Some offense and defensive observations from the Longhorns’ open spring football practice Saturday:
- I really liked how much offensice co-coordinator Major Applewhite and running backs coach Larry Porter stressed ball security with the quarterbacks and running backs. Players would have to run through a gantlet, as Porter would nail them with a big pad to try to knock the ball loose and then Applewhite would take a shot at them with Muhammad Bal-li — Applewhite’s broom handle with a boxing glove attached to the end of it.
- Coach Mack Brown talked about the desire to get running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray on the field at the same time. We saw some of that in 11-on-11 with a three-wide, two-back look featuring Brown lined up at fullback and Gray as the tailback.
That works because Brown looks like the best blocker among the tailbacks. He stoned Dalton Santos during a blitz pickup drill, meaning he’s capable of owning perhaps the best linebacker on the team at coming downhill and delivering a pop.
Brown had a couple of good runs during live periods, including a big one where he got wide around left end. Gray also continued to shine, stepping off a long run after he broke an ankle tackle around the line of scrimmage.
Joe Bergeron again appears to be the No. 3 running back on the roster and looks as if he’ll be relegated to backing up Brown and Gray and handling short yardage/goal line duty.
- Mike Davis looks as if he’s carried the confidence he found midway through last season with him into spring football. Whereas previous spring practices we’d see him stay with the pack and we’d wait for him to do something to separate himself from everyone else, he’s now setting the tone for the receiver group with his effort and execution along with Jaxon Shipley.
- A few big plays were made on defense Saturday during the live periods. Bryce Cottrell had what would’ve been a blindside sack had the quarterbacks been live. Sheroid Evans had a great pass breakup against Davis. Adrian Phillips had a huge stick on Kendall Sanders defending a bubble screen, and Peter Jinkens blasted Gray on a screen pass the very next play. And Steve Edmond made arguably the play of the day when he met Bergeron in the hole and drove him back during a goal line period.
- It seems clear that Cottrell, who’s getting starter’s reps at defensive end, along with the other ends, is getting a push and Reggie Wilson will really need to put it together over the final 11 practices to avoid being relegated to mop-up duty when the fall arrives.
Cedric Reed was clearly the best member of the front four on the field. It wasn’t close.
- Malcom Brown and the other defensive tackles didn’t seem as sharp as they did on Friday. Brown seemed off; he’d dominate one rep and then just kind of be there the next play.
- I mentioned Edmond’s hit on Bergeron, but he’s still behind Santos, who moves a little better laterally than I anticipated.
- The secondary did a lot of tackling drills early, and the performance left something to be desired. I saw Quandre Diggs, Phillips and Mykkele Thompson all swing and miss trying to make tackles in space.
If it’s any consolation, all three showed much better technique when attempting to make tackles during the live periods.
We did see Diggs in as the nickel corner, and when he moved over to cover the slot, Evans was the first defensive back off the bench.
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