Not at Texas.
The spring game is a huge event. Thousands of fans show up, recruits and high profile alumni make the trip to Austin to watch and many more watch the event on television. With closed practices, it's Longhorn fans' last chance to see their team for five months and the enthusiasm at the spring game was palpable. Let's get to the observations.
-The rumor mill has been in full effect this week concerning the potential transfers of Texas quarterbacks Sherrod Harris and G.J. Kinne, but they both suited out, warm-uped with the QBs and each played in the game. In actuality, The strongest performance from a quarterback on Saturday was from Harris. While he only faced the Horns' second- and third-teamers, Harris was steady throwing the ball and explosive running with it, finishing the scrimmage with a 17-yard touchdown run. Kinne also had a nice deep throw, hitting Dan Buckner for a 39-yard completion, which was the longest play of the day, but keep in mind he did it well after Ryan Palmer had pulled up instead of taking the sack on one of the few real blitzes of the day.
-John Chiles could be Texas' most explosive offensive threat, but, in terms of the spring game, he doesn't yet look like a complete quarterback. One scrimmage is a very small sample size, but a quarterback is best judged when the bullets are flying and he still struggles to hit throws when he's uncomfortable. Running-wise, though, he's spectacular. Chiles' ability to change direction is as impressive as always and he's a dangerous threat running the ball, but there are plenty of throws he's yet to successfully display in a public forum. We've received reports about his improved passing, but he's still got to show he can make throws when it counts.
-Chiles, as mentioned above, is a go-the-distance threat, but the Texas offense is short on explosive players compared to years past. This doesn't mean that the Texas offense is going to be bad, but it will feel different. For example, there were several moments when running back Vondrell McGee chose to lower his shoulder and plow forward for a few extra yards instead of cutting outside. This is quite a change from Jamaal Charles. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby are consistent receivers with solid hands and Colt McCoy is not an explosive runner on the level of what Chiles or Harris brings. Most of the 'explosiveness', as it were, may have to come from some of the younger players, such as RB Foswhitt Whittaker, who looked good working as a speed back for Texas, and Malcolm Williams, who opened the scrimmage with a 34-yard kick-off return up the sideline. Texas did try to generate some explosive plays by running a pair of reverses. The first one, which went to Shipley, was the most successful as the senior receiver darted up the east sideline for 29 yards. Shipley as beat his man down the field on pass routes several times as well, but a proven go-the-distance threat isn't something this team has. Not yet, anyway.
-Will Muschamp made use of a lot of two-linebacker sets with his defense...because the Texas offense made use of a lot of three-wide receiver sets. When Muschamp arrived at Texas from Auburn, he mentioned repeatedly how much he wants the Longhorn defense to be "multiple". Texas switched between several different defenses and it was largely successful. Although the team was split up into different squads instead of offense and defense, the defense was the winner on Saturday, even being as limited in terms of blitzing as they were. My pick for MVP was Deon Beasley, who showed how much he's improved since first arriving on the 40 Acres, locking down the receivers he faced and making several pass break-ups.
-Freshman kicker Justin Tucker was very involved in the scrimmage. Tucker kicked off, kicked field goals and even tried punting. His high, arcing punt went only 31 yards, but his kick-offs were solid and his attempt at a 50-yard field goal into the wind was dead-on, accuracy-wise, but fell just a yard or two short. Ryan Bailey will likely keep his job as starting kicker, but Tucker will push Hunter Lawrence for kick-off duties.
-Line play will be one of the strengths of this team. The offensive line had a good push in the run game and the defensive line won quite a few one-on-one match-ups in pass rush. It's hard to say that any positive performance by either the offensive or defensive line is a 'good thing' because it invariably means that the other side got beat, but the talent in the trenches on both sides is apparent. However, their success also tells of their weaknesses, especially on defense The offensive line, given how young it was last season, is bigger and stronger, which contributes to an improved run game, but the lack of depth at defensive tackle contributes to that as well. Roy Miller played well individually, but there aren't many great DTs behind him. Defensive end, however, is a strength and it showed with the effective pass rush.
It was a revealing spring game, as always, both in terms of Texas' strengths and what the Horns need to work on.
Now it's back down to Houston for the Elite 8.