If you plan to attend the first of Texas’ two open football practices, here are five things to watch Friday at 4 p.m. in Royal-Memorial Stadium:
1. The quarterbacks
Coach Mack Brown has said David Ash is the “clear-cut” starter, and that comes as no surprise. The junior-to-be has all the physical tools, so what will be interesting to watch is how he uses them in the uptempo offense that is being implemented.
An area where Ash needs considerable improvement is in demonstrative leadership, which doesn’t come easily for him because of his low-key personality. There have been reports, however, that quarterbacking great Vince Young, who’s taking classes this semester, has been talking to Ash. So it will be interesting to see if Ash picks up any of Young’s leadership skills.
While Texas knows what it has in backup Case McCoy, watching the young quarterbacks — Jalen Overstreet, Connor Brewer and Tyrone Swoopes — continue to take their baby steps could be instructive.
2. The linebackers
Will the linebackers, who often looked in disarray last year, demonstrate a significant difference with the return of outside ‘backer Jordan Hicks, who missed most of 2012 with an injury?
In the middle, Dalton Santos is seriously challenging incumbent starter Steve Edmond. Santos reportedly has lost a lot of weight and has improved his mobility, which is something Edmond also has needed to do.
According to Hookem.com, Hicks missed Wednesday’s practice and the starters were Santos, Peter Jinkens and Tevin Jackson. The development of Jinkens, who exploded late last season as a freshman, will be fascinating to watch.
3. The wide receivers
It comes as no surprise that Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, the leading receivers in 2012, are by far the bellcows of this unit.
The big question is who is next in line.
There’s no shortage of candidates. Last year’s freshman class of Cayleb Jones, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson are all battling. Jones looks good and Sanders is intriguing because he has the speed that the coaches covet, while Johnson is raw but talented.
But one to keep an eye on is junior-to-be Bryant Jackson. As a backup in 2012, Jackson caught eight passes for 140 yards. Hookem reports the 6-2, 199-pounder has caught the coaches’ eyes so far this spring.
4. The secondary
Quandre Diggs has started 24 of 26 games at cornerback since he arrived as a freshman in 2011. But will he remain there this season?
Diggs might be the most likely candidate to inherit the role vacated by departed senior Kenny Vaccaro — especially when Vaccaro moved up from his safety spot to cover slot receivers as the nickel back. If Diggs takes that spot, his corner job opposite Carrington Byndom likely will be a battle between Sheroid Evans and Duke Thomas.
The candidates at safety include Mykkele Thompson, Josh Turner and Adrian Phillips.
5. The kicking game
If one thing was evident in last spring’s open practices, it was the Longhorns would sorely miss departed placekicker Justin Tucker. That certainly turned out to be the case.
Freshman Nick Jordan finally won the job after the struggles of injury-plagued transfer Anthony Fera. Jordan looks like the guy to beat this season, while Fera might take over punting, especially since Will Russ is out with a back injury.
TEXAS’ OPEN PRACTICES
4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, Royal-Memorial Stadium
IF YOU GO
Because of improvements underway at Royal-Memorial Stadium, seating for fans will be limited to the north end zone, UT said. Gates 8, 14 and 25 will be open at 3 p.m. Friday for the 4 p.m. practice, and 1 p.m. Saturday for the 2 p.m. practice.