Wednesdays scrimmage was an excellent showcase of the defensive talent Mack Brown has assembled over the past few years. The depth is truly impressive; even true freshmen that are third and even fourth on the depth chart made plays. Quite frankly, with the quality depth on hand and the coaches stated desire to develop and use it, there should be no excuse for the Texas defense to wear down in any fourth quarter.
Few teams in the nation have the depth Texas enjoys on the defensive line. And the starting front four of Kalen Thornton, Marcus Tubbs, Rodrique Wright and, eventually, Bryan Pickryl may not take a backseat to anyone. During Wednesdays scrimmage, these four players consistently dominated, stacking the run and generating intense pressure on quarterback Vince Young.
The second team defense is nothing to sneeze at either. Freshman Tim Crowder could be this years Wright. He has a lightning quick first step off the edge and a powerful bull rush. He has been a disruptive force thus far, and is winning his fair share of battles against first team left tackle Jonathan Scott. Crowder is also doing a stout job against the run. Wednesday, on several occasions he burst into the backfield and hit running backs Cedric Benson and Selvin Young just as they received the handoff from Chance Mock. Backup tackles Adam Doiron, Stevie Lee, Larry Dibbles and Tully Janszen were also very effective in Wednesdays scrimmage, generating a very good push up the middle. Redshirt freshman Marco Martin continues to impress, especially in run defense. As he gets in better shape, he could easily push for a starting role next year.
Defensive ends Austin Sendlein and Chase Pittman are not as flashy or explosive as some of the other linemen, but they too made plays Wednesday at DKR. Both are very strong against the run and generated a decent pass rush today as well. Reserve defensive end Kaelen Jakes has improved a great deal over the spring, showing more strength and good footwork, but he still has had very little success against right tackle Justin Blalock, who may well already be the best offensive lineman on the team. Converted linebacker Mike Williams hasnt even suited up yet due to a knee injury, but had an excellent spring and is expected to also contribute this season.
Of all those players, only three Tubbs, Thornton and Dorion are seniors, so the Texas defensive line looks to be in excellent shape for several years to come.
Unlike years past, it would appear that Texas has a plethora of quality young linebackers beyond just the first unit. All-world weakside linebacker Derrick Johnson is clearly the leader of the group, and during Wednesdays scrimmage there were several plays where he stuffed the run for no gain. Middle linebacker Garnet Smith looks like a natural. His speed and athleticism were on display today, getting into the backfield on several occasions for tackles for loss. Strongside linebacker Reed Boyd, still struggles at times when he goes against top athletes, but he is seemingly always in position to make a play.
The reserve units are relatively inexperienced, but they have really turned heads. During Wednesdays scrimmage, true freshman Robert Killebrew and redshirt freshman Marcus Myers looked solid stopping the run and also blitzing the quarterback. Brian Robison has also looked good wherever he lines up, whether in the middle or on the strong side. Wednesday, he filled the hole several times to help slow down the running game. True freshman Eric Foreman was also all over the field today, getting in on several tackles, including a nice stick to stop a powerful run by Selvin Young. Another true freshman, Scott Derry, also looked solid today.
Sophomore Aaron Harris will likely also be part of the mix as soon as he begins to practice with the team.
While young, the depth at defensive back is equally impressive. Veteran starters Nathan Vasher and Dakarai Pearson led the starting unit in shutting down the second team defense throughout the scrimmage. Even when Vince Young had some time to throw, there were very few options. Pearson was also surprisingly tough against the run today, twice hitting running back Brett Robin at the line of scrimmage for no gain or a loss.
Freshman corners Aaron Ross, Tarell Brown and Brandon Foster were all strong today. Ross has quickly become a shutdown corner and plays very physical defense. During Wednesdays scrimmage, Foster displayed perfect timing and tight coverage on no less than Roy Williams, deflecting a pass from Mock. Though Brown was beat for a touchdown by B.J. Johnson, he was right there in tight coverage. Johnson, a senior, just used his experience and size to make a better play.
Safety Phillip Geiggar is making a run for the starting position. In starter Michael Huffs absence, Geiggar has shown much better pass instincts and continues to be a hard hitter. Matt Melton also had some big hits, especially against the run.
The energy and intensity was really on the defensive side of the ball this afternoon. There were several big hits, but what really stood out was the speed of pursuit. Gang tackling was the order of the day, as multiple defenders swarmed ball carriers and receivers on pretty much every play. Speed and depth should be major strengths for a team that may need to rely on its defense early on as the offense works out some kinks.
Geiggar and Selvin Young took the first kickoff of Wednesdays scrimmage. To huge cheers, Geiggar took the kick for a "touchdown" against token defense by reserves and walk-ons.
Kickers Richmond McGee and David Pino traded booming kickoffs during warm ups, repeatedly booming their kicks five yards deep or even out of the end zone. When the lights came on, however, neither got either of their attempts past the four yard line.
Punters Taylor Landin and Justin Smith each looked good during the scrimmage. Kicking with a slight wind, Landin hit his first punt high and deep (46 yards). Landins second punt, after scooping up a low snap, was a low line drive that took a nice bounce, resulting in a 53-yard punt with no return. Smith later sent a towering, 44-yard punt that was fair caught by Selvin Young.
Roy Williams was one of several starters working with the punt block unit.
Mock and Vincent Young both made several nice plays with their feet, gaining double-digit yardage on plays that probably would have resulted in sacks the past five years.
On the second series, Crowder blew by Jonathan Scott and drilled Selvin Young in the backfield for a six yard loss. In fairness to Scott, the play appeared to be the result of a blown assignment by either him or fullback Brock Edwards, as Scott was rushing up field to block.
Despite some early struggles, Scott and Tillman Holloway opened a pair of huge holes on the left side for Benson and Selvin Young.
The Longhorn defense continues to effectively shift and stunt.
The Longhorn offense continues to also show a lot of movement, misdirection and shifts.
Garnet Smith was very effective in reading the draw today, twice stuffing the play for no gain or a loss.
Erik Hardeman continues to impress. Wednesday he had several strong runs, including a powerful 3-yard run for a first down after a tough hit from Killebrew.
The fullback is forgotten no more. During the scrimmage, the fullbacks carried the ball effectively three times and were the targets of at least two passes.
Fullback Eric Hall showed some good moves on a fullback draw right, picking up 14 yards on 1st and 20.
The rocket pitch giveth and the rocket pitch taketh away. Selvin Young dropped a rocket pitch (resulting in a 10-yard loss) from Mock that looked like a potential huge play, but Hardeman took a Matt Nordgren pitch for 7 yards around the left side.
During the final series, Crowder read draw and nailed Hardeman for a 3-yard loss.
On back-to-back plays, Austin Sendlein recorded a sack and batted down a pass from Vince Young.
Nordgren executed a great play fake (I know it fooled me), rolled left and threw a perfect strike to freshman Limas Sweed for a 21-yard pickup.[Editor's note: Also see Personnel notes from Wednesday's scrimmage for more info from Wednesday's scrimmage.