Thursday Evening Practice Notes and Analysis

Notes and analysis from the Horns' Thursday evening practice.

Overview: Defense Rules

The Longhorns waged another hard-hitting, intense practice before a packed crowd at Denius Field.

The story of the night was the continued brilliance of the first team defense. Eleven-on-eleven drills began with a much-anticipated match up between the first team defense and the first team offense. But, instead of a classic battle between two heavyweights, the match-up turned out to be more like Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley.

On the very first play, Chance Mock had his pass deflected by Rodrique Wright and into the waiting arms of linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was unable to hang on. On the next play, Mock fired a quick strike in the flat that went right through Cedric Benson’s hands and was intercepted by Nathan Vasher. Mock then missed on a short route to Sloan Thomas and followed that with a fumble/incompletion when he dropped the ball in an attempt to pull back his pass.

Vince Young stepped in and ran the first offense, with just about the same success. On his first pass, Young threw a bit high and behind B.J. Johnson on a crossing route. The senior wideout couldn’t hang on. Young’s next pass was intercepted by Aaron Ross.

About the only good things that could be said of the first team offense’s battle with the No. 1 defense was that the offensive line did a pretty good job of pass protection and no one got hurt.

The Offense Strikes Back

On Mock’s second series — and first against the second team defense — the offense kicked into high gear, mounting a very impressive, extremely efficient drive. Mock drilled a perfect strike on a 20-yard out route to Sloan Thomas despite tight coverage by Tarell Brown. Thomas kept his feet and ran it in for a touchdown, though the coaches decided to whistle it dead. On the next three plays, Brock Edwards rumbled for 15 yards on a fullback draw, Mock drilled a swing pass to tight end David Thomas for 15 more, and Edwards took a short pass for 10 yards. Wide receiver Tony Jeffery picked up five on a reverse, followed up by a strong six yard run by Benson through a huge hole opened up by the right side of the offensive line. Mock then hit B.J. Johnson for a touchdown for the play of the day (see below).

Kicker David Pino finished off the nearly flawless drive by nailing a 37-yard "extra point."

Young then came in with the second team offense and squared off against the number one D in impressive fashion. On the first play, Young rolled right and took off up field for a 20-yard pick up. On the next play, officially, defensive end Kalen Thornton sacked Young, but the reality is that Young clearly escaped the pressure and delivered a perfect strike over the middle to Eric Enard for another first down. On the next play, Young made a series of jaw-dropping jukes to avoid tacklers on what appeared to be a quarterback draw. Young picked up five yards before the coaches decided to whistle the play dead. On the next play, Young again was "sacked," this time by middle linebacker Garnet Smith, when there really was no way on Earth that Smith was going to wrap him up.

All in all, a very solid performance by the youngster.

Mock then replaced Young and, in the two minute offense, drove the team down the field for another score. The big plays were a 25-yard seam pass to David Thomas and a throwback screen to B.J. Johnson, who weaved in and out of defenders for a 30-yard gain to inside the five. Rather than punch it in, Pino came on and kicked a 23-yard field goal.

Young returned, again against the first team defense. After a nice pickup by Brian Carter on a reverse, Kalen Thornton stopped another reverse attempt for a 7-yard loss. Rod Wright then blew through the offensive line for a sack. Young completed the drive with a bullet to TE Neale Tweedie, who rumbled and mashed his way for a 20-yard gain.

In the end, despite starting 0-4 with an interception, Mock finished 8-13 for 3 touchdowns (four if you count the pass to Sloan Thomas).

Young showed flashes of brilliance, but just did not have much time to throw or open receivers to throw to. Young finished 2-8 with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.

In the Zone

During red zone drills, Mock sizzled, hitting Roy Williams on a beautiful fade pattern for a touchdown and got another touchdown on a fastball to B.J. Johnson on an out route.

