A through Z Guide to UT's Spring Game

Get an idea of what to look for at Texas' spring game on Saturday with this A through Z guide.

A

is for Appealing: Texas’ offense should be much more appealing than it was last season as it turns to more of a spread system with the hopes of generating more big plays and points. Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline’s aim is to get the ball out in space more and into their playmakers hands with much more frequency.

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B

is for Branding: While Steve Patterson works on branding Texas internationally, Charlie Strong remain steadfast in his commitment toward branding his football program as a tough, prideful bunch. It looks like his team is taking the next step towards putting the ‘T’ back in Texas after several severe growing pains in 2014. The energy and feistiness of the team has ramped up, even to the point of a few friendly shoving matches this spring. Look for more of the same on Saturday so long as it doesn’t warrant a penalty.

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C

is for Cornerbacks: The Longhorns took a big hit in the secondary when Sheroid Evans sustained a severe injury early it's spring camp. That has caused players like Bryson Echols and Antwuan Davis to step up. Both have earned valuable snaps this spring and have an opportunity to showcase their talents for the coaches on Saturday. They’ll need to look good as Texas has three highly touted cornerbacks coming in this fall.

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D

is for Demons: The Longhorns struggled mightily in 2014, and that has left both players and coaches a like to deal with the demons from that 6-7 season. Strong said he thinks about the loss to Arkansas all the time and it will continue to haunt him until Texas kicks off at Notre Dame on September 5th. Saturday's scrimmage will be the closest thing they have to a game until then to unleash some of their frustration.

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E

is for Electrifying: That's a word you are hearing a lot these days in association with Daje Johnson. He's really turned the corner under the guidance of his head coach and is back to being one of Texas’ most dangerous offensive weapons.

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F

is for Freshmen: Vance Bedford does not like them but he will likely have to rely on many of them to fill his two- deep on defense. That's what makes the scrimmage so important is it will give many guys fighting for their spots one last opportunity to prove themselves before a truly talented class of freshmen join the program this fall.

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G

is for Goodwill: That is something you are seeing from Texas’ offensive line, which was much maligned in 2014. The group is said to have come to spring camp with a different focus and renewed energy, and are looking out for each other. We have heard examples of that specifically with Kent Perkins helping JUCO transfer Tristan Nickelson really learn how to watch film and Sed Flowers helping Alan Anderson in between drills at practice on his own.

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H

is for Heard: Jerrod Heard, Texas’ highly coveted 2014 five-star quarterback, is closing the gap on Tyrone Swoopes for starting quarterback honors. Saturday's scrimmage is a huge opportunity for him to close the gap even further.

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I

is for Injuries: The injury bug has hit Texas hard and will cause many key contributors to miss the spring game. That will likely include Darius James, Roderick Bernard, Caleb Bluiett, Desmond Jackson, Chris Nelson and Derick Roberson.

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J

is for Jesus: But not just any Jesus. We are talking about Touchdown Jesus, who overlooks Notre Dame Stadium, which will be where Texas kicks off the season on September 5th. Saturday's scrimmage will represent the last time UT is able to play a game in front of thousands of fans before they travel to South Bend. For some it will be the first time playing in front of a crowd that large.

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K

is for Kicking: The Longhorns really struggled in the kicking game in 2014, but are hopeful Nick Rose’s growing pains are behind him. The Longhorns will likely trot out a new punter in Mitchell Becker, who redshirted in 2014.

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L

is for Leaders: Texas had plenty of them last season. Problem is, many of them are no longer around (Quandre Diggs, Cedric Reed, Jordan Hicks, Malcolm Brown, Malcom Brown, Jaxon Shipley, John Harris). It's up to players like Duke Thomas, Sed Flowers, Taylor Doyle, Hassan Ridgeway, Marcus Johnson, and Johnathan Gray to pick up the slack. Who else will emerge as leaders for this team? And will any take big steps towards becoming a leader on Saturday?

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M

is for Malik: Five-star linebacker Malik Jefferson has done nothing but impress since enrolling early in January. This will be the first time the public will be able to see him live in full uniform.

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N

is for Naashon: If you want to talk about the most athletic, physically gifted player on Texas’ defense you might start with Naashon Hughes. The former grey shirt offer of Mack Brown’s is quickly becoming a must-see defender for the Longhorns. Keep your eyes on him Saturday.

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O

is for Opportunity: For someone like Tim Cole, Saturday represents the best chance he’ll have to impress the coaches until fall camp. The high school teammate of Malcom Brown’s has not played all that much since arriving in Austin several years ago. But he is being relied upon right now as the starting middle linebacker. He needs to be as good as anybody on Saturday given the type of talent at linebacker that is coming in this fall.

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P

is for Petey: Jacorey “Petey” Warrick has been the star of spring camp as far as the wide receivers go. He has been the Longhorns most consistent weapon at the position, which is trying to replace its top two players in Jaxon Shipley and John Harris.

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Q

is for Quarterback: All eyes should be on Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard to see if either can separate from the other heading into the dog days of summer.

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R

is for Return: The Longhorns did not get much of anything out of their return game last season. Texas often put the sure-handed Jaxon Shipley back to field punts but he was often asked to fair catch. Look for the Longhorns to try to make a difference in the return game under new special teams coordinator Jeff Traylor.

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S

is for Swoopes: Everyone wants to know how Heard has looked, and rightfully so. But last seasons starter is doing what he can to remain the in that position. He's been a different guy in camp, being more vocal and taking ownership of his surroundings. He had a horrible spring game a year ago. He’ll need a better outing this time around to keep Heard at arms length.

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T

is for Ty: If there is one player that could emerge as the 2015 version of Dylan Haines – a walk-on who becomes a key contributor – it will be WR Ty Templin. Though unlikely given what UT has coming in at WR, Templin has been nails for the Longhorns. He catches everything and is extremely tough.

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U

is for Underclassmen: There are going to be a lot of them getting major minutes on Saturday, particularly the redshirt freshmen. Some of them include Heard, Duke Catalon, Ed Freeman and John Bonney.

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V

is for Vahe: Patrick Vahe won’t participate in the scrimmage, but he’s a name you should definitely file away for later. If you could envision an offensive linemen you’d want him to look something like Vahe. He’s got the physical tools to be great but it’s his mean streak that should really excite UT fans. He’ll knock you on your backside and gladly step over you on his way back to the huddle.

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W

is for Williams: If you’re looking for an offensive lineman to watch on Saturday I’d go with Connor Williams. The true freshman looks like he’s going to have a bright future. He’s not a starter right now but could be by the time the season rolls around.

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X

is for X-Factor: Bedford said that the strongest unit on the team is going to be the defensive line. I agree, though, it might not look like it on Saturday with as many injuries up front as they have. Still, UT will have several key cogs suited up in Ridgeway, Paul Boyette, Shiro Davis, Brice Cottrell, and Poona Ford.

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Y

is for Yell: That’s something the media saw Strong do first-hand to hard-hitting free safety Jason Hall after Hall clocked a receiver during a practice in which Texas was not in full pads. Strong would probably tell you that’s the type of yelling he doesn’t mind doing so long as no one gets hurt. Hall is a head-hunter and could make some money knocking heads. He’ll be key for Texas’ secondary.

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Z

is for Zero: Strong is a defensive-minded coach and loves turnovers, but he’d probably be OK if Texas’ defense didn’t create any on Saturday. Taking care of the ball is a point of emphasis for UT. The Longhorns have to be better at taking care of the ball in 2015. Have to.

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