Spring game: defensive grades

On Tuesday we brought you an offensive spring game report card that your parents wouldn't be too happy with. Today we give you slightly better grades from Texas' defensive efforts in the Orange-White spring game.

Defensive tackle

Grade: A-

This unit played like you'd expect them given that they could potentially be the strength of this team.

Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson were dominant at times, as they should have been against UT's second-tier offensive line. Brown collected five tackles, one tackle-for-loss and a quarterback hurry. Johnson tallied six tackles and a sack.

Hassan Ridgeway, who the coaching staff is expecting big things from, started his day with a sack of Tyrone Swoopes. He had two more tackles on the day and showed promise in being the No. 3 DT.

Alex Norman continued his strong spring with three tackles, including forcing a fumble when he stripped the ball away from Malcolm Brown.

Defensive end

Grade: B

Chris Rumph has to be really pleased with the depth he could have at DE this fall, especially in someone like Caleb Bluiett, who was one of the best players on the field.

Bluiett tied Demarco Cobbs for the team-lead with eight tackles, which included two sacks and a pass breakup. His work against starting left tackle Desmond Harrison was both impressive and a bit concerning for Joe Wickline.

Cedric Reed played like you've come to expect him to play, recording three tackles, two sacks, and two quarterback hurries.

Shiro Davis had just one tackle and two quarterback hurries in an otherwise quiet afternoon for the potential starter. Bryce Cottrell had two tackles with the second team.


Grade: B

The second unit of Cobbs, Dalton Santos, and Naashon Hughes outshined the first team of Peter Jinkens, Steve Edmond, and Tim Cole.

Cobbs was one of the best players on the field, which is especially encouraging considering this was the first time he was playing in front of a crowd in over a year and some change. It didn't look like he'd lost any of the speed that made him so dangerous prior to him tearing his ACL in 2012.

Santos, playing with a heavy heart as news came out Sunday that his mother is ill, recorded a sack and a pass break-up.

Hughes could be a difference maker once he really gets a feel for what he's doing. It looks like Texas' staff has figured out the best way to use his abilities by playing him at the SAM linebacker position behind Jinkens.

Speaking of Jinkens, he should excel at SAM, which Charlie Strong said would blitz often.

Edmond didn't make as much noise on the field (three tackles) as he did off it (Baylor comments), and Cole recovered a fumble.


Grade: B-

It's hard to give this group anything higher because of that first drive in which Miles Onyegbule was 3-for-4 for 44 yards. That included a 30-yard pass to Montrel Meander over Duke Thomas. Meander could have had another big pickup against Quandre Diggs but he didn't see the ball in time, which ended up hitting him in the head.

Bryson Echols may have had the best day of any cornerback. He recorded six tackles, had a game-high three pass break-ups, and lit up Kendall Sanders with one of the hardest hits on the day. He looks like the favorite for that No. 3 CB spot ahead of Antwuan Davis.


Grade: B

Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner each recorded an interception, though, both appeared to be gifted from Onyegbule. Thompson did return his 36 yards for a touchdown and showed signs that he could be ready to take the next step.

They look like UT's starters for the fall after an relatively quiet day from Chevoski Collins and Adrian Colbert. Collins, who worked with the first team in Texas' first scrimmage of the spring, didn't record a tackle while Colbert finished with four stops.

Special teams

Grade: B

Given what was allowed – no kickoffs and punts weren't returned – Texas could be in a better position to replace Anthony Fera than I imagined.

Yes, Nick Rose missed a 55-yard field goal but the way that thing came off his leg should have Texas fans feeling pretty good about his prospects. He later kicked a 40-yard FG with ease and also converted three extra points.

Nick Jordan was only asked to kick two extra points, which leads you to believe Rose has the early leg up (no pun intended) on replacing Fera.

Will Russ (three punts) and Michael Davidson (two punts) averaged 43.3 and 43.5 yards per punt respectively. Russ had two of his land inside the 20 while Davidson had one inside the red zone.


Grade: B-

The way the second-team offense moved the ball against the first-team defense to begin the game wasn't what Vance Bedford was hoping for.

But the first-team defense was utterly dominant after that, allowing only 42 yards the rest of the way and forcing three turnovers. Granted they were facing a converted receiver/tight end at QB and only had to deal with Jalen Overstreet at RB and not absentees like Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron.

The emergence of Bluiett, Echols and Norman have to be encouraging for Strong, as well as the way Cobbs looked in his return from injury.

There's no question that this side of the ball will be asked to keep Texas in games more than its offense will. They should be able to do that this fall if players like Thompson and Turner continue to improve on the backend. They'll also get Jordan Hicks, Tevin Jackson, and Sheroid Evans back from injury.

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