Warm Night, Hot Tempers

The night was marked by some hard hits and hot tempers. During one-on-one blocking drills between linebackers and tight ends, Marcus Myers and seemingly the entire offensive line got in a fierce fight on the south field. Several other players also got involved. That fracas came on the heels of an extremely physical battle between the linebackers and running backs during a blocking prior drill (Anthony Johnson and Garnet Smith had the most notable match-up that went on well past the whistle). Several more dust ups occurred throughout the 11-on-11 competition.

Play of the Day

Mock closed out his second possession in high style, executing a beautiful play action fake and lofting a perfect strike deep to a streaking B.J. Johnson for a 38-yard touchdown. Johnson was covered well, but the pass lofted right over his right shoulder and hit him in stride for the score.

Quick Hits

 

The offense continues to emphasize the tight end and fullbacks, and utilize motion, shifts and the rollout.

SS Michael Huff returned to practice for the first time since Day One. Huff wore a green "non-contact" jersey and participated in cornerback and one-on-one drills against the receivers. Huff showed some lingering effects from his injured hamstring, but moved pretty well.

Second string punter Justin Smith and second string kicker Pino made the most of their opportunities to run with the first team. Smith hit two very high, deep punts that were downed inside the ten, while Pino made all three of his field goal attempts. Taylor Landin did not kick in any live action. "The punters are doing a good job," Mack Brown said Thursday evening. "We've got a good battle at punting (between Landin and Smith) and a good battle at kicking (between Dusty Mangum and Pino). Richmond McGee is the only guy that's got (a starting job) by himself right now on the kickoffs."

Mock launched himself into DE Kaelen Jakes on an option keeper.

The first team offensive line had a very nice night. Even against the first team defense, they were strong in pass protection, and they did a much better job opening holes the few times the running game was implemented.

Vince Young is severely penalized by the minor contact guidelines for the quarterbacks. Young was whistled down on at least three occasions because a defender touched him when, in reality, there was no way he was about to be tackled.

After sitting out this morning’s practice, defensive end Kalen Thornton and tight end Bo Scaife participated in all drills.

A day after getting beaten, Roy Williams got revenge against freshman DB Brandon Foster. Williams juked Foster and hauled in a wonderfully thrown fade pass from Mock in the back left corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

B.J. Johnson put on an outstanding display of hands and speed Thursday night, hauling in two touchdown passes and a huge gain on a screen that, in reality, was probably also a touchdown.

The first team defense has been absolutely dominant, even when rotating in reserves at key positions. The defensive line has produced tremendous pressure, the linebackers have been strong in coverage and in stopping the run, and the defensive backs have pretty much locked down every receiver. It has taken an almost perfect play to move the ball on them the last couple of days.

Vasher, Selvin Young, Aaron Ross and Dakarai Pearson handled the punt return duties. Young, Ross, Phillip Geiggar, Tarell Brown, Sloan Thomas and Anthony Johnson worked as the kick-off returners.

Richmond McGee was hit or miss on kick-offs, hitting two high and deep into the end zone, but leaving two others at about the 10 yard line.

Wide receiver Robert Timmons did not attend practice.

Defensive end Mike Williams and fullback Ivan Williams each attended the workout in red jerseys. Both participated in pre-practice stretching exercises but no drills. Utility back-up LB Aurmon Satchell is also sidelined in a red jersey.

Freshman receiver Tyrell Gatewood returned to practice.

Lionel Garr was barked at on a couple of occasions by offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and followed each scolding with an excellent pass block. Maybe McWhorter should yell at him before every play.

During early passing drills and early in 11-on-11 drills several receivers suffered from butterfingers, with several dropped passes on catchable balls.

All three quarterbacks were sharp in early passing drills. Young was so on target on short and intermediate routes that Mock playfully fanned him to cool him off.

Neale Tweedie hauled in a strike from Young on a seam route and slammed into Dakarai Pearson and Phillip Geiggar. All pounded on each other for an additional five yards and well after the whistle had blown.

Rufus Harris had a tough time in coverage in one-on-one drills.


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