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A FEW SPRING FOOTBALL NOTES
LET’S START WITH THE OFFENSIVE LINE …
I reported in my chat on Monday that LT Connor Williams was indeed in a boot on campus from a toe injury suffered in the third spring practice – right before spring break – and that he might miss a week of work, but that it wasn’t serious.
Backup RT Tristan Nickelson is also likely to miss the rest of the week with an ankle injury.
Getting reps in their place are a couple guys who need to step it up or risk setting themselves up to get passed over come fall camp – Buck Major and Garrett Thomas.
Major is seen as a guy who needs to get more serious about his commitment to being a top football player (because, my gawd, the Big Guy upstairs gave him the ideal OT dimensions – powerful base, forever arm length, etc). But he has not made any kind of impression as of yet this spring. And that’s not good.
Thomas couldn’t maintain weight last spring as an early enrollee – hovering around 274.
Now, he’s up closer to 300 pounds. Perhaps this little window of being pressed into action this week will give one or both a taste of what could be … and the sense of urgency to go with it.
Or maybe they’ll both fall further behind. Jean Delance and Denzel Okafor, if you’re listening, come ready to battle, and you could be in the two-deep for Notre Dame.
At OG, Brandon Hodges is a much better athlete than Sed Flowers. Hodges is a total upgrade already from that standpoint. But Hodges is still inconsistent with his technique and in communicating/picking up things like stunts and twists.
Elijah Rodriguez is the backup center behind early enrollee true freshman Zach Shackelford, who continues to get rave reviews.
But here’s a question to file away in your back pocket: When the young gun defensive tackles show up this summer (and I think Marcel Southall and DCG will emerge as the ones to push Paul Boyette and Poona Ford) – how about moving Jake McMillon back to the offensive line?
I’ve wondered this out loud from time to time, but now I’m getting a little more convicted about it. I like McMillon. I mean, if he had to play on fall Saturdays, I don’t think he’d embarrass himself. He’s listed at 6-3, 294 (and he’s probably closer to 6-2).
But McMillon, an Abilene kid who is West Texas tough, played OG as redshirt freshman, when the depth on the OL was at zero. Well, depending on how quickly OG Tope Imade can get up to speed when he gets to campus, I think it’s definitely worth considering moving McMillon back to OG.
Right now, coaches couldn’t think of moving McMillon to the OL, because the D only has four scholarship DTs going through the spring – Boyette, Ford, Chris Nelson and McMillon.
The Horns need all the DTs they can get right now. But keep that question about if McMillon should eventually be moved back to OG in your back pocket. We will return to it at some point.
AT QUARTERBACK ….
Much will be made about the first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. But just because they head over to DKR doesn’t mean this scrimmage will reveal a lot.
The second scrimmage – the following Saturday will be much more of a barometer – as well as the last practice before the spring game on April 16 at 1 pm CT.
With all that being said, I continue to hear there isn’t much that separates Tyrone Swoopes from Jerrod Heard and Shane Buechele.
Now, Heard is always going to be punished in a practice setting, because his feet are such a weapon, and QBs don’t get legit run plays in practice.
I’m hearing Buechele is “by far” the most accurate passer of the three, and that’s hugely significant. (It could become a determining factor – at some point – come the fall.)
Hopefully, everyone read through the post-practice report on Tuesday and saw the comments by Dylan Haines about Buechele.
Haines said that on the first day of spring practice, Buechele baited him with a pump fake when Buechele noticed Haines trying to cheat off of a slant to jump a bubble screen – only to have Buechele pump-fake the bubble and throw the slant.
“You don’t expect to see a true freshman, early enrollee quarterback make that kind of plays he’s making. But Buechele looks good. He really dooes,” Haines said. “The poise is definitely there. If you didn’t know him, you’d think he’s been playing college ball for three years.”
So now that you’re all excited about the prospects of Buechele (and you should be, because the kid is a sponge and is taking this QB competition very seriously), don’t look for Buechele to move up in the pecking order of reps.
However, even though Swoopes might continue to be the first QB to get reps in practice, followed by Heard, don’t be surprised if Buechele starts getting MORE reps.
