Taylor Estes - HornsDigest.com

WHAT TEXAS COACHES ARE REALLY THINKING COMING OUT OF SPRING FOOTBALL

In his latest round of CHIP DIPS, HD's CHIP BROWN gets into what Texas coaches are really thinking coming out of spring football ...

CHIP DIP #1 ... Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said of the leadership on his side of the ball, "We’ve still got a long way to go."

 

"We’re young. Very few seniors," Beck said.  "They’re not in that mode yet of feeling enough confidence in their ability to do all the things we’ve asked them to do to be able to lead. Sometimes, they worry about themselves. And we have to break them of that. It’s a process that’s going to take some time. But I think we’re headed in the right direction."

 

On Shane Buechele's leadership:

 

"It’s getting better. I think last year as a true freshman, he had a quiet confidence. He doesn’t get too high or too low. Nothing really rattles him. But he needs to be a little more boisterous."

 

 

CHIP DIP #2 ... Even as the defensive coordinator, Todd Orlando couldn't stop glowing about 6-foot-6, 215-pound receiver Collin Johnson.

 

"I’m excited about him," Orlando said. "I know I’m a defensive guy. But I’ll tell you what - once that kid gets it all put together, he’s going to be a special player."

 

Orlando said Johnson is a mismatch, even for Texas' big corners, because of the way he high-points the ball.

 

 

CHIP DIP #3 ... Speaking of Texas' big corners - Orlando seems very content with what he has in the secondary as a group.

 

On Kris Boyd, Orlando said, "He’s been playing really, really well for us."

 

On the secondary as a whole:

 

"We’ve got experience. They’re really sharp guys. They enjoy being around each other. They’re unbelievably competitive. 

 

"That’s what you want in the spring. the spring is to find out who cares the most, the toughest guys you have and who can produce. 

 

"The scheme part will come. We’ve got quite a bit installed.

 

"Now, I’m excited to see these guys go into summer conditioning with Coach McKnight, the best strength coach in the country, and when he gives those guys back to us, I think they’ll be different players."

 

Asked about backup cornerbacks Eric Cuffee and Donovan Duvernay, Orlando said:

 

"Those guys are a work in progress. From a standpoint of their height, they’ve got to play exact. 

 

"Some of the taller guys can make a bad step and use their arm length to catch up. Those guys have to be really technically sound. 

 

"But they’ve been working their tails off. There’s going to be specialty packages where we have multiple corners on the field. So those guys will work over the summer, and I think we’ll know a couple weeks into fall camp where we’re at."

 

 

CHIP DIP #4 ... So, who are the toughest guys on the defense?

 

"P.J. (Locke), our safeties, Poona (Ford), Malcolm (Roach) is a tough guy," Orlando said.

 

"They all have their moments when they get fatigued. And fatigue makes a coward out of all of us.

 

"But those are the guys who consistently fight through stuff. 

 

"It’s easy to be a tough guy on play one, two and three. But if you get into a six- or seven-play drive, some of our guys don’t have the strength to battle through it. They have to go through a full weight program with Coach McKnight, and I think we’ll see a better product."

 

Orlando didn't mention DL Jordan Elliott among the toughest guys on the team - just that Elliott needs to lose some more weight over the summer. That led to some interesting thoughts from Orlando about the importance of strength coach Yancy McKnight over the next two months.

 

"Jordan can play both positions (end and nose). I’d just like to see Jordan slim down a little bit. There’s some things around his belly that’s not muscle.

 

"In this game, to be able to go consecutive plays - and Oscar (Giles) can rotate them. But to me, Jordan is not like Poona Ford, who can run all day, in my opinion. So it’s going to be Yancy (McKnight’s) job, honestly.

  

"That’s the guy who gets these kids for six to seven weeks. And a lot of the things we need to improve upon are directly related to that kid as an athlete. 

 

"And that’s Yancy’s job to modify the athlete, so we’ll get a better football player who will be able to do the things we’re going to be asking them to do in fall camp."

 

 

CHIP DIP #5 ... Maybe tight end isn't a lost cause?

 

Tim Beck said he saw "drastic improvement" in Garrett Gray at tight end.

 

"I really like what he’s done," Beck said of Gray.

 

  

CHIP DIP #6 ... The linebacker position still has a lot of uncertainty about it.

 

"I’d like to have seen more - honestly," Todd Orlando said of his linebackers post-spring game. "I’ve been accustomed to having guys who are dominant in that position. 

 

"We’re a work in progress. They care. They want to be good. There’s things we need to clean up, and it’s going to take some time.

