Open Practice One: Defensive Practice Notes

LonghornDigest.com takes a look at the defensive players who stood out at Friday's open practice.

Defensive End

Jackson Jeffcoat only took part in the non-contact portions of practice. He looked small, like the missed time in the weight room was showing. In the drills/team portion that Jeffcoat wasn't able to take in, Shiro Davis started in his place. Davis looks like the real deal physically, and he was outstanding in pass-rush drills. Cedric Reed was the starter opposite Jeffcoat/Davis, and he blew up several running plays in inside drill. He wasn't quite as effective as a pass-rusher. Reggie Wilson was with the twos the whole time, and he had some nice moments in pass-rush drill. So, too, did Bryce Cottrell, who displayed outstanding quickness. On one play, he just flat-out ran around Garrett Greenlea and wasn't really touched. Caleb Bluiett put together a nice practice as well. He was more physical than Cottrell was, if not as quick. In one-on-one drills, he bested tight end Greg Daniels.


Defensive Tackle

This might be the most stacked position on defense. The Longhorns return four players from their five-man rotation and add Alex Norman, Hassan Ridgeway and Paul Boyette coming off redshirt seasons. Chris Whaley and Malcom Brown were the two starters, and both were tremendously active and hard to handle all day long. Whaley jumped offsides on one play, and on the very next play, he blew up a tunnel screen in the backfield. People had all kinds of trouble blocking Brown, especially in pass-rush drills. Jackson made a couple nice plays, while Dorsey was hit-or-miss. Alex Norman worked quite a bit with the twos. He appears to be the furthest ahead on the depth chart of the three young players, though Riser did a nice job blocking him. It's easy to see why the coaches are high on Ridgeway. He won his reps in the pass-rushing drill against Taylor Doyle by displaying great burst and quickness off the line. Boyette may be the man left out right now.


Linebacker

With Jordan Hicks missing spring ball with a hamstring injury, the starting outside linebackers were Peter Jinkens and Tevin Jackson. And defensive coordinator Manny Diaz appears to have taken Jinkens under his wing, alternately screaming and throwing his hat after he missed an assignment and taking the time to teach him some one-on-one. Dalton Santos was the middle linebacker with the starting lineup, and his dropping of weight really made him look good. He may have better instincts than Steve Edmond does, which would be a huge help. But don't count the big guy out yet, either. Edmond made a couple outstanding plays in coverage, including one where he covered Daje Johnson out of the backfield on a wheel route and slapped away a potential touchdown pass. With Demarco Cobbs also out, guys like Aaron Benson were moved up to work with the second team. That also makes it a bit unfortunate that Deoundrei Davis is hurt. He could have gotten some high-quality repetitions in his first spring on campus.


Cornerback

Carrington Byndom looks outstanding. Not only was he incredibly smooth and fluid, but Byndom also showed the physicality that popped up at times his sophomore year, at one point forcing a fumble from Jaxon Shipley. Quandre Diggs was at the other corner and played, well, like Quandre. He did get beaten a bit on a post-route touchdown to Kendall Sanders, though the ball was perfectly thrown (by David Ash) and pinched between Diggs and Josh Turner at safety. The second-team corners were Sheroid Evans and Duke Thomas. I don't think either is in danger of taking starting spots from Byndom and Diggs, though Evans is a bit smoother than I thought he'd be. We could be in for a battle at nickel corner. Leroy Scott and Bryson Echols are on the third team. Echols did well in jamming drills.


Safety

Adrian Phillips and Mykkele Thompson were the two starters, though Josh Turner rotated in with the ones some as well. Thompson looks like he's taken a big step forward physically. Just doesn't even look like the same guy. Way more filled out. He looked pretty good. Phillips also looked pretty steady. Turner had his moments, though he also drew a cringe on his first tackle in one-on-one tackling drills … he made the tackle but wasn't physical at all. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see Texas try to use one of the three safeties as a nickel corner to get all three players on the field. There's some real speed here, and that includes second-team safety Adrian Colbert. Colbert is still figuring things out — he didn't break down and was juked by Bryant Jackson — but given that all the safeties ahead of him are juniors and seniors, the redshirt freshman's development bears watching.

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