Insider Notes from Wednesday's Closed Practice
I picked up some notes from a few sources following the Longhorns closed practice Wednesday. Here were some of the highlights.
It sounds like reps between Tyrone Swoopes and Shane Buechele are similar to what we have been hearing recently. Swoopes was the first QB taking snaps with the first-team offense, then Buechele came in and got some reps with one’s and two’s.
One person said the play-of-the-day came on a deep pass thrown by Buechele to Collin Johnson that went for a touchdown in team work.
It doesn’t sound like much changed on the injury front Wednesday. Tristan Nickelson (ankle), Zach Shackelford (ankle), Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (ankle) and Kirk Johnson (ankle) were not back at full capacity with the team, according to a source.
One person said Kris Boyd, Devin Duvernay, Kyle Porter, Davion Curtis, Armanti Foreman and Jacorey Warrick were some of the guys involved in kick returns. It sounds like there is a lot of speed on the return team this season.
Kai Locksley at WR
HD first reported Kai Locksley worked at wide receiver at Tuesday's practice. I was told he was back at receiver Wednesday, and had a nice catch in coverage on a deep ball tossed by Swoopes during team work.
Damion Miller's Upcoming Visits
Texas verbal pledge Damion Miller had a busy summer preparing for his senior year. The four-star wide receiver has high hopes for his final high school football season, which begins this Saturday.
“Practice is going good. The underclassmen are getting used to the game and our defense is doing good,” Miller said.
“(My goal is) 1,200 plus receiving yards."
The John Tyler prospect visited Texas for Under The Lights in late July and plans to make another trip to Austin this season.
Though he has been committed to the Longhorns since June 2015, Miller still plans to visit other programs. In addition to Texas, he is looking to see Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Baylor.
He has yet to lock down dates for any of his visits this season.
CHIP BROWN: WHERE THINGS STAND THE FINAL WEEK OF CAMP
As I reported in last week’s HD ONLY, Charlie Strong was in the camp of coaches who felt Tyrone Swoopes did a better job of handling the blitz early in camp over freshman Shane Buechele.
And it seems the impression that Swoopes’ experience, size, mobility/durability and, I’m told, “growing confidence” - may have Strong convincing himself that Swoopes should start the Notre Dame game against Irish DC Brian VanGorder’s exotic blitzes in a soldout game on Sunday night, Sept. 4.
I’m told Strong wouldn’t make a final decision/announcement on his starting quarterback in a battle this close until he sees how both Swoopes and Buechele handle game week next week.
But I was told by three sources close to the program they think Strong would start Swoopes, a career 56.3 percent passer with 17 TD passes and 12 INTs, if the Notre Dame game was today.
And those same sources say Strong was all in on Buechele leading into fall camp and might have even said as much to Shane’s dad, Steve Buechele, a bench coach for the Texas Rangers - on more than one occasion.
“The great news is that both quarterbacks have had great camps and have really pushed each other,” one source said. “I think Charlie looks at it from a defensive coordinator perspective and thinks Swoopes’ size, strength, mobility and experience might be the right recipe, at least to start out, to neutralize Notre Dame’s blitz.
“But Charlie’s not going to hand it to either one. Not right now. Not with both pushing each other so much right now. This will be earned. And the sense is if Swoopes starts and plays well against Notre Dame - that in one game, Sterlin Gilbert will have earned his first year’s salary. Because everyone’s mind is made up that Swoopes has looked good for two camps in a row - and last year, he played one game - and lost his starting job.”
Fascinating stuff. I’d still contend if I’m Charlie Strong and I’m thinking about starting Swoopes, there’s no WAY I announce that before the first drive of the game a week from Sunday - for obvious reasons.
Bums me out that my man Kirk Johnson is still dinged up with the ankle injury. But he’ll be a force, too, if he can ever get healthy!
Good to go.
This position is perilously thin.
You may wonder why I included walk-on Chris Fehr in this group. Well, apparently he demoralized LB Demarco Boyd in bull-in-the-ring the other day. So, for that reason alone, he deserves a mention.
LT Connor Williams, LG Patrick Vahe, C Jake McMillon, RG Kent Perkins, RT Brandon Hodges
If the Notre Dame game was today, that’s your starting offensive line.
