As Spring Winds Down, Several Surprises On O

Who has been the biggest offensive surprise of spring football for Texas? There have been several standouts, Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said Tuesday, following the team's final practice in pads. But there is at least one versatile Longhorn who may have made the biggest stride of all his teammates during the past month.

Call him the H-Train, or call him King Henry. Either way, expect RB Henry Melton's name to be called-on more than in just short-yardage situations next season. The sophomore RB (who reported last year at 6-3, 270) has had such a breakout spring in the backfield that his part-time audition at DE is probably short-lived.

"For me, personally, Henry Melton has had a really good spring," Davis said. "His weight is down. He's not to be confused with 240, but he's in much better shape. He's trimmed-up his body. He really looks like a guy who can help us both out in the field as well as in short-yardage."

Other standouts from this spring that Davis mentioned include:

FL Jordan Shipley: "He has shown us enough with the little bit that he's done that we thought he would do what he's doing. He's having a really good spring."

LT Tony Hills (now tipping the scales at 6-6, 310): "Tony is someone that we thought would step in Jonathan Scott's place and play well."

TE Jermichael Finley: "He's a tight end in the mold that we've had who can really stretch the field. He can do some things vertically as well as working underneath on 'backers. He's done a real good job."

RBs Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young have had exceptional springs, Davis added. And both young QBs have shown poise and confidence beyond their years. But Melton's play has been an eye-opener. It's part of the reason NT Derek Lokey has gotten a closer look this spring as a FB in short-yardage situations.

Half of Tuesday's practice was a game-day simulation conducted at an accelerated pace. It gave the young QBs one final opportunity in pads to manage the huddle prior to Saturday's Orange-White scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. The offensive highlights included...

...true freshman QB Jevan Snead opening the scrimmage with a 40-yard completion and later a 15-yard run on a draw play.

...RS-freshman QB Colt McCoy produced a 20-yard run off the zone read.

...Shipley had another big-gainer on a reverse. The Burnt Orange crystal ball says we'll see this play early this season, most likely against Ohio State. Ship has been devouring real estate with the call, coaches have said, and totaled 60+ yards on the play when run twice in the Saturday scrimmage just before UT's spring break.

McCoy and Snead have split time with Ones and Twos when the team has scrimmaged in the stadium this spring. During regular practice sessions, McCoy was primarily worked with the first-team offense. The QBs have not been hit, but coaches have brought more blitzes, more stunts, shown more disguises in the secondary and have generally thrown the kitchen sink (defensively) at the freshmen just to get them ahead of the learning curve.

"We've done more defensively this spring than any spring that we've been here," Davis said. "Normally, spring is when we get the base (offense/defense) in and teach fundamentals. We really haven't tried to, schematically, challenge either side tremendously. Because our defense is a year older and because of the young quarterbacks, we really asked them to do a lot. You won't see a lot on Saturday but, through the spring, we have given them (QBs) a whole lot more than I can ever remember. This is my ninth spring (at Texas), and this is the most we've asked of the quarterbacks in terms of handling blitzes and in terms of problems they'll face from the secondary. It's by necessity. They haven't seen any of that. Vince (Young) had seen a bunch of it, and we felt like spring wasn't the time that we had to give him a bunch. He could pick that up in August. With these (QBs), we didn't want to wait. We started early giving them pressure."

The strength of the 2006 Longhorns should be its defensive front. Even so, Davis is looking for more consistent play in his two-deep across the O-line.

"Our line still has some work to do, especially at Right Guard. But we've got good competition going on there. Cedric Dockery has really stepped up and is playing well. Chris Hall has done some good things. We're playing with some different combinations: Adam Ulatoski at tackle and (Justin) Blalock inside. We've worked Lyle Sendlein at guard and Dallas Griffin at center. By the time we get to August camp, we'll have the top five, but right now we're playing with different combinations."

Texas will practice in shorts Thursday. The annual Orange-White Scrimmage is set for 6 p.m. (Central), Saturday, and will be regionally televised on FSN Sports.

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