The Longhorns wrapped up their final public practice in intense heat and without their starting quarterback today at Denius Fields, putting in a workman-like, sometimes off-kilter performance. After a string of very good to excellent practices, this afternoon was not one of their finer performances.
In Chance Mocks absence (the junior missed practice because of a stomach virus, according to Mack Brown), Vince Young stepped in as the starter and worked exclusively with the first team. In early drills, Young really struggled with his accuracy on short and intermediate passes, bouncing several in front of his intended receiver and throwing behind on several others. As he has all of practice, he did look much better and more comfortable in deep passing drills, and he was solid in 11-on-11 competition.
The first team defense was once again the story, limiting the offense to predominantly short passes into tight coverage. Even against the second team defense, more than a few of the offenses successful passing plays came only after a lineman or linebacker had gotten into the backfield to pressure Young. The defense also did a good job of slamming shut the run.
Overall, it was a short practice that showcased the depth and talent on the defense.
The Longhorns will hold their final scrimmage tomorrow at DKR-Memorial Stadium at 6:00 p.m. It will be the last chance for fans to see the Horns before the August 31st opener against New Mexico State.
Eleven-on-11 play was, once again, dominated by the first team defense. The action began with the first team defense taking on the second team offense, with the defense dominating play. The defense got strong pressure on Matt Nordgren, stuffed the run and locked down the receivers, forcing a three and out from the offense.
The first team offense then took on the second team defense, with Young at the helm. Young was provided good pass protection on most of his pass attempts, but the line struggled to provide any room for the running game. Young drove the offense 44-yards on 11 plays, which was finished off by a 37-yard field goal by David Pino.
The first team defense again took on the second team offense, with similar results. Reed Boyd and Derrick Johnson completely stuffed a draw to Brett Robin, Bryan Pickryl stopped Robin on a toss sweep for no gain, and then Cedric Griffin and Dakarai Pearson stopped a wide receiver screen to Dustin Miksch for nearly no gain. On the play, Austin Sendlein got his hands on the Nordgren pass.
The first team offense returned to the field to take on a mixture of second and third team defenders. After a false start and a tackle for loss by Tim Crowder, Young hit Roy Williams on a wide receiver screen, which saw tackle Jonathan Scott roll out and drill freshman cornerback Brandon Foster. Young then took over, getting nice yardage on a quarterback draw and hitting Sloan Thomas on a seam route. Then, it was the Crowder show, getting to the quarterback on successive plays. Young then overshot Williams deep down the right side, forcing a punt.
The first team defense again dominated the second team offense, shutting down the option, locking down receivers and getting good pressure on Nordgren. Derrick Johnson just missed an interception as Nordgren tried to force a pass to Brian Carter and Crowder registered another "sack."
Dusty Mangum and Pino then each nailed 47-yard field goals to close out the practice.
With Mock out, Young and Nordgren got the opportunity to take more snaps and impress the coaching staff.
Young looks much better in live action than he does in drills, and is usually far more accurate when the lights are on than during pure passing drills. Today, he finished a solid 6 of 8, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He made good decisions and looked good running with the ball, avoiding pressure and getting positive yards.
His finest play came on his first pass of 11-on-11 competition. Young took a designed roll out right and lofted a perfect pass to Roy Williams between the corner and safety, hitting Williams in stride for an 18-yard gain. The play was whistled dead, but could have easily gone for six.
Nordgren was really harassed by the first team defense, finishing a paltry 1-5 and leading the second team offense to only one first down in three possessions. His finest play was a 10-yard completion to Limas Sweed on a slant. Sweed skied to haul in the high ball from Nordgren.
Kickers Mangum and Pino continue to battle it out for the starting position. Both were extremely accurate in drills today and each booted a 47-yard field goal to close out the practice. Pino also hit a 37-yard field goal to cap off a drive by the first team offense. Look for this battle to continue perhaps through the opener as there seems to be little daylight between the two.
Richmond McGee appears ready to take the vacant starting punters job. He was extremely solid today, in live action drills and 11-on-11 play. During drills, he nailed a 40-yard punt high into a stiff breeze and followed that up with a 43-yard effort that led to a fair catch. In 11-on-11 play, McGee smashed a high, 57-yard punt with the wind, and later knocked a 45-yard punt that led to another fair catch.
Taylor Landin struggled with consistency. During live action drills, Landin boomed a high, 47-yard effort into the wind, but followed that up with two low, sub 38-yard efforts. In 11-on-11 competition, he nearly had his punt blocked by both Roy Williams and Cedric Griffin, getting off a 39-yarder.
At the very beginning of passing drills, something clearly ticked off offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Davis screamed at the quarterbacks and receivers and appeared on the verge of throwing his trademark hat.
After several strong performances, the first team offensive line was not as solid today, especially in run blocking. The second team defense was often in the backfield to disrupt the play and had many tackles for loss.
Mack Brown essentially stopped practice at one point to yell at the second team defense for jumping offsides on a 3rd and short play.
Will Allen took some snaps with the first team offensive line at center during run-blocking drills and 11-on-11 competition. He also took snaps at right guard with the first team.
Crowder continues to make a push for serious playing time. If fans in the stands made the decision, Crowder might even be the starter. He was a fixture in the backfield today, registering at least three quarterback pressures/sacks and showed good recognition to completely help stone a reverse. He took some snaps with the first team defense today and looked just as strong.
Like the quarterbacks, the receivers struggled at the beginning of passing drills dropping or completely missing passes from Young and Nordgren.
Freshman receiver Billy Pittman returned to practice wearing the green "no contact" jersey.
Marcus Myers is a guy few talk about but he could be the Longhorns' fourth best linebacker. He is solid in pass coverage and against the run, but he has stood out as a blitzer from the weakside. He squeezed between Garcia and Justin Blalock to put great pressure on Vince Young, forcing an incompletion.
The Longhorns kicking team worked on fake field goals today.
Just as he did during Spring drills, walk-on Josh Graham-Chapman has had a very solid Fall, running good routes and showing deceptive speed. Today during one-on-one drills, Graham-Chapman made a nice play on a deep ball, using his body to shield off Brandon Foster and hauling in the pass from Nordgren.
Safety Rufus Harris is really struggling in pass coverage. During one-on-one drills, he was completely turned around by redshirt freshman Dustin Miksch.
Kalen Thornton returned to practice today and was extremely impressive in limited action. On one play action roll out, Thornton chased Nordgren all the way across the field and forced an incomplete pass.
In one-on-one blocking drills against the defensive line, Brett Valdez planted Austin Sendlein.
In one-on-one blocking drills, Marco Martin completely destroyed his opponent, to the cheers of his defensive line mates.