One of the convenient byproducts of the new, high-rep offensive mindset brought to practice by Sterlin Gilbert – guys are jumping in and out so much that even Buechele as the third batter in the lineup gets to see a lot of reps against first-team defenders.
On defense, there’s still a lot yet to shake out in the front seven.
Bryce Cottrell is working at SDE. But Cottrell is also waiting to hear on a couple graduate school applications. Depending on the responses/outcomes, Cottrell could become a graduate transfer (because education is and has always been first in his family).
So, do you move Naashon Hughes and/or Charles Omenihu over to SDE with Quincy Vasser? I expect incoming freshman Andrew Fiizgerald to make noise at that position right away.
At Fox end, Derick Roberson missed the first week of spring recovering from a head injury suffered in a car accident before spring practices began. His return is a bit of a mystery.
Everyone you ask about linebacker says Malik Jefferson, Breckyn Hager and Anthony Wheeler are all complete studs. Hager and Wheeler are also best friends and have great chemistry on the field together.
If coaches stick with Jefferson at MLB (even though it’s not his natural position) and play Wheeler at OLB, then I could see Hager being moved up to Fox End.
If you haven’t seen Hager play on the line – even as a stand-up rusher – his first step is ridiculous. Like illegal in 6 states ridiculous. And he may be the best tackler on the team.
Can’t wait to see this defensive front mature and get enough players to where everyone is in their natural spot. It shouldn’t take too much longer – fall at the latest.
SOME PRO DAY NOTABLES
RIDGEWAY RANGE – 1ST TO 3RD ROUND: … So I talked to a couple NFL scouts I trust about Hassan Ridgeway’s Pro Day Wednesday, and got varied opinions.
One scout said he could see Ridgeway rise up to the late first round based on individual workouts between now and next month’s draft.
Another scout bet me a 1.75-litre liquor bottle of the winner’s choice that Ridgeway won’t be taken before the first pick of the third round.
That scout doesn’t trust Ridgeway’s motor. I said he reminds me of Shaun Rogers, and he said Rogers was much more explosive than Ridgeway. I responded – when Rogers WANTED to be explosive.
And in the NFL, Rogers WANTED to be explosive. Perhaps Ridgeway will be that way, too.
When I asked Ridge about Charlie Strong’s nickname of “Green Mile” for him, he smiled and snapped: “He doesn’t call me that anymore.”
THE LONG, HARD ROAD: RB Johnathan Gray remains on the road to recovery after tearing his Achilles for the second time in his post high school football career.
Gray believes his best football is ahead of him and is hoping an NFL team will give him a chance to prove it, once he is healthy. He believes he will be “110 percent” in September.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s just another bump in the road,” Gray said of his injuries. “It’s just something you have to get over. The world doesn’t stop, you just have to keep pushing forward and going with your goals.”
One of the biggest surprises Gray had to talk about following the Longhorns Pro Day were his thoughts on the direction of Texas football and how he is jealous that he is not going to be a part of it.
“I’m kind of jealous. I know what these young guys are capable of and I know where they are going to be headed. It’s going to be exciting to watch,” Gray said of the talent on the Longhorns' roster.
“There’s going to be a lot more NFL talent. These young guys coming in are young, but they’re talented and they’re motivated.
“I think sometime next year or the year after that is when everything is going to start falling into place and there will be 10-15 guys out here and all of them with the chance of being drafted."
Gray will continue his rehab at Texas with S&C coach Pat Moorer.
THE JOHNSONS, DUKE AND DE-LA: … WRs Marcus Johnson and Daje Johnson were working out Wednesday for an invite to an NFL camp as undrafted free agents, several scouts told me.
Marcus caught the ball OK. He’s just not fluid in his route running and isn’t a natural pass catcher.
Daje didn’t even make it to the pass receiving drills. He tweaked his hammy running the 40.
Duke Thomas is hoping for the same kind of love Mykkele Thompson got after NFL scouts came to Pro Day last year and turned Thompson into a fifth-round draft pick (ahead of Lions defensive rookie of the team – Quandre Diggs in the sixth-round).
