butt while the competition may be "open", that doesn't mean that it's close. In the two open practices, Ash was excellent, showing off all of the traits, and newfound maturity, that Texas coaches were enamored with. He'll need to continue his growth and improvement, but for now, it appears that not only does Texas have its quarterback, but also that he appears to be a pretty good one.
2) Steve Edmond appears to be as advertised
One of the biggest questions heading into the 2012 season is how Texas is going to replace its linebacker production. And most eyes were trained on Edmond, the replacement for Emmanuel Acho in the middle. Edmond is superior physically to Acho, but will need to show some level of the same savvy that made Acho a special player. In the open practices, Edmond showed flashes of his massive potential, and in the closed practices, word leaked that the coaches loved his size and athleticism at the spot. In a blitz-happy defense like defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's, Edmond can be an absolute wrecking ball when he hits a gap with all his size moving forward. He's explosive.
3) No complacency here
One of the questions I had was how the new-look Longhorns would adjust to their second season together, especially after experiencing a modicum of success to close the year. Would they start falling into some of the same habits? The answer, at least from the open practices, was absolutely not. The coaching staff did an excellent job of getting all over the players making mistakes, complete with Stacy Searels throwing his hat on poor offensive line plays. Texas coach Mack Brown talked last year about how the energy of the new coaches inspired both he and the players to come to work. This year, that appears to still be the case, with the coaches squeezing the players for every last ounce of improvement.
4) Texas gets some walking wounded back
One of the bad parts of the first half of spring practice was that Texas didn't get to practice with either John Harris or Demarco Cobbs, two players absolutely on the two-deep (at worst). In the case of Cobbs, Texas was out a player many expected to inherit a starting job next to Steve Edmond. Now it appears Tevin Jackson has taken the reins for that race, but he could start feeling pressure soon. That's because both Cobbs and Harris are expected to be back for the second half of spring practice. Cobbs brings a unique talent to the linebacking corps in that he's basically a big safety, somebody that previous linebackers Acho and Keenan Robinson called "the fastest linebacker in the country." That's high praise, and Cobbs could certainly add more speed to what's shaping up to be a pretty fast defense. Harris, on the other hand, was fighting for a starting job last year when he was hurt. Can he still win one? It'll be tough — when Texas uses a three-wide set, Harris would have to beat out one of Mike Davis (having an outstanding spring), Jaxon Shipley or Marquise Goodwin. But he also doesn't have to beat out any of those receivers to play extensively, as receivers coach Darrell Wyatt likes to rotate guys through. Harris can add another big receiver, somebody who has the talent to go over the middle and block on the edge.
5) The running back position is taking shape
Joe Bergeron hasn't ever come out and said it, but at some point last offseason, he had to feel like Jan Brady: "It's always Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm!" Bergeron flew under the radar while five-star recruit Malcolm Brown picked up all of the kudos, pretty much expected to inherit the starting job. But when Brown was a bit banged up early in the fall, Bergeron took advantage. Brown eventually won the starting job, but not before Bergeron made a case for playing time. And when Brown suffered a turf toe injury, Bergeron was simply outstanding. He wound up getting hurt himself, but raised enough eyebrows that people began to wonder how the rotation, especially with incoming stud Johnathan Gray, would play out. But while Brown might have won the first battle for playing time, Bergeron has been better this spring, doing everything he can to sew up the starting job for himself. Obviously, Brown is a talented and hard-working back, and nothing is ever over. But right now, Bergeron is looking like he could be the first back to trot onto the field in 2012.