Ten Thoughts on Texas at Big 12 Media Day

From potential breakout performers to consistent storylines, LonghornDigest.com breaks down 10 thoughts on the Longhorns' appearance at Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday.

1) As has been discussed on here, it's not a new offense, it's just a new tempo. Players and Texas coach Mack Brown repeatedly made that distinction as swarms of local and national media members struggled to make that distinction. The Longhorns want to get between 80 and 85 plays per game, and to do so, they might take out some of the shifts and motions that former offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin used to create leverage. But the plays themselves, and even some of the formation and personnel group substitutions that Harsin loved, are still in the playbook.


2) Brown, and the Texas players in attendance, expect a big year out of quarterback David Ash. Ash threw for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, but did have three uneven performances. For his part, Ash said that he looked at each one of his poor performances and felt like he picked out, and can now correct, those mistakes. Trey Hopkins singled out Ash's work ethic, stating that every time he came to the football complex, even at non-peak times after workouts were completed, Ash was there, either watching film or trying to coordinate schedules for 7-on-7.


3) Case McCoy will continue to act as the No. 2 quarterback. But at the same time, the staff will prepare Tyrone Swoopes. Brown said that Ash and McCoy would split — obviously not 50-50 — repetitions with the No. 1 offense, per usual. Swoopes will get most of the repetitions with the No. 2s, with Jalen Overstreet, who is now a running back/slot receiver (call it the Daje position for Daje Johnson) getting the final few, just in case disaster strikes. Could Swoopes find a package this year? That's possible, but it likely won't be in the Wild formation because Brown is so high on Johnathan Gray's ability there. Instead, the staff needs to gauge Swoopes's ability on designed runs like quarterback draws and counters, to see if he could add anything in those areas.


4) Adrian Phillips is really high on what the Texas secondary could be this year. Phillips cited the depth that defensive backs coach Duane Akina has built at both cornerback and safety. At safety, Phillips said Mykkele Thompson was ready to break out and become a star, and he singled out Josh Turner's heady play as well, with Adrian Colbert coming on. At cornerback, this spring, the Longhorns used a mixture of Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs and Sheroid Evans in nickel situations. But two of the stars of the summer workouts have been Duke Thomas and Antwuan Davis, meaning that Akina will have some decisions to make. It's a good problem to have.


5) At the same time, the rest of the team seems high on Phillips. Phillips refused to use his shoulder as an excuse for last year's play, but conceded that watching himself on film was like watching somebody else play. Jackson Jeffcoat agreed, and said that Phillips was "bringing the hammer" as a tackler in the spring. Jeffcoat also said Phillips had emerged as one of the defense's best and most vocal leaders. Brown said that Phillips's performance in the spring showed the coaches that they were right to expect so much from him as a player.


6) Hopkins didn't play this spring, one of several offensive line injuries. But he said he was impressed by the second wave of guys who saw more time. Hopkins said that Sedrick Flowers had always been a great player, but seemed to forget, or not know, that he could be great as he was buried on the second team. But as a starter in Hopkins's spot, the light came on, Hopkins said. Hopkins also said that Kennedy Estelle was outstanding in Josh Cochran's spot.


7) Hopkins also has really high expectations for Desmond Harrison. "He's huge," Hopkins said when I asked him for his first impression. But Harrison's second and third impressions might have been even more impressive, and more lasting. Hopkins said that Harrison came into workouts in shape and was completing everything asked of him. And one of the first things that Harrison did upon arriving was to go to both Hopkins and fellow senior guard Mason Walters and ask them to teach him everything he needed to know.


8) Phillips said that he thinks when Jeffcoat is healthy, there's nobody better. Phillips described his reaction to finding out that Jeffcoat ruptured another pectoral muscle, saying that he just couldn't believe it. Jeffcoat called it a freak injury, and added that his doctor said it didn't make sense because Jeffcoat was strong in the chest, but that sometimes, the muscle just "gets hit right." Despite not being able to work out his upper body while he recovered, Jeffcoat looked great physically, and has added back the muscle mass that he appeared to have lost in the spring.


9) The key for the Longhorns, largely, is to stay healthy, something that Brown mentioned often. And as I interviewed Ash, I looked across to the players that Texas invited to Big 12 Media Days and all four missed either game, or practice, time a year ago with injuries. Ash (cracked ribs), Phillips (shoulder), Hopkins (stress fracture) and Jeffcoat (ruptured pectoral) are four of the Longhorns' leaders and potentially best players, so that thought was pretty astounding. Texas just hasn't been able to stay healthy over the past couple of years, and while a deeper Longhorn team appears to be better equipped to deal with injuries than in the past, it would be better if Texas could just keep a semi-clean bill of health for a change.


10) Brown discussed the addition of Greg Robinson as a football analyst in the player personnel department. He said that, with Robinson's experience, he was uniquely qualified to break down film, both on the Longhorns and on their opponents. He'll do most of his job from his home in Los Angeles, which limits many fans' concerns about him standing over the shoulder of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Alabama has done a great job of taking bright football minds and putting them in positions to which they are overqualified. This appears to be a great example of having a coach with proven experience and taking advantage of that experience, essentially as an extra member of the staff.


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