Wednesday Scrimmage Observations

Observations from the Horns' Wednesday scrimmage at DKR.


The Longhorns wrapped up their public practices with an often hard-hitting, sometimes off-cylinder scrimmage at DKR-Memorial Stadium.

For the most part, the defensive units held the day, limiting the Longhorn offense to one touchdown and three field goals in 11 drives. The final scrimmage had enough big plays, hard hits and breakdowns to give Longhorn fans a heavy dose of confidence and a touch of doubt going into the 2003 opener against New Mexico State.

The offense connected on some big plays of its own, but self-inflicted wounds — a couple of false start penalties and a costly personal foul by Brett Robin in the red zone — kept the O from scoring even more. Overall, the running game was very strong, hitting on several double-digit runs and picking up first down on several short yardage plays. The line did have trouble with some very well disguised blitzes from the defense.

The full first team offense and defense were on the field for a handful of plays, as veterans Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson, Cedric Benson and Kalen Thornton played sparingly.

Perhaps the most important event of the night was what didn’t happen. The Longhorns hit hard for over an hour and no one was injured.

Drive by Drive

The scrimmage began with Phillip Geiggar taking the opening kickoff from David Pino and returning it 57 yards to the opposing 41-yard line. The full first team offense, with a short field and Chance Mock back at the helm, needed only three plays to get into the end zone on the second team defense. To start the drive, Mock drilled a laser to Roy Williams over the middle for 10 yards (probably more but the referees were quick to the whistle). On the next play, Benson bounced outside to the right for six yards. Benson then took a hand off, cut left and blasted through a huge hole and dashed 25 yards for the touchdown. Pino connected from 33 yards for the point after.

The first team defense then forced the second team offense into a three-and-out, stuffing Selvin Young at the line, getting tremendous pressure to force Vince Young out of the pocket for a short gain and stopping the option for no gain. Taylor Landin then nailed a high, 41-yard punt that Nathan Vasher returned for only two yards thanks to good coverage.

Mock and the first team returned to action, but could not move the chains. Starting at their own 36-yard line, Benson took the first carry through a nice hole up the middle, but linebacker Scott Derry made a nice hit to limit him to three yards. Mock then missed Sloan Thomas on a quick slant and, on third down, avoided the pressure by Matt Melton and Eric Foreman on the blitz to gain six yards to the left. Mack Brown decided not to go for it on 4th and one. Richmond McGee then hit a towering 34-yard punt that was fair caught at the 20-yard line.

Young and the second team offense returned to the field and put on a show against the first team defense. On the first play, Selvin Young was again stopped for loss on a rocket pitch that was sniffed out by Cedric Griffin, Derrick Johnson and Kalen Thornton. Thornton then got a likely sack on Vince Young, but the play was allowed to continue and Young hit tight end Neale Tweedie over the middle for a short gain. On third down, Young connected with Brian Carter on a throwback screen for 18 yards. Thornton and Marcus Tubbs then headed to the bench for the night, but Young was just getting started, lofting a perfect deep ball to walk-on freshman Eric Enard, who beat Vasher, for 46 yards. Selvin Young took the next hand off for what looked to be a dandy 15-yard touchdown on a cutback, but the play was whistled dead after five yards, to the derision of fans. Albert Hardy took the next handoff up the middle for another apparent touchdown, but it too was whistled dead. Young then was lucky not to get picked off, as he rolled left and fired across his body into double coverage, overthrowing Tweedie in the endzone. Dusty Mangum completed the scoring drive with a 21-yard field goal.

Mock and the first team returned, starting at their own 30-yard line and began a very effective drive. After the first of a handful of false start penalties backed the offense up, Mock hit tight end David Thomas on a throw back screen for a first down. The play may have gone for more, but was whistled dead. Mock followed that with a run left for 8 yards, with Thomas delivering a crushing block on Robert Killebrew, before finding Bo Scaife on the right sideline for 10 more.

Selvin Young took a handoff and burst around the right side behind the wall created by Justin Blalock and Will Allen. Mock then went for it all, throwing a bomb to Williams that just missed in the end zone. It appeared that Tarell Brown was holding the entire length of the field, but no flag was thrown. Young moved the chains with another 13-yard run, and Tony Jeffery made some nifty moves to get good yardage on a reverse. Mock then hit Will Matthews on a fullback screen, who took it down to the five yard line.

First and goal from the five quickly turned into 3rd and goal from the 22 after a personal foul on Brett Robin and a false start penalty. Mock was clearly sacked on a blitz by Killebrew and Brian Robison, but threw the ball away. Pino completed the 15-play drive by hitting a 40-yard field goal.

The first team defense quickly re-asserted itself, forcing Vince Young and the second team offense into another three and out. Landin followed up his first punt with a 25-yard shank out of bounds.

Mock and the first team offense returned to the field, but could not move the chains. After three short runs, the defense came up with one of the plays of the night. On fourth and inches, Rufus Harris came in around the right side untouched and belted tailback Brett Robin at the line for no gain, turning the ball over on downs.

