William Wilkerson, Scout.com

MONDAY CHIP DIPS: TAKEAWAYS FROM FIRST SPRING FB SCRIMMAGE

In a Monday serving of CHIP DIPS, HD's CHIP BROWN gives his takeaways from Texas' first spring football scrimmage ... natty No. 13 for swim coach Eddie Reese ... Pro Day preview ... Shaka Smart being pursued? ... Jarrett Allen's haircut ... and ... a sweep and a swipe by Texas baseball.

Before we get into the CHIP DIPS, let me just say how incredible I think Texas men's swimming coach Eddie Reese is after leading his team to a third straight national title over the weekend - and a record 13th overall.

He has swimmers train with mesh socks on September, affectionately known as Sock-tember by his swimmers, then really grinds them in October, which they call Rock-tober because Reese is pushing them to get stronger.

And then it all pays off come March, when things like this happen: Junior Jonathan Roberts broke Aaron Piersol's 14-year-old school record in the 200 backstroke, and then five minutes later, in the very next heat, sophomore John Shebat broke Roberts' record.

All of his swimmers who placed at nationals set personal-best times. Talk about getting your athletes to peak at the right time. Eddie Reese is simply the best.

 

 

CHIP DIP #1 ... Most of my takeaways from the first scrimmage of spring football are on the defensive side, starting with my belief this defense is going to end up being really nasty.

Let's be honest, dating back two years ago we looked at 2017 as a possible breakthrough year for Texas in large part because of the 2015 class - rated a Top 10 class primarily because of the defensive talent, which is now preparing to be juniors.

Guys like Malik Jefferson, DeShon Elliott, Davante Davis, Holton Hill, P.J. Locke III, Kris Boyd, Anthony Wheeler, Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu. 

There's a couple big-time offensive guys in that class, too, obviously - LT Connor Williams and RB Chris Warren - as well as a few other current or past starters ( OG Patrick Vahe, WR John Burt, RT Tristan Nickelson and RT Brandon Hodges).

But the 2015 recruits on defense should now be the backbone of this team.

And when I looked out at the secondary in Saturday's scrimmage and saw Davante Davis and Kris Boyd at first-team corner, DeShon Elliott at field safety (and class of 2014 John Bonney at boundary safety), P.J. Locke at nickel ... and when I looked out at linebacker with Hager and Jefferson next to senior-to-be Naashon Hughes, there it was: the reason we thought maybe 2017 could be a breakthrough year.

Something tells me this defensive staff, led by Todd Orlando, who I've said I think is a star, will put players on position to make plays and will get the most out of the talent.

If that indeed happens, we could see a nasty defense that should be the backbone of this team.

 

 

CHIP DIP #2 ... I firmly believe The Kraken is about to be released!!

DeShon Elliott was my favorite defensive player from the 2015 class when it signed, in part, because of his head-knocking film. But also because Chris Warren, who played at Rockwall, told me Elliott, who played at Rockwall Heath, was such a hard-hitting presence all over the field when they played.

Elliott wasn't afraid - at all - to come up and lay some wood against a back like Warren, which is saying something.

"He's been impressive to me. He really has," defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said of Elliott. "That kid gives us everything he has. I'm happy for him. I'm happy for us.

"(Safeties) Coach (Craig) Naivar has done a really good job with that group back there - and coach (Jason) Washington working with the corners.

"We've got some talent back there. There's no doubt we've got some talent. There's a lot of stuff going on out there, and those guys make the calls and run the show. And I've been impressed with what they've done. P.J. (Locke) is another one.

"They're great people. Great kids. They've completely bought in. They're trying their hearts out. They take coaching, and I like being around 'em. They're fun kids."

 

 

CHIP DIP #3 ... I think Jordan Elliott backing up Poona Ford at NT is an indication that's where coaches would ultimately like Elliott to break through.

Think UT's version of Ed Oliver at Houston, who started at NT for the Cougars last season in earning All-America honors.

I've heard rumblings that coaches have privately compared Elliott's freakish athletic ability and strength to Oliver. The question is if Elliott has anywhere close to Oliver's work ethic. 

At Houston, Herman had players continue to vigorously train in the weight room throughout the season. But Oliver was such an animal in the weight room, Yancy McKnight literally had to bar him from the weight room to keep from overtraining. And Oliver wasn't happy about it.

Elliott is one of the D-lineman right now that coaches are trying to trim down.

"If you're a D-lineman in this league, you can't be heavy or you'll get run right out of the stadium," defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. "So we're trimming these guys down. There's gonna be a rotation. You want to play your best guys about 75 percent of the time.

"But Jordan's reps will be based on how much he's in shape. If he wants to play 35 percent of the game, then he needs to get his butt in gear. Is he gonna be 20 percent or 10 percent? That's what we're trying to stress to those guys."

 

 

CHIP DIP #4 ... Reading between the lines, the middle linebacker job may already be Breckyn Hager's to lose.

"Breckyn brings a certain type of physicality," said defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. "And I'd like for that middle linebacker position to have that.

"The contact part is what I'm looking for. You have to have someone in there who wants to run and hit. And when I look at our group, at him and Erick (Fowler) and those guys, who does that? At the end of the day, we're not going to go into the season with a soft middle linebacker. It's just not going to happen. Whoever ends up being the toughest kid and will play the most physical, play in and play out, will be the middle linebacker. 

"That position should be the toughest guy, who everyone respects, who goes extremely hard all the time and who is vocal. Those are the prerequisites."

