Saturday Practice Observations

The young Texas defensive backs performed better and the dominant players for 2007 began to become apparent on a windy Saturday at the Denius Practice Fields.

One of the questions for the Longhorns is whether not they have a "Vince Young" or "Reggie Bush"-type player that can dominate a game. While Young and Bush are transcendent athletes who we may not ever see again, the Longhorns' roster is not devoid of players who could change games. Here's how the five biggest game-changers performed on Saturday.

Colt McCoy

McCoy had a solid day despite the windy conditions. He did a better job dealing with the cross-wind than Sherrod Harris and John Chiles. Harris and Chiles both hold an advantage over McCoy in pure arm strength, but McCoy's accuracy is unmatched and his ball placement, especially on the deep routes, showed why he's the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. In addition, he's bulked up quite a bit and doesn't look like the thin thrower he was when he came in. His arm strength has improved because of it and the separation between him and his back-ups isn't as big as one might think.

Limas Sweed

Sweed is still on the thin side, but has gained strength in the off-season. He doesn't have the freakish size-speed combo that Roy Williams has, but his nose for the football and ability to use his height against defenders in unmatched. Sweed had a great day at the ballpark, beating the young DBs, both deep and short.

Jamaal Charles

Charles has dedicated himself to football, giving up track for at least the entirety of spring practice and the fall. He's doing a good job of staying low and making quick cuts. Charles is proving that he's much more than a track athlete. McCoy and Sweed have gotten stronger, but Charles is the one it'll be the most important for. Mack Brown said he's not looking for Charles to bulk up and gain a significant amount of weight, but his strength needs to improve, especially if he's going to be effective inside, which Texas would like to see more of with their running backs.

Jermichael Finley

Finley is huge. I know we've said it before, but at a solid 6-5, 236, Finley looks like Vince Young. I make the comparison because when we first saw Finley, he had that same ‘wow' quality that Young had when we first saw him. Finley has also gained an impressive ability to hide the ball from defenders. Let me explain:

Often times a defender has to take his eyes off the quarterback to stick with his man and isn't watching the QB when the ball is realeased. When a defensive back or linebacker finds himself in this situation and doesn't have an opportunity to look up, he'll look at the receiver for his timing, jumping and attacking the ball when the receiver begins to raise his hands. A good receiver will keep his hands down and snap them up at the last instant. One of the best in the NFL at this is Randy Moss and Finley looked like Moss on Saturday…in ability, not effort, I mean.

Frank Okam

Okam spent most of his time in individual drills, working to rehabilitate his knee. He's starting to move around well and looks like he may be able to participate in more than just individual workouts by the end. Hampered by injuries and receiving a great deal of focus from opposing offensive linemen, Okam had somewhat of a disappointing season in 2006 and could become a dominate force in 2007.

As you'll probably notice, the theme in my descriptions of Texas' top returning players is strength. This is a very big team in general and they look significantly more toned than in years past. With a combination of an experienced roster and an improvement in training over the years, this team looks physically stronger on the whole.

Misc. Notes from practice:

Texas will have great depth at Sub-B (Texas' term for slot receiver). Both Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby looked very strong in practice, just as they did the day before. Cosby had two impressive diving catches and Shipley's routes were as crisp as ever.

As for split end, Josh Marshall has to have grown at least an inch. He was 6-3 when he came in and is definitively 6-4 now.

Drew Kelson has taken to safety and his transition back to his old position looks smooth. Even at 215 pounds he was running with receivers and playing great football.

Chykie Brown has the longest arms. The way he was using them to break-up pass, he looked like Kevin Durant.

In general the DBs performed better than the first day of practice and had some impressive break-ups.

Vondrell McGee has been compared to a bowling ball because of how stout he is, but he does a great job of dipping his shoulders and cutting between defenders. He was almost scraping the ground. Along with Charles, quickness will be the defining quality of Texas' runners in 2007.

Chiles did a good job of running the zone read and threw the ball well. He still needs to become more polished, but he's shown to me that he's definitively a quarterback.

Henry Melton looked quick coming off the edge at defensive end, but seems to be suffering from the same problem he did at running back, namely, not getting low enough. He'll need to learn how to dip his shoulder and drive underneath an offensive tackle and develop a more effective rip move. Physically, though, he's obviously got all the tools for the position and should be able to contribute.


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