I don’t see it. Duke isn’t 6-2 like Mykkele. And the draft is about measurables.
Alex De La Torre is a lunchpail fullback and caught the ball well on Wednesday. I remember a former Marine named Ahmard Hall, who burst onto NFL radars at Texas’ Pro Day after the 2004 season at Texas and ended up with the Tennessee Titans for the next five years.
Here’s hoping De La Torre gets an invite to camp.
DON’T LOOK FOR ISAIAH TAYLOR TO BE BACK
Everything I’m hearing is the junior point guard will probably hire an agent and jump into the NBA Draft.
I hope Taylor looks at the statistics that show if you’re not taken in the first 38 picks of the NBA Draft, you’re chances of ever making an NBA roster drop into the single digits.
He could use another year at Texas. But the word is Taylor has some key people in his ear about turning pro.
SOURCE: DAVID CASON TO INTERVIEW FOR UTSA JOB
I’m hearing Texas assistant coach David Cason will be one of a handful of candidates to interview for the vacant UTSA job by the end of this week.
A couple other names that have surfaced in that search – blasts from the past – former Longhorn player and assistant coach Chris Ogden, now an assistant to Rick Barnes at Tennessee, as well as OU assistant Steve Henson and Creighton assistant Steve Lutz.
IS ROY WILLIAMS ABOUT TO RETIRE AT UNC?
And if he does, is Shaka Smart already a leading candidate to replace Williams in Chapel Hill?
The names that are likely to surface if, indeed, Williams steps down after the NCAA Tournament, I’m told, are:
* Shaka Smart
* Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
* Sean Miller, Arizona
* Archie Miller, Dayton
* Chris Mack, Xavier
* Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
* Billy Donovan, OKC Thunder
* Hubert Davis, currently an assistant to Roy Williams at UNC
Hold on tight. We’ll see.
RANDA RYAN READY TO RUMBLE?
I’m hearing any significant staff changes in the athletic department are likely to happen this summer – after the current school year.
The one I keep hearing that could come sooner would be the departure of athletic academic services chief Randa Ryan.
One source told me she may be notified as early as this week that she will not be retained. I’m also told that Ryan may not go quietly (and might even hire a lawyer to take action for wrongful termination), because she feels like she was scapegoated in the recent Marsh report.
The report basically accused her office of discriminatory practices toward African-American student-athletes (not allowing for free choice of major while also picking classes for them that kept them eligible during seasons but didn’t allow them to graduate in four years, etc.).
COULD CHANGE IN PITCHING ROLES JUMPSTART HORNS?
MO COOP: The big pitching staff development we've been waiting for happened Wednesday as Augie Garrido said redshirt sophomore Morgan Cooper, back fully from missing last season with Tommy John surgery, will slide into the Friday starter slot this weekend (actually Thursday this week for the start of the TCU series) after making three Tuesday night starts.
Cooper's last outing came o on March 15 at Texas A&M. He went six innings and allowed three unearned runs.
BULLPEN MOVE: Sophomore Connor Mayes will depart the rotation to move to bullpen to make room for Coop. Augie elected to move Mayes to the bullpen and not Ty Culbreth or Kyle Johnston because Mayes does a better job of bouncing back the next day than the others.
From what Augie said Wednesday, don’t be surprised to see the same defensive alignment we saw against UTSA on Tuesday?Kacy Clemens at 1B, Zane Gurwitz at 2B (moving from CF), Kody Clemens at SS (moving from 3B), and Tres Barrera at 3B (moving from Catcher) in the TCU series at the Disch beginning Thursday.
FULL-TIME RETURN: Augie also seems hopeful they get OF Tyler Rand back this weekend after missing the last 4 weeks with a stress fracture in his right hand. If he is available to play, he would play CF and Patrick Mathis would slide back over to RF.
Augie on Rand and Gurwitz defensively: “[Rand] can play CF at the same level that Gurwitz plays CF, and no one else on the team can. So to look at Gurwitz as a 2nd baseman for the remainder of the season, becomes a possibility with Rand [in CF].”