HD Mailbag: Scrimmage Reax; Ranking Positions

In this week's HD Mailbag I answer questions about the spring game, rank each position based on the scrimmage, international UT branding & more.

Question from HD subscriber Mralph9:

The consensus I have seen from most people is that Texas' defense will struggle this year due to being so thin in some areas. What do you expect in terms of defensive quality from the defense? Do you think they can field a strong defense again?

Answer:

Absolutely. I’ve said this before in the Mailbag but I’ll say it again. I think Texas’ offense will be the better of the two sides of the ball early on, but the balance of power will even out as the season progresses.

UT has playmakers on defense but experience is just not there for a lot of them. Once they get to the point in the season where they are pinning their ears back and playing instead of thinking too much [could take the freshmen a couple of games], I think you’ll see marked improvement.

Vance Bedford said that he thinks as many as six freshmen could factor into the two-deep. That’s a lot of inexperience. But look at the growth guys like Jason Hall had from the beginning of the 2014 season to the end. It just takes time.

While those freshmen are settling in, and adjusting to the speed of the game and playing in front of so many people, Texas has to hope that a new batch of leaders steps up and keep the defense in check. The Longhorns also need to get/stay healthy.

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Question from HD subscriber DiggsTX:

Thoughts on playing a game internationally (Dubai, China, London, etc.)? What teams do you think we'd be most likely to play overseas?

Answer:

I don’t think it’s a terrible idea for basketball or volleyball. But when you start talking about taking a would-be home football game away from Austin, then I think you’ll find a whole lot of issues arise. Not only would fans lose out on a football game at DKR but the City of Austin, and all of those that rely on the football season to make money, wouldn’t be too happy.

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Question from HD subscriber achitturi:

After watching the spring game, what are your thoughts on the work Wickline's done with our O-line? Do you see it being good enough to support a full-fledged spread offense or will its inexperience limit what plays we call?

Answer:

Wickline is Wickline. He’s solid. He’s a great teacher. He’ll get them going. He got the most out of a patch-work bunch last season.

He has more to work with this season, and some studs not even on campus yet. I think the depth UT has/will continue to establish will benefit them greatly.

The one area I’d be concerned at are the tackles. Unproven depth is a bit of an issue, but I don’t think it will be big enough for Texas’ offense to have to limit what it runs in 2015.

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Question from HD subscriber nvlonghorn:

Sorry have couple of questions 1.With the freshmen wide outs coming in who makes an immediate impact burt Johnson or Newsome? With Foreman and catalon emerging as a good running backs does it mean Warren will redshirt or we rolling 3 deep in the fall at running back?

Answer:

I don’t see Warren redshirting despite the three players UT has at RB right now, who all are capable. You have to have Warren [or Kirk Johnson, or Tristan Houston] game ready because of the injuries Gray and Catalon have suffered in their time at UT.

Of the three WRs you listed, it’s really too tough to say until they get on campus and I hear/see how they are doing. All three bring different things to the program. Given Texas’ lack of a deep threat I think someone like John Burt or Gilbert Johnson might fit in better at first. But Newsome’s abilities in the return game could get him on the field right away.

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Question from HD subscriber Stefdakiid:

Which skills players in the 2016 class would benefit the most from the offensive changes from what you've seen?

Heard's confidence level after the Spring game? Does he seem more engaged in wanting to do the little things to become great?

I didn't get to watch, which coach seemed to be having the most fun out there and getting more out of their groups as the spring game went on?

Can Texas finally get a back to break 1000 yards??? Lol

Answer:

All of them really. Shane Buechele’s high school is transitioning to more of UT’s style of offense so he’ll benefit from that. Collin Johnson and Reggie Hemphill have to like it because they know the rock is getting thrown around a lot more.

ABSOLUTELY on your Heard question. I think he won over some folks with his postgame remarks. He was impressive both on and off the field, just as I had expected him to be.

Coaching – I tell you Jeff Traylor is a fun-loving guy. His TEs didn’t have great days on the stat sheet but they performed well. He had to be pleased with the kicking game.

Gray is certainly capable of breaking 1,000 yards. I think he’ll get close but it all depends on how much he’s relied on. Tommie Robinson loves rotating different backs. I think four could play.

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Question from HD subscriber SoldierHorn

ChipBrownHD wrote:

Orange-White Scrimmage injury report

The following players are out for today’s Orange-White Scrimmage due to injury:

WR Roderick Bernard (knee)

DE Caleb Bluiett (knee)

CB Sheroid Evans (knee) indefinite?

DT Desmond Jackson (foot) probable?

OG/T Darius James (knee)

WR Marcus Johnson (knee)

DT Chris Nelson (shoulder)

DE Derick Roberson (shoulder)

CB Jermaine Roberts Jr. (knee)

LB Dalton Santos (ankle)

CB Duke Thomas (ankle)

What does the walking wounded damage look like after the spring training?

I know there's no way to know for sure but what do you think are the probabilities of players being ready for the fall or first game? If you had to best quess it, would you put "probable," "questionable," or "indefinite" next to the names as a baseline?

I wasnt able to watch the game so I dont know who actually ended playing. I was also tracking a few more players getting hurt during spring training but they may have ended up playing:

S Eric Huhn (knee) - was supposedly still hampered by knee injuries but didnt see him listed for the spring game.

RB Donald Catalon (Knee)

Probable

OG Sedrick Flowers (back)

Probable

Alex Norman (back)

Questionable but leaning toward Probable

Quincy Vasser (knee)

Probable

Are there any others injured as a result of the game?

