Spring Game notes and analysis

Notes and analysis from Saturday's Spring Game:

Some defensive depth chart notes from the final week of spring, including the Spring Game: Chase Pittman, although listed as the No. 3 right DE, behind Austin Sendlein and Kaelen Jakes, worked substantially with the second-team D as Jakes spent a good deal of time working at left DE behind Cory Redding and O.J. McClintock. Of all the back-up DLs, Pittman over the last week made the most plays outside of Sendlein, who is filling in for the injured Kalen Thornton during spring. It's too early to speculate on his fall playing status but Pittman proved capable of providing solid play despite his relative youth and inexperience and his spring experience could give him a PT advantage over freshmen DEs Bryan Pickryl and Larry Dibbles, who won't take their first practice snaps in the Orange and White until summer. Also, at linebacker, Rashad Thomas returned to middle 'backer during the final few practices after working on the outside for the majority of spring. Regardless of the move, Thomas, like the rest of the back-ups at LB, will step to the back of the line once the true freshmen 'backers arrive in August. All five newcomers -- MLB Brian Robison, MLB Aaron Harris, OLB Marcus Myers, OLB Garnet Smith, and OLB Michael Williams -- will be given the August snaps to possibly earn the back-up roles that the guys already on campus did not. Finally, the official UT depth chart lists Cedric Griffin ahead of Michael Huff at strong safety and Kendal Briles and Rufus Harris as sharing the No. 1 spot at free safety. Griffin is also listed as Nathan Vasher's back-up at left corner. Walk-on Chad Davis is listed as Rod Babers' back-up at right corner, although Griffin or Huff, or possibly one of the fall newcomers -- Aaron Ross or Edorian McCullough -- will take over that role in August. . . .

Second-team TE Chad Stevens made an outstanding catch on the opening offensive play of the scrimmage, hauling in one-handed a slightly wide Chance Mock toss for a nine-yard gain. Bo Scaife had a typical spring performance, leading all receivers with his three grabs for 31 yards, but high-school-TE-turned-college-FB Stevens developed into a solid back-up to Scaife at the spot and a player that should see substantial fall action off the bench and in the Horns' now frequently-used two-TE sets. Third-team TE Artie Ellis caught one ball for four yards Saturday. . . .

Richmond McGee kicked off three times, sending his first into-the-wind kick five yards deep before blasting his final two with-the-wind efforts either to the back of or out of the endzone. Dan Smith didn't fare as well on his two tries, failing to reach the goalline on either of his with-the-wind kicks. He sent the first kick to the one and the second out of bounds at around the 10. David Pino also had one chance but, like Smith, couldn't get the ball to the endzone despite the benefit of the wind, sending his lone effort to the two. McGee is the clear No. 1 heading into August at the kickoff spot and based on his spring performance represents a significant upgrade in ability from last year's trio of Smith, Pino and Dusty Mangum. Those three kicked off 84 times last fall but managed just five touchbacks. McGee looks capable of matching that number in the season opener vs. North Texas on Aug. 31. . . .

Justin Smith boomed a 52-yarder into a slight breeze on his first punt attempt Saturday afternoon and hit an into-the-wind 38-yarder later in the scrimmage after a wide snap from Nick Schroeder. Smith's only with-the-wind try traveled 37 yards. Brian Bradford also punted three times, all into the slight southerly wind, for 33, 44 and 31 yards. Going into the spring, the punter position didn't look to be much of a battle but that's exactly what it's turned into with the vastly improved consistency of Smith. Smith has always demonstrated a stronger leg than Bradford, but his good punt-bad punt routine kept him off the field last fall. Now that Smith seems less prone to following a 50-yarder with a 20-yarder, he may even earn the fall start. Two-a-days will probably determine who among the two will start. . . .

Mangum nailed his two extra point attempts and his two field goal tries. The sophomore hit a 38-yarder and a 22-yarder, both with the wind. Pino and Matt McFadden each knocked through into-the-wind 35-plus-yarders to close out the scrimmage. After a slow start, largely due to tough wind conditions over the first two weeks of practice, Mangum closed strong and retained his starting field goal kicker role over second-teamer Pino and third-teamer McFadden. Mangum finished last season 16-of-23, a respectable 69.6-percent.


Horns Digest Top Stories