The Longhorns wrapped up their third day of practice today with about 40 minutes of 11-on-11 football. Practicing in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads, both the defense and offense got their licks in as the coaching staff continued to implement game plans, while heavily rotating players to build depth.
On offense, the tight end and fullback continue to play a huge role in the offense. Bo Scaife and David Thomas were virtually uncoverable, hauling in multiple passes over the middle for big gains. Scaife in particular looked tremendous. Fullback Brock Edwards, who started with the 1st team, again was a weapon out of the backfield in both the passing game and running with the ball. Will Matthews also caught a pass at fullback. The offense also made liberal use of the option throughout the practice.
On defense, the starters stuck mainly with man-to-man and the base 4-3 with the linebackers stemming. A welcome sight was a blitzing Derrick Johnson, who blew by RT Will Winston on the weak side for a sure sack. All-in-all, the defense seemed to get the better of the offense for much of the morning, but the offense did hit for several big plays in the passing game.
The defensive line looks strong thus far, especially at defensive tackle. Starters Marcus Tubbs and Rodrique Wright look excellent, and backups Adam Doiron and Marco Martin have also stood out. Defensive end, a worry at the beginning of practice, may turn into a pleasant surprise. Starters Kalen Thornton and Bryan Pickryl have looked very good, and youngsters Chase Pittman and Tim Crowder have been strong as well. If Mike Williams returns to health soon, this could end up being one of the deeper units on the team.
For the first time this summer, weather was not a major factor at the Longhorns practice. Temperatures were in the high 70s when the players hit the field at 7:15 this morning and had only reached 85 by the end of practice at 9:45 a.m.
The next practice is scheduled for 7:15 a.m. on Sunday.
Mack Browns plan to develop more depth continues to be in full effect. For the third consecutive day, the Longhorns continued to mix and match 2nd and 3rd team players with the starting units on both offense and defense. At times, Chance Mock, Roy Williams and Cedric Benson worked with an offensive line that included 2nd and 3rd teamers Lionel Garr, LG Terrance Young, C Lyle Sendlein and RT Will Winston. On defense, freshman Aaron Ross and backup DTs Stevie Lee and Doiron took snaps with the first team.
The constant switching has made it difficult to get a gauge on the true two-deep at this point.
Play of the Day
During 11-on-11 play, standout freshman receiver Limas Sweed beat fellow frosh Brandon Foster deep down the left side and made a beautiful, over-the-left-shoulder grab for a 42-yard touchdown from Matt Nordgren.
Overall, a pretty good day for the quarterbacks. Mock really stood out during passing drills today. His accuracy on the short and intermediate routes was outstanding, and his deep passes were right on the money throughout the morning. Vince Young struggled at times with his accuracy on the shorter routes, usually low, but was uncannily accurate on deep passes. Third stringer Nordgren continues to be solid, especially on the intermediate routes.
During live action, each QB often played behind a mix-and-match offensive line. Overall, Mock seemed to be the most decisive and accurate of all the quarterbacks but both Young and Nordgren had their moments. Mock was most accurate on the short and intermediate routes, and hit on one big bomb but he missed on several others. His best pass of the day was a frozen rope on a crossing pattern to B.J. Johnson in tight coverage that went for 20 yards.
Young looked to have happy feet at times, but made good decisions. His best pass came against the first team defense when he split the coverage of Derrick Johnson and Cedric Griffin to hit walk-on WR Eric Enard for a 20 yard pick up.
Nordgren looked to be a bit slow in his decision-making at times, but Kalen Thornton in your face time and again might do that. Nordgren had a couple of stand out plays, stepping up to avoid the rush and hitting FB Matthews out of the backfield, and later delivering a perfect strike to Sweed for a touchdown.
Mock and Young looked very fluid and very comfortable on the run and running the option.
Wide Receivers Continue to Shine
The Texas receiving corps, touted as one of the top units in the nation, continues to live up to its billing. From top to bottom, the receivers have been nothing short of outstanding in drills and in 11-on-11 competition. Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas are on another level right now. They are seemingly open on every play and are catching anything near them. Tony Jeffery, Robert Timmons and Brian Carter have also been very consistent. Youngsters Sweed, Tyrell Gatewood, Billy Pittman and walk-on Josh Graham-Chapman have also made big plays. Even walk-on redshirt freshman Enard has impressed, catching everything thrown at him in drills and beating Nathan Vasher to haul in a 50-yard touchdown bomb from Vince Young during full drills.
