The Longhorns completed another spirited, all-business practice tonight at Denius Fields.
The first team offense and first team defense squared off on several occasions, and the offense won more than its fair share of battles. Concentrating once again on delayed hand offs, roll outs and play action, Chance Mock led the first team to two touchdowns in two drives against the first team defense.
On an evening when the running game was emphasized, the quarterbacks were sharp for much of the evening, including the 11-on-11 drills. Mock completed 4-8 with 2 touchdowns, while Vince Young finished the night 3-3. Matt Nordgren, facing almost exclusively the first team defense, struggled, hitting on only 1-4 passes.
Running back Cedric Benson had another strong outing, rushing for more than 10 yards on each of his three carries in 11-on-11 competition (one was whistled dead after five yards, but Benson had already bounced off of the attempted Aaron Harris tackle and raced for another 5 yards.) Erik Hardeman, Selvin Young, Brett Robin and Will Matthews also had a strong evening both running and catching the ball.
On defense, the story continues to be the pass coverage. The quarterbacks, even though they completed 8-15, had very few opportunities to throw to the wide receivers, instead focusing on shorter passes to the backs and tight ends.
Overall, an odd night for the Longhorns. During 11-on-11 competition, the Longhorns ran 29 plays by count, 15 pass plays and 14 running plays. It was a nice night for the offensive line, yet a good night for the defense; a good night for the quarterbacks, yet a good night for the secondary; a good night for the running backs, yet a good night for the front seven.
I guess one would have to say the two sides battled to a draw. Considering how often the defense has dominated practices and scrimmages, that would probably have to be considered a major step forward for the offense, especially the offensive line.
The Longhorns next practice is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday at Denius Fields.
Who Was That Masked Man?
Disproving the doomsayers who predicted a season-long absence, Will Allen returned to full contact drills this evening, working at right guard on the first and second team offensive line. As the evening progressed, Allen appeared to get more comfortable using his surgically repaired right hand. Late in the practice, Allen led the charge on a sweep, springing Benson for 10 yards. Allen also did a nice job picking up the blitz and power blocking.
Offensive Line Continues to Improve
Speaking of the offensive line, the biggest question mark on the team continues to make impressive strides as the countdown to kick-off commences. Battling against the first team defense on the first series of 11-on-11 competition, the first team offensive line did a nice job of providing Mock time to throw, and even opened a nice hole on the left side for Robin on the draw play. On perhaps the best play of the night, Tillman Holloway helped Jason Glynn on a double team and the line provided Mock with a giant pocket, and he hit Sloan Thomas in stride on a perfect slant. Thomas beat the coverage and raced to the end zone for a touchdown.
In another one vs. one showdown, this time in red zone drills, the line provided Mock with plenty of time to throw, but the coverage was too tight and he threw the ball away on the first and second plays. On the third play, Mock hit tight end Bo Scaife for another touchdown. On the play, right tackle Justin Blalock recovered to knock Bryan Pickryl out of the play and give Mock the time he needed. The second team offensive line had its moments as well, opening a couple of huge holes for both Hardeman and Selvin Young against the first team defense.
The Longhorns still have a lot of work to do but, slowly but surely, Mac McWhorters charges are rounding into a very physical, efficient unit.
Play of the Day
Late in the scrimmage, Vince Young hit tight end Neale Tweedie on a nifty throwback screen that went for only 10 yards, but clearly would have gone for much more if not for the early whistle. The coaches blew it dead after cornerback Cedric Griffin zipped into the vicinity, but most folks in the stands recognized that Griffin would have bounced off of Tweedie like a pinball. Tweedie finished off his run by plowing into linebacker Brian Robison, knocking him to the ground.
A Punter Steps Up
Ladies and gentlemen, the Longhorns may have themselves a punter. It seems that the front-runner for starting punter has changed more times than J-Lo switches husbands. Its Taylor Landin. No wait, its Justin Smith. Now, after several strong performances, it appears that Richmond McGee may have stepped to the front of the pack.
McGee, the designated kick-off expert, clearly has the leg for the job but, like his competitors, has struggled with consistency. But he had been solid the prior four practices, and continued his streak tonight. In opening drills against live competition, McGee drilled a high, 50-yard punt into the wind. He followed that up with a high, 40-yard punt for a fair catch. Later, in live drills, he nailed a 47-yard punt that was fair caught by Aaron Ross and, then, a towering 39-yard punt that was also fair caught.
Stay tuned because, at this rate, Terrance Young might be the punter by the end of the week.
Garnet Smith left the field after a big collision with fullback Matthews. Robison stepped into the starting middle linebacker slot in his absence.
Mock was very sharp in passing and one-on-one drills tonight. He looks very poised and confident in the pocket and is making excellent decisions. He made only one truly bad decision all night, attempting to hit fullback Matthews in tight coverage. Safety Dakarai Pearson knocked the ball away and nearly came away with an interception.
Right guard Mike Garcia sat out much of the second practice after performing in all drills this morning.
Derrick Johnson looks en route to a tremendous season. He was a force blitzing from the outside tonight and made several big hits at the line of scrimmage to stone running plays.
The first team offensive line is showing a tough attitude, and has looked particularly strong when Benson and Matthews share a backfield.
Roy Williams gets open whenever he wants, thank you very much. In one-on-one drills, Cedric Griffin had tremendous coverage each time they lined up, only to have Williams make one or a series of jaw-dropping moves, opening up a five-yard cushion to receive a pass from Mock.
Vince Young is beginning to look more and more confident in throwing drills. Though he still must build on his knowledge of the offense, the redshirt freshman improves with each practice. He has been much more accurate with his short and intermediate passing during drills and looks more confident in the pocket.
Defensive end Kalen Thornton did not attend tonights practice.
Justin Smith fumbled the snap on his first kick attempt during live drills and did not get another opportunity.
Tony Jeffery wore the green non-contact jersey, but participated in all drills.
As I type this, Chris Simms has just delivered his second touchdown pass and two-point conversion in the St. Louis-Tampa Bay Monday Night Football game. Way to represent, Chris!
Taylor Landin had his punt blocked by super special teams player Roy Williams during live drills.
Mock has been getting more air under his deep passes, giving his receivers time to run under the ball and make the catch.
The left side of the first team offensive line was dominating at times tonight, opening huge holes for Benson and Selvin Young.
The Texas pass defense is downright intimidating and looks to be the strength of a potentially exceptional defense.
The offense is really working at creating confusion, running delayed hand offs, play action, roll outs, confusing screens, draws and reverses.
Tim Crowder had an interesting evening. He became one of the few players to beat Blalock in pass protection, getting good pressure on Nordgren on one play. He also made a nifty inside move on William Winston to force another Nordgren incompletion. He did, however, take his lumps too. On the final series, Will "Headache" Matthews plowed over Crowder on his way to a big gain on a fullback draw.
Kickers David Pino and Dusty Mangum are waging an all-out battle for starting kicker. Both made all of their attempts tonight and have been very solid the past few practices.