Spring Game Thoughts, The Day After

Five thoughts on Saturday's Orange-White game, from David Ash's play to the developing depth on the defensive line and at wide receiver.

1) As always, it's tough to tell too much from a spring game. For instance, David Ash threw two interceptions, which sounds terrible, except that it was more interceptions than Ash threw in the other 14 spring practices COMBINED.

But it was especially true given that the Longhorns were so far from full strength. Two projected starting receivers — Jaxon Shipley and Cayleb Jones — were out. So were two starting linemen and one of those starters' primary backup. Defensively, Jackson Jeffcoat missed the game, as did two members of the linebacking rotation.

So while there were positives and negatives, it's important to note that the team on Saturday didn't really represent what we'll be looking at in the fall.


2) At the same time, it's time to get excited about the potential of this defensive line. When I talked to Alex Okafor at Texas's Pro Day, he thought that the Longhorn defensive line would be better than it was in 2012, and would be back to the Texas standard because of the depth.

Okafor pointed out that when Texas was making runs at championships, the Longhorns had guys like Eddie Jones coming off the bench as part of the rotation.

"He had like six sacks the next year," Okafor said. "But the depth was so good that he was a guy who was just rotating through behind guys like [Sam] Acho and [Sergio] Kindle."

Texas is stacked with that kind of depth of talent yet again, especially at defensive tackle, where the Longhorns should be the stoutest group in the Big 12. Not only does Texas return four of its five defensive tackles who rotated through, but in Malcom Brown and Chris Whaley, the Longhorns have the kind of upper-tier talent at the position they've been lacking in recent years. And if Texas wants to go five-deep again, there are a number of young tackles like Alex Norman and Hassan Ridgeway who could be ready to fill that No. 5 spot.

Defensive end isn't in quite as strong a position. Jeffcoat is an elite talent, but must remain healthy. Cedric Reed does appear ready to take another step forward. And while the Longhorns would like to have a rotation of four-to-five guys here — and guys like Caleb Bluiett, who had an outstanding spring game and Bryce Cottrell could allow them to do that — Texas coach Mack Brown said they are currently comfortable with three defensive ends (including Shiro Davis with Jeffcoat and Reed).


3) Interceptions aside, this is a better, more confident David Ash. Mike Davis jokes about Ash's dancing aside, the junior quarterback has taken steps to be more accessible to his teammates, to cut up and have fun to build himself as a leader. That's a big part of the reason his teammates rave about him in a way they didn't before.

Ash's skill set has also improved. He's been more accurate this spring than he has been at any point in his Texas career. He's reading defenses better and has shown the ability to make every throw on time and on the money. Of his two interceptions, one was a bit high for a receiver over the middle and was tipped to safety Adrian Colbert. The other was just a poorly advised shovel attempt on a scramble play. Both are easily correctable. Ash also nearly had another well-thrown long touchdown pass to Davis that was broken up by Bryson Echols. All-in-all, a pretty solid night.


4) Wide receiver is getting there. On a night without Shipley or Jones, the wide receiver position saw some nice plays from guys who are fighting for more time. Kendall Sanders — right now fighting with Jones for a starting spot — fought through illness to score on a 24-yard catch-and-run. Duke Thomas only spent a few practices at receiver prior to the spring game, but he hauled in three passes for 27 yards, including a 16-yarder. Marcus Johnson had three catches for 32 yards. Bryant Jackson hauled in six passes. And John Harris had the biggest day of any receiver, catching four passes for 92 yards.

Add in Daje Johnson, whose production level is proven, and this is a group that, while it isn't there yet, has the potential to be a strong one come fall, especially once Texas adds in its three-man recruiting class.

Keep an eye on Thomas. Texas is significantly deeper on the outside with Davis, Shipley, Jones and Sanders, with one of those four — likely Shipley — probably having to move to the slot to accommodate. Things aren't as rosy in the slot, where Jackson and Thomas are the top two players. If Thomas can come on and utilize his speed in that spot, he could help to add an element that might not be there yet.


5) The expectation is a Big 12 title. Texas landed top-three recruiting classes in 2010, 2011 and 2012. And while the Longhorns had youth as an excuse the past two years, it's gone now with Texas returning nine starters on both offense and defense. Additionally, the players in that 2010 class that played as freshmen are now seniors, with guys like Davis, Trey Hopkins, Jeffcoat, Jordan Hicks, Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips all playing major roles. The ones who redshirted are juniors, as are the top players from 2011.

That means it's time for Texas to be Texas again. And that's an expectation that the Longhorns didn't shy away from Saturday night after the spring game. Texas bounced back from a five-win season to an eight-win year, and last year, a nine-win season. But the expectations for Texas are higher, and they should be. No other team has brought in three top-three classes according to Scout.com since our site began grading classes in 2002. None. And no class that earned a No. 1 ranking — as Texas's 2012 group did — has failed to win at least 10 games during its time on campus, with most going on to win BCS games or National Titles.


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