The tight ends have been a force. Senior Scaife and sophomore David Thomas have made several spectacular catches and have made their living over the middle. Even Neale Tweedie was back in action, taking a pass from Nordgren and rumbling for a first down.
Making an Impression
Several members of the Class of 2003 continue to make a big impression whenever they hit the field.
DE Crowder just keeps getting in the backfield. Has shown a tremendous first step and good power and has, at times, outplayed LT Jonathan Scott. More and more it is looking like he might be this years Rod Wright, a freshman who makes a real impact.
WR Sweed; with the depth Texas has at receiver, Sweed would seem like a perfect candidate for a redshirt. But he is going to make that a tough decision for the coaching staff because he just keeps making plays. Sweed is a huge target, 6-5 easily, with great acceleration and long strides, who catches everything thrown his way.
DB Aaron Ross will see more action than any other true freshman. He is a big, physical corner that has been impressive in each practice. He was flagged once for pass interference today for his physical play, but no one chewed him out. Probably because he has covered receivers like a blanket. Roy Williams has gotten the best of him a few times, but he hasnt been toasted by anyone.
RB Erik Hardeman would seem like another likely redshirt, but his play is going to make that a tough decision. Hardeman is a powerful runner with nifty moves and good vision. Today, he looked very good on several runs, including one where he side-stepped the defensive tackle and burst through the line for about 7 yards.
In the two-minute drill, the offense continued to line up in the shotgun with both Benson and Selvin Young in the backfield.
Kalen Thornton looks poised for an outstanding year. Hes in tremendous shape and shows a burst off the edge every time he is on the field.
Texas may have the two best tight ends in the Big 12 in Scaife and Thomas.
The defense again used a 3-3-5 during the two-minute drill, with S Matt Melton and CB Ross joining the starting unit.
Center Will Allen performed line drills with the first team offensive line during the first half of practice but sat out the second half with an injured right thumb.
Richmond McGee was again solid in the kicking game, drilling back-to-back kicks deep into the end zone during early morning drills.
Strong safety Michael Huff sat out practice for the second consecutive day with an injury to his lower right leg.
Stevie Lee looks like he is in great shape. He and Doiron rotated often with the first team defense.
On the south field, Longhorn defenders worked on live tackling drills helmet to chest, wrap and stand up the opponent. The defense also worked on stripping the ball and fumble recoveries.
Tarell Brown, Pearson, Ross, Vasher and Selvin Young worked on punt returns. Cedric Griffin, Eric Foreman and Graham-Chapman continue to get a look at the gunner position.
Sloan Thomas was once again wearing a small elastic band beneath his left knee, but shows no ill-effects from off-season knee surgery.
Doiron stepped back and intercepted an errant short toss from Mock, to the delight of the entire defense.
Roll-outs, option and play action passes continue to be a staple of the offense. The throwback screen was also used effectively.
The light looks like it has turned on for B.J. Johnson. Johnson continues to run sharp routes and catch everything in sight. Its early, but Johnson looks like he will make defenses pay if they double Roy Williams.
Speaking of Williams, he still makes it look easy. On one sideline route, he snagged a Mock bullet with one hand. During live drills, Roy leapt high to snag another Mock pass for a first down.
Rufus Harris looked strong in coverage today, sticking to Sweed like glue on a deep ball from Young.
Vasher was outstanding in coverage for most of the day, blanketing Roy Williams and knocking away a pair of Young passes.
Pittman was solid today, getting good pressure on the quarterback several times. In a real game he would have likely had a couple of sacks.
For the second consecutive day, back-up tight end Brad Poronsky worked, and played well, at left tackle.
Center Lyle Sendlein struggled with his snap in the shotgun, shooting several low balls that resulted in fumbles by Vince Young.
It is nearly impossible to gauge Youngs elusiveness in these types of drills. On one play, Young danced away from pressure up the middle and took off on what, surely, would have been a huge gain in a real game. But he was whistled down because he was lightly grazed by a linebacker about 4 yards up field.
Marco Martin just stacks up the offensive line.
Justin Blalock will be an All-American, and soon. His footwork is simply outstanding for a man his size.