 

"Your best players have to come from the second level. I’ve never been on a good defense that was waiting on those guys in the second level to make elite plays for us.

 

"So, we’re going to have to work like crazy in the summer and get into fall camp. That’s real talk. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re playing at an elite level at that position. We’ve got some work to do."

 

  

CHIP DIP #7 ... It sounds like Anthony Wheeler is the leader to play the Mack (middle linebacker), which will lead me to another point about Breckyn Hager. More on that in a minute.

 

"Right now, it’s Wheeler (at middle), because he is the most consistent guy, day in and day out," Todd Orlando said. "He’s very smart. There’s a reason he played a lot last year. You can see the consistency. 

 

"He just needs to be with Coach (Yancy) McKnight to work on some things. I’m not going to go into detail, because that’s not fair to the kid. He knows. But I like everything about him. I need him to be more vocal, and he knows that. But he’s been very consistent."

 

 

 

CHIP DIP #8 ... If Anthony Wheeler ends up at middle linebacker, I'd be moving Breckyn Hager to B-backer as the team's best pass rusher. 

 

Based on last year's production, Hager, who led the team in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (13.5) in only five starts, was a better pass rusher than current first-team B-backer Naashon Hughes.

 

But it sounds like Orlando plans to keep Hager at Mack (middle linebacker), competing with Wheeler.

 

"I think he’ll continue to work at middle linebacker," Orlando said of Hager. "What he has to do is just show more stretches of stamina. He’s a kid who plays extremely hard. He’s a very emotional guy, and sometimes he can blow himself out a little bit.

  

"He’s going to be in a battle with Wheeler all the way, and we’ll add Gary (Johnson) into the mix coming into fall camp.

 

"And I’ve told our guys the best three guys - because I think P.J. (Locke) is locked in at nickel - the three best guys will be on the field. If that takes two or three weeks into fall camp to decide, I’m excited because there is real competition."

 

Right now, Jeffrey McCulloch is backing up Naashon Hughes at B-backer.

 

"Jeff’s a natural pass rusher," Orlando said. "He kind of gets fancy at times. I’d like to see him be a little bit grittier. But he’s had a nice camp. There were days he lost his focus a little bit. But overall, I’ve been very, very happy with him. 

 

"We recruited him when I was at Houston, so we know a ton about him. We thought he was a really good pass rusher coming out of high school. We just need to tighten up his game and get his pads down. I still think he plays a little too high. Once we get that fixed, I think he’ll be very productive for us."

 

In the Big 12, where you have to have guys who can get to the quarterback, Hager has to be on the field, in my opinion, and he should on the field as a pass rusher where was beginning to excel last season. Hager took all his snaps in the spring at MLB. So I wonder how long it will take before Hager is in a pass-rush position?

 

 

 

 

CHIP DIP #9 ... Orlando is happy with the progress of Malik Jefferson at Rover (weak side linebacker) and expects JUCO transfer Gary Johnson to train at Mack and Rover once he gets on campus.

 

"Malik’s playing inside in our three-down stuff and will play outside in our four-down stuff," Orlando said. "And to me, Malik has made progress in terms of the physicality part of it. That’s the one thing I’m very happy with him. 

 

"He’s starting to take pride in not skating around blocks. You saw (in the spring game), he’s started getting more of a comfort level at the position, and he’ll be fine."

 

Regarding Gary Johnson, Orlando said:

 

"Once he gets up here, it will be how much he can process in terms of scheme, because those two interior positions - our Mack and Rover positions - you have to be able to play them both. 

 

"When they get trained, they get trained at both. That way, if Malik goes down, we’re not playing the second-best Rover, we’re playing the next-best linebacker. So, Gary will go into that interior spot.

 

"For Gary, it’s a battle of time in terms of how fast we can get him ready."

 

 

 

 

CHIP DIP #10 ... It sounds like Todd Orlando is not only happy with the play of his safeties, but he may have already penciled in DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones as starters.

 

"DeShon is physical. I love everything about him," Orlando said. 

 

"Brandon can fly. That’s the part about that position, if you ask (safeties coach) Craig Naivar and myself, 'Have you ever had a kid like that?' I mean that kid can gobble up ground. And he’s not a coward. He’ll go in there and tackle. 

 

"He’s a great kid to be around. he’s going to get a lot better. He didn’t get a lot of run last year. So all the reps he’s getting are relatively new to him. At least Elliott has been in the mix a little bit. So I’m really fired up about Brandon. I think he has a very high ceiling because of how fast he is."

 

 

 


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