Answer:

All things considered it was a great day for UT from an injury standpoint. There were no major injuries reported after the game. Texas wasn’t taking any chances with J Gray. He didn’t play all that much at all.

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Question from HD subscriber skafti:

Following the spring game, how far along do you think Strong is into implementing his culture change with the team? In your opinion, what has been the biggest area of improvement with his changes and where is there still a lot of work to be done?

Answer:

There is a noticeable change within the program. It seems like he’s weeded out the guys that don’t have the passion for UT football. That said, I do think the growth will be substantially more noticeable in 2016. I think that’s when the program will really take off.

The biggest improvements have been from an accountability standpoint. Players are taking ownership of the team. The change in offense is a big reason for the attitude adjustments too. The players seem a lot more excited because they know this offense is designed to spread the wealth.

Areas that still need work: I think the coaches would like to see guys take on more of a leadership role early on. Strong had issues with this last season before those seniors took accountability. There are leaders on this team, but determining who they are is a bit tricky at this time.

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Question from HD subscriber jmf1973:

I loved what I saw in the 1st quarter of the spring game from the offense. But I wasn't thrilled with what I saw from the offense in the final 3 quarters. I realize all players work hard & the reward is playing in front of fans at DKR. Still how much stock should I put into what I saw? Should I be thrilled with the 1st quarter offense & equally happy with the defense in the last 3 quarters? Thanks!

Answer:

I think that’s fair. You had to be pleased with what you saw from the offense early on. The main guys that needed to be good, for the most part, showed up and put their best foot forward.

There’s no doubt that this team is going to be able to move the ball better than it did last season. The change in pace on offense is a big reason why.

But there are still some glaring concerns on this team – stopping explosive pass rushers, stupid penalties, punt/punt return game, dropped passes, etc.

There was so much mixing and matching in the final three quarters that it is hard to put too much stock into what the defense did, but if you look at it from an individual standpoint you have to be excited with what John Bonney, Bryce Cottrell, Bryson Echols, Malik Jefferson, Ed Freeman, Paul Boyette, and Dylan Haines did.

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Question from HD subscriber UThorns12:

1) Alright, on both sides of the ball...tell me which freshman start and at what position in 2015.

Answer:

If we are talking true freshmen I think you could see Connor Williams start at RT, Malik Jefferson start somewhere at LB, one of the freshmen WR’s could sneak in there if Dorian Leonard doesn’t improve, and Holton Hill start opposite of Duke Thomas [Echols making it hard though]. A long way to go for all of them though. I don’t feel confident saying any of them will 100 percent start at Notre Dame.

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Question from HD subscriber jmf1973

William, I thought of another question & hope it's OK to ask after posting one already. Will you please explain baseball recruiting? I know that UT has had some talented commits who never came in 2012 & 2013 because they were drafted so high to MLB. So how does UT replace those commits? Do coaches look at JUCO players during the summer? Are those scholarships distributed to other players already on the roster (like what football did after dismissals & training camp)? I'm very curious about this since it seems baseball purists believe those recruiting classes have impacted the depth on the team and we're seeing that right now. Thanks!

Answer:

The last two classes have definitely given the Longhorns more depth this season than they’ve had in the past and that’s because they signed almost everyone.

It’s a Catch 22 of sorts with how baseball goes about filling its roster. On one hand you can’t afford not to go after the high-profiled recruit if you think you can get him. But you are always taking that risk that he’ll never suit up. You’ve got to be smart with who you fill your commitments with.

Looking at JUCO guys and getting transfers is a huge part of college baseball. It’s how a lot of teams go about filling their roster because they know those guys can’t leave until after his junior year [or are at least 21-years-old.]

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Question from HD subscriber Bigdaddy6363

Can you rank our position groups based off of the spring game?

Answer:

If I had to rank the position groups based off the spring game I’d go like this [these are the rankings based on how each group played in the game, not how I think they rank overall]:

1. Defensive ends - Cottrell was great.

2. Defensive tackles - Combination of Boyette and Ridgeway was tough to beat, Poona was solid.

3. QBs - Both guys had solid games, moving in the right direction.

4. LBs - Malik made the play of the game, which was scooped up by another LB Ed Freeman. Tim Cole had his moments.

5. Safety/Nickel – Hard to believe Dylan Haines was a walk-on at one point. Jason Hall is going to a stud; does need to work on being more of a leader for defense coaches said. John Bonney, you could argue, had the best day of anyone.

6. RBs – We know what Texas has in J Gray. In the little he played he juked out Jefferson and looks stronger than ever. D’Onta could be the steal of his class. The first Duke Catalon sighting in game action brought about positive results. Runs well between tackles.

7. K – Nick Rose was booming kicks and was mostly accurate doing so. Mitchell Becker needs to improve. Averaging 38 yards per punt won’t cut it.

8. CB – This is largely due to Bryson Echols’s performance. He can cover. Antwaun Davis actually played well as well.

9. C – Taylor Doyle and Jake Raulerson both looked good.

10. – OG – A bunch of teams in the Big 12 would be happy to have Sedrick Flowers and Kent Perkins.

11 – OT – Depth is an issue here. None had great games, but none had poor ones. They were just OK.

12 – WR – You could move them up as far as No. 8 I think but there were too many subpar performances to warrant anything higher than that [Dorian Leonard, Daje Johnson’s ball security]. Armanti Foreman had a decent game, as did Lorenzo Joe.

13. – TE – Weren’t used all that much in the passing game but did make it could when they were thrown to. Andrew Beck is like a fine wine he’ll only get better with time.

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