A second source confirmed for me that freshman C Zach Shackelford has a high ankle sprain that could very well (and more like probably) cause him to miss the opener vs Notre Dame.
I hear Hodges has done pretty darn well at RT. Like a pleasant surprise. Considering Hodges played on a JUCO national championship team with Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly at Last Chance U ( East Mississippi Community College), it should be Hodges’ time. And maybe it is.
While most will be more concerned about McMillon at center than Hodges at RT, I continue to be told that McMillon is a tough, nasty, 6-foot-3, 300-pound street fighter who already knows how to swing his ass to the right or the left to wall off bigger nose tackles from getting to the play side. (My man Dom Espinosa made a living knowing how to do that!! Love me some D Espinosa!! Cedar Park T’Wolves, baby - state champs!!)
If the ND game was today, that’d be your starting D-line.
Now, let me tell you that Andrew Fitzgerald has picked it up enough in the last week of camp at SDE that your three-deep at SDE is Omenihu, Bryce Cottrell and Fitz - to the point where coaches felt good enough to move Quincy Vasser, a senior, to TE.
Poona Ford’s backup at NT right now is freshman Gerald Wilbon, and everyone has been impressed with Big Gerald’s consistency, work ethic and drive at 6-2, 329.
When Malik Jefferson said his surprise player on defense would definitely come from the D-line, he gave you a few guys to pick from.
Davis, Boyd and Chris Brown are also working at nickel behind Locke.
Knock on wood that we see this group just coming at teams in waves all season long.
I’m expecting really big things from Boyd on special teams and when he’s on the field playing D. That. Kid. Is. So. Talented.
It pains me to write that if the ND game started today, that Hall would probably start ahead of DeShon Elliott. (Hall got most of the first-team reps on Wednesday.)
RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!!
By the end of the season, it could very well be Brandon Jones at SS and The Kraken at FS.
PR - Jacorey Warrick (Charlie likes that he catches the ball consistently - but c’mon that’s setting the bar way too low with all this talent on the team!).
Give me a playmaker.
KR - Kris Boyd and …. what about … Jerrod Heard … or …. Kai Locksley?!?!?
Talk about potential trickeration on kick returns with throw-back passes, reverses and whatnot?!?!?
Turn the imagination loose!!!
P - Michael Dickson - the man Strong calls “Aussie” - is having a solid camp.
K - Trent Domingue - the LSU grad transfer kicker impressed Strong when Strong announced at the end of last Saturday’s second scrimmage:
“Seventeen seconds left. Forty-five yards. For. The. Win.”
And then Strong added, “All right Domingue (pronounced Domain), what hash you want it on?”
And Domingue said, “Doesn’t matter which hash, Coach, I’ll make both.”
So Strong made him kick from both hashes, and Domingue made both.
WHO IS ANDREW SOWDER?
Texas’ next quality control coach on offense - it sounds like.
Sowder was the outside receivers coach at Eastern Illinois with then OC Sterlin Gilbert and then OL coach Matt Mattox in 2012 and 2013 before moving to Bowling Green in 2014 in an administrative role with head coach Dino Babers and OC Gilbert and OL coach Mattox.
Last season, Sowder was the outside receivers coach for Babers at Bowling Green before Babers moved on to Syracuse and left Sowder behind at Bowling Green.
Sowder was initially retained as outside WR coach at BG by new coach Mike Jinks, the former Texas Tech assistant and former Cibolo Steele coach (when RB Malcolm Brown as there).
But it wasn’t working out, and Sowder was let go by Jinks in June. And now it sounds like it’s a matter of time before Sowder is hired by Texas as a quality control coach on offense (as long as Mike Perrin keeps coming through for Strong the way Perrin did with those ping-pong tables in the players’ lounge).
BIG 12 REALIGNMENT UPDATE …
Should have more on Thursday when I have interviews with some folks in the know.
But I’m still hearing it’s expansion by 2 - with one of those two being Houston (and Cincinnati most likely the other) - or there will be no expansion.
In addition to having Mitt Romney, a BYU graduate, making calls to influential Big 12 leaders on the Cougars’ behalf, including Texas president Greg Fenves, OU president David Boren and Oklahoma State’s Boone Pickens - BYU officials may be considering amending their honor code to become more “conference friendly,” I’m told.