WHAT THE COACHES SAID AT THE END OF SPRING FOOTBALL
* Biggest concerns for Tom Herman coming out of the spring:
- Depth on the D-line
- Mental toughness at receiver
- Who will play tight end
* When asked if he was ready to name Shane Buechele the starting QB, coach Tom Herman said no. Buechele ran with the No. 1 offense the entire spring game.
"As far as Shane being the starter? No way. I think a healthy fear of losing your job is just that - healthy. Shane knows we have a lot of confidence in him. And Shane did a lot of things really, really well this spring. But to say he's won the job in 12 padded practices when he doesn't even get hit - that would be premature."
Herman said the team definitely needs "more than two scholarship quarterbacks, that's for sure, and we're going to try to do that."
* Herman continues to say "you can win" with a D-line made up of DE Malcolm Roach, NT Poona Ford and DE Chris Nelson.
"Definitely Poona Ford," Herman said. "He's the hardest playing guy we have on our football team."
Herman also saw progress from sophomore NT Jordan Elliott.
"A guy that's come along in the last week or so has been Jordan Elliott," Herman said. "He's playing a lot tougher, a lot more physical."
* Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said he sees Anthony Wheeler as the starter at middle linebacker right now.
"There's a reason Wheeler played so much last year," Orlando said. "He's been the most consistent. We'd like him to be more vocal. He knows that."
Orlando said he thinks Breckyn Hager, who also worked at MLB this spring, will continue to work at middle.
* Orlando really likes safety Brandon Jones. Like, really likes him. A lot.
"Brandon is a really smart football player, and he just gobbles up ground with his speed," Orlando said. "He can be a special football player if he'll keep putting in the work. I really like our safeties - Deshon (Elliott), Brandon and Chris Brown."
* On the D-line, Orlando is happy with DE Malcolm Roach, NT Poona Ford and DE Chris Nelson and said the backup DTs such as Jordan Elliott and Chris Daniels need to lose some weight over the summer.
"There's some stuff around Jordan's belly that isn't muscle," Orlando said. "For a lot of our defense to improve, they need to have a great summer with Yancy (McKnight, the team's strength coach)."
* Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said "I saw growth" in QB Shane Buechele.
"He hasn't arrived by any means," Beck said. "But he is growing as a quarterback and what we need him doing."
On Sam Ehlinger's spring, Beck said:
"I thought Sam played well."
Beck said the right tackle position was "the group that showed the biggest improvement from the first day to the last day."
SOME SPRING GAME TAKEAWAYS
#1 … Shane Buechele played like the clear No. 1 QB
Buechele consistently found the open receiver, whether he was in the pocket, stepping up or rolling out.
In the third quarter, he dropped a perfect pass to Reggie Hemphill-Mapps between CB Eric Cuffee and S Chris Brown with no margin for error.
Buechele even had a rushing TD from inside the 5-yard-line in the third quarter.
The sophomore-to-be QB suffered an interception (by S Chris Brown) in the third quarter.
In late-game, two-minute, situational play in the fourth quarter, Buechele hit Jerrod Heard on a perfect deep ball.
#2 … Shane Buechele to Collin Johnson is going to happen A LOT in 2017
They connected for two TD passes and also whenever Buechele needed a go-to guy in critical, down-and-distance situations.
These two are best friends off the field, and their chemistry and extra work together shows when they get on the field together.
#3 … Sam Ehlinger is going to be really good
He didn’t get to play with the No. 1 offensive line, so he was under siege against the No. 1 defense all day. But he also found receivers downfield, even when he was forced out of the pocket.
His deep-ball TD pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the third quarter was a thing of beauty.
#4 … Early enrollee freshman RB Toneil Carter showed he can catch the football - and that’s a critical role in Tom Herman’s offense.
This was supposed to be a battle between Kirk Johnson and Carter for the third-down back/pass-catching RB role.
But it’s been all Carter with Johnson missing most of the spring with injuries.
The top two RBs are obviously Chris Warren and Kyle Porter (who both missed the spring game with injuries).
Carter has a long way to go in terms of blitz protection, etc., but he impressed me with his ability to catch the ball, and has a chance to get some playing time in 2017 if he keeps improving.
#5 … The first-team offensive line - even without C Zach Shackelford (ankle) - and first-team D-line have a chance to be real positives for Texas in 2017.
The second-team lines on both sides of the ball both need a lot of work.
#6 … Some of the second-team players I wanted to see in my “5 THINGS” spring game preview showed me some good things. Some didn’t.
WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey - Got off to a nice start and then seemed to get tired and dropped some passes. But he rallied big-time in the third quarter with a beautiful hands-grab TD pass over Kris Boyd on a perfect, deep-ball throw from Sam Ehlinger.
#7 … LB Anthony Wheeler and LB Malik Jefferson - both played more physical than we’ve seen them play - even though they ended up with one tackle apiece, according to UT's stats.
Breckyn Hager didn’t play Saturday with a minor shoulder injury.
Jefferson made the goal-line-stand, TD-saving tackle that ended the spring game.
#8 … LB Jeffrey McCulloch is going to press Naashon Hughes at OLB. Of course, the best pass rusher on the team - Breckyn Hager - didn't get a look at OLB all spring.
Something tells me Todd Orlando is going to figure out - if Anthony Wheeler ends up as the team's MLB - Hager needs to be rushing the passer.
McCulloch has a nose for the ball and makes plays. He had a nice sack of Shane Buechele while playing with the No. 2 defense Saturday.
#9 … I told you all S Chris Brown was a guy to watch. He jumps off the screen (had 5 tackles) Saturday.
Even Tom Herman was excited about Brown on a hit Brown made on an explosive play by the offense.
Need to go back and watch the spring game more closely to take a closer look at Erick Fowler.
Fowler led the linebackers with 5 tackles.
#10 … I believe DT/NT Jordan Elliott is going to play a lot in 2017 - even if it’s in a rotation with Poona Ford.
Elliott is a load and was constantly disrupting the offense, whether he was on the No. 1 or No. 2 D-line.
#11 … DE Charles Omenihu had a nice pass rush and sack on Saturday.
That needs to happen on a regular basis in 2017. He’s too physically gifted for that not to happen on a regular basis.
#12 … There were a ton of dropped passes on Saturday, but WRs Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay and Jerrod Heard were the most consistent on Saturday.
Even though LJH may have had the most spectacular TD catch in the third quarter!
#13 … Josh Rowland was 3-for-4 on FGs - missing a 49-yard FG attempt wide left in the third quarter.
The kick also barely reached the cross bar from 49 yards out and a little bit of crosswind.
Fair to say Rowland's range could be limited to 40-45 yards. Not a lot of pop in his leg.
#14 … OG Patrick Hudson and RT Denzel Okafor are going to be factors in 2017 - even if it’s in a rotation.
Once Hudson gets his hands on you you’re through.
Jean Delance has more physical tools than Okafor, but Okafor is more consistent and reliable. That’s why Okafor should compete for the RT starting spot come fall camp.
#15 … Overall effort and intensity was on point.
... Except for all those WR drops! How many were there? Ten? More? Including a drop by Dorian Leonard in the end zone of a perfectly thrown deep-ball pass from Sam Ehlinger.
STATS FROM THE SPRING GAME
QB GRAD TRANSFER EXPECTED TO VIST TEXAS (AS EARLY AS NEXT WEEK)
Louisville QB Kyle Bolin - locked behind Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson - is the QB grad transfer prospect to keep an eye on right now ... could be visiting UT as early as next week.
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