Erick Fowler was also working at middle linebacker in Saturday's scrimmage

"We're using Erick inside," Orlando said. "He's a work in progress. He's physical, and he's learning, so we're starting him inside. He's a thumper. He's a physical kid who understands leverage, and we want that middle linebacker spot to run and hit. So that was the reason (we put Fowler there)." 

Malik Jefferson is working at the other inside linebacker spot in the 3-4 defense. And it sounds to me like Jefferson will ultimately move outside. But the coaches want him inside at first to see how tough and physical he's willing to play. 

"Malik obviously has some tools to do some unique things," Orlando said. "We put him and Breckyn inside based on an evaluation of last year's film and winter conditioning."

Orlando said sorting out linebacker roles could take through the spring and into the fall, considering JUCO transfer LB Gary Johnson, Scout's No. 3 JUCO prospect in 2017, won't arrive until June.

"You're going to see some different people in there," Orlando said. "It's not going to be 'Malik isn't playing well, but he's going to stay in there. No. Malik is going to be on the bench, and we're going to bring someone else in there who specifically for that day is going to play. 

"Everyone is being evaluated every day. And we understand you're going to have your moments. But if your moments turn into hours, then we've got an issue. And that's what we're trying to teach them. You've got to be consistently good."

 

 

CHIP DIP #5 ... There's not a doubt in my mind sophomore-to-be Malcolm Roach, who is playing defensive end in the 3-4, is going to end up being a leader of this defense.

But Todd Orlando isn't ready to "anoint" him just yet.

"I think he can be more of a pro in terms of his recovery, taking care of his body and the weight room - all the things that make you a great player. I'm not ready to anoint him yet. I'm just not. I've seen with younger guys, you start talking about them, and suddenly they drop their guard. I don't want him to do that.

"I don't think he's that guy. I just want him to continue to take steps forward and get better. And he has. I've seen him do some very good things in inside run. You just have to be very mindful of the fact 19-year-old kids are very fragile. When you start speaking highly of them, the next thing you know, they'll let you down. I don't think that's him. But I'm always mindful of it."

Make no mistake, Orlando likes what he's seen from Roach thus far.

"Malcolm is a strong kid with some grit to him," Orlando said. "There's a lot we can do with him. But we watch him in inside run, and he's been really good. We're polishing him. I'd like to see him get a little bit stronger. But it's been a good start for him."

Overall, Orlando sounds like he's getting the effort he wants across the defense.

"We're working on it every day (to get more physical)," Orlando said. "Kids are working. They're trying to push through it. 

"It's different for 'em. There's a lot of contact. Sometimes, when you bring in a new staff and a new way of doing things, there's some defiance and some analyzing going on. They're not doing that at all. They're trying to push through. They just need to get used to the way we train."

 

 

 

CHIP DIP #6 ... Even with Brandon Harris committing to North Carolina, I think the Texas offense is ultimately going to be fine thanks to two talented QBs, a solid offensive line and some serious talent at receiver, led by Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, who I think will be the top two pass-catchers of 2017.

BUT ... tight end and running back may be bigger problems than I thought.

As I reported in my Saturday practice report, Peyton Aucoin hasn't stood out in spring football (and didn't in winter conditioning), from what I've heard.

And the two pass-catching backs - Kirk Johnson and Toneil Carter - were dinged up and missed the scrimmage. For Carter to miss a scrimmage is one thing. He's an early enrollee freshman. The time is now for Kirk Johnson, who may just be snake-bitten (or chronic) when it comes to injuries.

 

 

 

CHIP DIP #7 ... Tuesday is Pro Day at Texas, when D'Onta Foreman gets his chance to go sub-4.5 in the 40 and make himself some money ...

... and help me win a lunch bet with former Dallas Cowboys offensive assistant coach Glenn Smith, who said LSU's Leonard Fournette (4.51) would run a faster 40 than D Foreman.

Foreman had to run a 4.48 in the 40 at a Texas camp the summer after his junior season at Texas City to finally get a scholarship offer from UT. When I told D'Onta about my wager the other day, he said I'd come out on the right end.

Kent Perkins will try to become the first Texas O-lineman drafted since 2008. (Best of luck to Perk, but I think Connor Williams ends up breaking that unfathomable drought.)

DT Paul Boyette will try to match his wife - Imani Boyette's accomplishment of becoming a professional athlete. 

Tyrone Swoopes will attempt to show the NFL he can play tight end.

Others expected to work out include RB Johnathan Gray, back from a second torn Achilles as well as former all-state 5A punter (at Belton) David Ash, who has been working on his punting with former NFL kicker Raul Allegre and will punt at Pro Day.

Anyone see what BYU QB Taysom Hill did at his Pro Day - 4.44 in the 40 and a 38.5-inch vertical (which should come as no surprise to ... oh never mind).

 

 

CHIP DIP #8 ...  I keep hearing Georgetown is Shaka Smart's if he wants it.

And I keep hearing Smart doesn't want it and is determined to restore Texas basketball.

 

 

CHIP DIP #9 ... Jarrett Allen has already cut his hair as part of his decision to enter the NBA Draft without an agent.

Not because of his haircut, but I'll be shocked if Allen doesn't stay in the draft.

 

 

CHIP DIP #10 ... Big sweep over the weekend of Kansas State for Texas baseball from an overall confidence standpoint. 

Because now the Longhorns hit the road in Big 12 play, and start at Kansas, where the Horns have always struggled for some reason (see UT football's woes in Lawrence as well ...).

In case you missed Tate Shaw's outfield thievery - it was No. 2 on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays of the Day.

https://twitter.com/TexasBaseball/status/846118731570909186

 

 

 


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