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ATX Longhorn Sports 2013
Trey's Picks

From the Stands: Breaking down who's locked in and who's in the mix this spring

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Austin Photo Set: trey_football_ut longhorns_spring_march 2013_1
Offensive line Spring practice. Courtesy of mackbrown-texasfootball.com
University of Texas Longhorns football team
Mack Brown during Spring practice. Mackbrown-texasfootball.com
Austin Photo Set: trey_football_ut longhorns_spring_march 2013_1
University of Texas Longhorns football team

Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora:

  • How awesome is the Florida Gulf Coast success story? I am going to be in their vicinity later this week and I can’t wait.
  • Baseball rallied at Minnesota to win the series after losing game one. The wins on Saturday and Sunday against the Gophers snapped a three-game losing streak. A mid-week date with Texas State awaits  before they travel to Oklahoma State for three with the Pokes.
  • The No.9 softball team has won six straight and heads to KU this weekend for three games against the Lady Jayhawks. Ladyhawks? Jayhawk ladies? Which one is right? Has to be one of those.
  • Texas hosts their annual Pro Day this week, where numerous players will try impress the NFL scouts in town. One of the players is Vince Young. VY is hoping a solid pro day and a good attitude will open some doors for another shot in the League. It might have happened already as Oakland reportedly wants to bring him in for a workout. Good luck, my man.

Let’s talk some college football, shall we? Texas is wrapping up Spring Practice this weekend with the annual Spring Game. It’s Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. at DKR and it’s a fun time. It’s called the Orange-White Scrimmage and not a “game” for good reason — it's a show for the fans. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We will break down the spring game next week.

This week let’s take a look at what’s going in practice and in the closed scrimmages where the real work is being done.

Texas is installing a new offense, trying to revamp the defense, and there are players fighting for spots all over the field. In the fall, it’s all about the team and winning. In the spring, it’s all about the individuals who will make up the team, and it’s a time for those individuals to make an impact and an impression on their teammates and their coaches.

That won’t always be a positive thing. While some players will rise up and become stars, others will play poorly/act poorly/respond poorly and fall off the depth chart completely. With only a few practices left, the staff is in the process of deciding who has risen and who has fallen. Let’s take a minute and do the same thing here.

It’s worth noting that just because a player slides/rises in spring, it doesn’t mean he will he continue on that path when the pads come back on, but it is a very good indicator. I’m intentionally leaving out guys that are injured and out of spring practice since this is about who is playing in spring. Let’s see who is shining on the field as Texas closes out the season.

Locked in

Write these names in ink on the depth chart this fall. Barring an injury, they are the undisputed No.1s at their position.

QB- David Ash

RB- Jonathan Gray/Malcolm Brown  (and Joe Bergeron)

FL- Daje Johnson

WR- Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis

TE- MJ McFarland

OL- Donald Hawkins, Mason Walters

DL- Jackson Jeffcoat, Malcom Brown, Cedric Reed

LB- Jordan Hicks, Peter Jinkens

DB- Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs, Adrian Phillips

Specials- Cade McCrary (H), Kyle Ashby (DS), Nate Boyer (DS)

Ash is the unquestioned leader of the team and the unquestioned starter at quarterback. His vision, decision-making and arm strength have been very good this spring, evidenced by his one turnover in team work. He’s growing into the role nicely.

You already know about the backs, so let’s move on. His go-to guys were cut in half when Jaxon Shipley hurt his hamstring and was shelved for the rest of spring, but Mike Davis is there. The senior looks and acts the part of a No.1 wide out, catching everything thrown his way and making plays both downfield and in the short passing game. He’s a complete receiver and Ash’s no.1 target.

Daje Johnson is going to be the 2013 version of Romance Taylor, making plays in the backfield and outside. His versatility makes him dangerous and he has talent and skills that others just don’t. You’ll notice MJ McFarland on there as a tight end and I think that’s true. When there is a tight end.

I think the offense is going to pull the traditional tight end off the field as often as they use one. I expect there to be a player lined up at tight end, but he won’t be a block-first tight end, rather more of a receiving threat that will often split out wide or line up in the slot. That guy is MJ McFarland.

