Thursday Practice Observations

New starters on defense (again), new plays and a healthy-looking Texas team. Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger gives his observations from Thursday's Longhorn practice.

-On offense the starters were the same as the night before, but on defense the depth chart appears quite fluid. In Wednesday's practice, waves were made when redshirt freshman linebacker Keenan Robinson and true freshman safety Blake Gideon trotted out the ones. But on Thursday they were replaced, at least initially, by Sergio Kindle and Ben Wells. On a few snaps Robinson ran with the ones, but for the most part the starting linebackers were Kindle, Rashad Bobino and Roddrick Muckelroy (although there was an occurrence of the Kindle, Muckelroy, Jared Norton combination). As for Wells, he didn't spend as much time in his spot as Kindle did. There was a bit of rotation at safety, with Gideon and redshirt freshman Christian Scott also spending time with the ones at strong safety. The free safety spot has clearly been locked down by Earl Thomas, but there's at least a three-way battle going on over at strong.

-Kindle played some more at defensive end and told IT lead writer Bill Frisbie Thursday night after practice that he expects to play just as many snaps this season at the buck (combo LB/DE) position as strongside linebacker, which means the operative word for the junior 'backer is blitz. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has previously stated his desire to disrupt and pressure the quarterback. Kindle's new role is an example of his commitment to it.

-Once again, Earl Thomas was everywhere. The biggest hit of practice was when Thomas collided with Vondrell McGee and Thomas was consistently around the football. It's apparent what Muschamp meant when he said "I'm looking forward to cutting him loose this fall."

-The only player in a green (injured player) jersey was fullback Antwan Cobb. Cobb participated in several individual drills and was running at near full speed. He was primarily kept out of contact, but his recovery appears to be going smoothly.

-John Chiles looked great running the football. Throwing it...not so much. He's taken to his combo RB/WR role with the first team offense, but when he works exclusively at quarterback with the second team he was picked off twice, both on under-thrown passes. It should be noted, though, that the first pick was on a very impressive diving grab from Thomas, but a pick is a pick. Every now and then he'll drop a pretty spiral into coverage, but the difference between him and Colt McCoy at throwing the football is quite significant.

-Cody Johnson was featured several times in practice on carries and swing passes out of the backfield. Whenever the Horns lined up in the I-form, Luke Tiemann was the first fullback out, but each time Texas used a second running back in the shotgun -- not including when Chiles motioned into the position from wide receiver -- it was Johnson. Johnson caught a pair of flare passes and moved well for a 255-pound back.

-Any time the Horns went into the nickel, which was fairly frequently in Muschamp's scheme, the strongside linebacker was the one taken off the field in favor of the fifth defensive back, meaning the starting linebackers in this set are Bobino and Muckelroy. The fifth DB is Scott right now, but, as mentioned above, there was quite a bit of rotation, with at one point Scott and Gideon taking the two safety spots and Thomas spinning down to man up on the slot receiver as the fifth DB.

-Once again the defense was the better unit in 11-on-11s, but the offense performed better this time and there were several break-aways. McGee had a couple good runs and Quan Cosby caught everything. He once again had the most impressive catch at practice when he laid out for a long bomb into the end zone and came up with the touchdown grab.

-The standard Texas offensive formations are being used with greater variety. The style of the offense is still the same and we've seen these formations before (one-back shotgun, two-back shotgun, two-tight, etc.), but we're seeing them used in many different ways, such as motioning a WR into the backfield or using the triple option. And the use of Chiles is obviously another new wrinkle and opens up even more options. Whether or not we'll see something legitimately different in the Texas offense this season remains to be seen, but indications are we'll see something a bit different in the fall.


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