The second team offense then lined up against a mixture of first and second team defenders and moved the ball, but could not cash in on its opportunity. Anthony Johnson burst right for 14 yards on a nicely designed, confusing-to-look-at running play. Two plays later, Young then missed Enard high and behind on a slant play that would have gone for a touchdown. Enard had beaten Aaron Ross on the play. Young then made a poor decision, rolling right and throwing a pass into double coverage that was intercepted by Michael Huff at the 15-yard line.

With Allen rotating in at center and guard, Mock and the first team offense returned and, after drawing the defense offsides, just missed Sloan Thomas on a fly pattern down the right side. After Robison and Foreman combined on a sack, the line picked up the blitz and Mock hit Jeffery over the middle for a first down and followed it up with an 8-yard pickup to David Thomas on a roll left. Had Mock been more on the money, the play could have gone for a touchdown. Will Matthews then plowed through the left side for a huge gain, but was whistled down after a 10-yard pickup. The offense moved the chains again on a Mock run and a draw to Robin. On first down at the opposing 33-yard line, Mock appeared to connect with Limas Sweed deep at the five-yard line, but Sweed was ruled out of bounds. Another blitz led to another sack, and the drive was snuffed out when Chase Pittman leapt high to knock down Mock’s pass. Mangum missed his 47-yard attempt wide right.

The second team offense then took on a mix-and-match version of the first team defense. Erik Hardeman had a pair of powerful runs to the right side for good yardage, but the offense could not pick up the first down. McGee completed the drive with a towering 35-yard punt that was fair caught at the 25-yard line.

After two more power runs by Hardeman, Matt Nordgren then took over the second team offense as it squared off against the second team defense. Nordgren quickly hit Hardeman on a swing pass for six yards, and then drilled a perfect strike to Josh Graham-Chapman for 20 yards. Nordgren just missed Sweed on a 35-yard go route, and Steven Hogan dropped a perfectly placed ball over the middle that would have picked up a first down. Pino then nailed a 39-yard field goal to close out the scrimmage.

Quick Hits

Middle linebacker Garnet Smith returned to action and started with the first team defense.

The quick whistled stopped several huge gains by the first team offense, including a quick strike to Roy Williams and a couple of big runs.

The first team offensive line had a hit-or-miss night. It opened up several big holes for the running game and often gave Chance Mock great protection, but struggled with the blitz on more than one occasion and had several false start penalties.

This team needs someone else to hit. There were at least three scuffles that broke out tonight, including one where Sloan Thomas lifted Rufus Harris and slammed him to the turf after the play.

If Richmond McGee isn’t the starting punter I will be very surprised. The sophomore boomed a towering 34-yard punt into a light wind for a fair catch. He followed that up with another sky-high 35 yard effort, again into the wind, that was also fair caught. McGee also drilled his only kickoff attempt nine yards deep into the end zone.

Will Allen saw action at both center and right guard with the first team and did not seem to be affected by his bandaged right thumb.

Rufus Harris was a fan favorite tonight, making several good hits and getting under the skin of his offensive teammates.

It looks like the Horns have at least six linebackers who can play at a high level. The starting three look very solid, and Brian Robison, Aaron Harris, Marcus Myers, Robert Killebrew and Eric Foreman all look ready to play.

Roy Williams only played about 8 snaps tonight.

Kalen Thornton was unblockable once again. He was in the offensive backfield on every single snap and probably would have had at least 2 sacks in only 10 or so plays. He also stopped the option right and made a play on a straight hand off to Selvin Young.

Nathan Vasher was burned deep by Eric Enard on a deep ball that seemed to hang in the air.

On the first defense’s second play, Bryan Pickryl appeared to strip Selvin Young and take the ball back for a touchdown, but the play was blown dead.

The running backs are doing a very good job of cutting back and finding openings for big yardage.

The first team offense did very well in short yardage situations with Benson and Young.

Will Matthews is a highlight and headache waiting to happen. He never goes down after the first hit and is usually only brought down by several defenders.

At times, the Texas offense looks completely different. The Horns continue to emphasize motion, switching, roll outs, the option and the middle of the field.

Albert Hardy appears to have moved to third string fullback.

Bo Scaife and David Thomas looked very sharp tonight in both the passing and running game.

Matt Melton made a huge hit at the line of scrimmage on Brett Robin on 2nd and goal. Melton appeared to give him a push after the play and Robin responded by plunking the ball off Melton’s head, drawing a flag and pushing back the offense.

Brandon Foster smacked Mock on a beautiful blindside corner blitz.

In a major departure from the past few years, the fullback and tight end will be huge weapons for the Horns this season. Each unit has three, even four options, and all can run and catch.

Marcus Myers had a very nice night, swarming several running plays for little or no gain and coming within a whisker of intercepting Chance Mock.

The defense did a very good job of disguising blitzes tonight, getting good pressure from the linebacker and defensive backs on several occasions.

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