At 6-foot-6, McFarland has a huge size advantage over the coverage and, with three and four wide outs in the formation, he will likely draw safeties and/or linebackers. He’s shown in spring he can catch just about anything thrown his way and is on the way to becoming a favorite of David Ash. I think MJ is a big-time player that is going to make some highlight reel catches this fall, evidenced by the highlight-reel catches in practice.

There are only two o-linemen on the “locked in” list because of so many injuries. Trey Hopkins (stress fracture) and Josh Cochran (ankle) are out for the spring, and the shuffle is on as others try to fill roles. Donald Hawkins and Mason Walters are definite starters, but maybe not at their usual spots. Everyone expects Cochran and Hopkins back this summer and all are awaiting the arrival of junior college transfer Desmond Harrison. The belief is Harrison could start at tackle and shift Hawkins and/or Mason inside to guard/center. I’m not sure where they will end up, but it will be in the starting lineup. As for everyone else, they are trying to find a place at the table.

The defensive line is ¾ done with the return of Jackson Jeffcoat. He’s limited in spring as a precaution, but he’s an All Big 12-type player when healthy. Cedric Reed has taken the other end job by storm after a strong 2012 campaign in JJ’s absence, ranking second on the team qb pressures (13) despite starting only six games. I have Malcom Brown in ink as well because, as I’ve mentioned before, he reminds me of Shaun Rogers and is about to explode on the scene with size, speed and motor.

Back at lb Jordan Hicks returns and I don’t think I need to explain why that’s a big deal. Sophomore Peter Jinkens is inked in at olb and, in my opinion, is the best linebacker on the team. He’s quick, he’s sudden and he’s confident- watch the Alamo Bowl again and you’ll see.

In the secondary the goal is to try and replace Kenny Vaccaro. The starting corners are back in Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom, as is safety Adrian Phillips, but Texas is tinkering with the idea of moving Diggs into Vaccaro’s vacated nickel role. The holdup is finding a replacement for Diggs at corner. There are plenty of candidates, but Diggs (and Byndom) are NFL players at cornerback right now and it will be hard to supplant them. Can it be done? More on that shortly.

Texas is set at deep snapper and holder. Now, who the hell is going to kick it?

Trying to lock in

These guys are fighting for starting spots and even if they don’t win the job, each will be one of the first off the bench. I’d write these guys names in pencil, but a pencil with a terrible eraser or no eraser at all.

WR- Bryant Jackson, Kendall Sanders

TE- Geoff Swaim, Greg Daniels

OL- Dominic Espinosa, Sedrick Flowers, Kennedy Estelle

DL- Ashton Dorsey, Chris Whaley, Desmond Jackson, Reggie Wilson, Torshiro Davis

LB- Steve Edmond, Dalton Santos, Kendall Thompson

DB- Duke Thomas, Mykkele Thompson, Josh Turner

I really like Bryant Jackson outside. He reminds me of Tony Jeffery. He isn’t flashy or celebrated, but he makes plays and moves the chains. I think you’ll see him be the steady, consistent player I expect him to be. He might not start, but he’s going to get starter minutes.

Kendall Sanders, on the other hand, is a dynamic playmaker looking to be consistent. At 6-feet and 183 pounds, he’s nearly a clone in size and athletic ability as Daje Johnson. He has terrific speed and is excellent in the open field and I expect he’ll spell Daje in that slot role. Again, he might not start, but he’s the first off the bench with Jackson.

I should probably have listed Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels as “locked in” since they are going to be the blocking/jumbo package tight ends and will get balls thrown their way (see the first offensive play of the Iowa State game last year). The primary role will be opening holes in the running game and Swaim will take over that Blaine Irby spot, moving between tight end, h-back and fullback. Sorry, fellas, my bad.

It seems everyone is trying to bury Dominic Espinosa, but he isn’t having it. The junior is holding onto the center job, but the Harrison-to-tackle scenario is a real thing and could change that. In the absence of Hopkins and Cochran, Sedrick Flowers and Kennedy Estelle have stepped in a done a decent job against the starting defense. They still struggle, but they are getting better. Texas will have some solid backups if everything goes as planned.

At defensive tackle Ashton Dorsey, Chris Whaley and Desmond Jackson as battling for the other tackle spot. I like all three, but Dorsey is the biggest of the trio and with smallish linebackers like Hicks and Jinkens he’s probably the best option to keep the blocks off them, but I see all three and fairly interchangeable. I am not concerned with who the listed starter is because all three will play. Same for Reggie Wilson and Shiro Davis, who will both play a lot at end behind the starters.  

Dalton Santos, 21-pounds lighter from the fall, took the starting mike job early in spring from junior Steve Edmond. The sophomore certainly put the work in to lose that weight and become more mobile and the staff noticed; however, Edmond isn’t just going to hand it to him. He’s played much better as of late and might have reclaimed his job.

That’s a good thing, by the way. Competition can make some whither and others bloom and it looks like Edmond is in bloom. Like the tackles, it doesn’t really matter that much (it doesn’t matter to me, not to them. It matter a lot to them) who starts since both will play. Kendall Thompson will also see the field a lot, but probably not as a starter.

Who wants that safety job? That corner job if Diggs move? Who? Tell me? TELL ME. I want Diggs at safety, but someone has to take over the corner role. I think it could be Duke Thomas, but they have to give him the chance.

In the mix

These guys are fighting for playing time. They are close, but not quite there. Use the good pencil with the good eraser for thls list. Rub it on the carpet to clean it off, because nothing sucks more than erasing something and getting that dirty streak. Basically this would be everyone not listed above, so I’ll limit this to a few in each spot.

QB- Case McCoy, Jalen Overstreet, Tyrone Swoopes

WR- Marcus Johnson, John Harris

OL- Garrett Porter

DL- Hassan Ridgeway

DB- Sheroid Evans, Adrian Colbert

K- Everybody that kicks things

Three players are competing for the backup job behind David Ash. Early in the spring Overstreet was rumored to be the leader for that backup job, but that talked cooled. The player that has surprised the most is Swoopes, the true freshman that transferred in this semester.

He’s a massive guy at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds and is a big, athletic guy that can move and run. He’s shown off his big arm and taken all of the coaching tips Major Applewhite is giving him to heart, improving his mechanics and decision making. He likely redshirts, but he’s much farther along than anyone thought he would be. Case McCoy is Case McCoy and seems to be out of the dog house from his Alamo Bowl hijinks and is competing for the second team qb spot. Keep an eye on Swoopes, because who knows?

With Cayleb Jones’ suspension, the door is open for guys like Marcus Johnson and John Harris. Harris has the size (as does Miles Onyegbule) and Johnson has the skill set and athleticism to fill his role. But will they? We will know next week.

Garrett Porter and Hassan Ridgeway are in the same boat on the line of scrimmage, trying to find their way into pt. Porter needs to do it now with the injured players out and Ridgeway is learning a new position, moving from end to tackle. Both players should see some time. Probably. I like Ridgway to make some waves.

The two guys that will definitely make some waves are Adrian Colbert and Sheroid Evans. I think Colbert is the best tackler of all the safeties and, well, that should be enough for him to get some pt. Evans is a track star that is working his way up the chain as a corner and, with Diggs moving to nickel, has been starting. He could be moved into the “Trying to Lock In” but I’m not convinced Duke Thomas won’t be the other starter when the season rolls around. Even still, Evans has shown terrific ability and has earned more time when fall camp starts.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE. SOMEONE LOCK UP THE POINTS JOB. PLEASE. This scares me to death to be honest, and the fact no one has locked anything up yet scares me even more.

In Conclusion

Okay, so if I didn’t say anything about someone, the odds are high that it was not an accident. There are 85 scholarship players on the team, but only 30 to 35 jobs to be had. Not everyone will get one, but like I said, a lot can happen in the second part of the off-season and the summer. But, like I said, the spring is really good indication of who will play and who will not.

Back next week with the spring game recap.

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