Practice One: Offensive Report

Practice One: Offensive Report

Looking at each offensive position from Monday's practice.

Quarterbacks

David Ash had a nice overall practice and looked sharp. It was as confident as I'd seen him, with Ash making several nice throws and also displaying the ability to move around in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. And for the most part, he avoided any big mistakes as well. He did throw an interception at one point, but that was the only time I saw him do anything wrong. Ash is a major key to this year's team. If he can lead, protect the ball and make his throws, this offense has the chance to be explosive. And Ash seemed to do a pretty nice job of getting players to the line and operating the offense at a quick pace.

Case McCoy made a few nice plays here and there, but was clearly the No. 2. He also was picked off by Kendall Thompson at one point. Tyrone Swoopes looked a bit tentative in the passing game, as you would expect. He had a couple plays where he had a receiver break open, but was late with the ball.

In general, this group did a lot more mesh handoffs and zone read looks, which was consistent with Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite saying that the 'Horns wanted to utilize their quarterbacks' legs more.


Running Backs

There's only so much that you can tell when running backs aren't in pads, especially with the Longhorns having a trio of power backs (and now Jalen Overstreet mixed in). But Johnathan Gray continues to look the part. He has outstanding feet and displays a great feel for the cutback lane. There were a number of times when Gray just sort of felt his way into an opening, and that's something that I think will show up a lot better once the pads come on. I didn't see a lot out of Malcolm Brown. I don't mean that as a negative. I just mean I didn't see him a whole lot. He did look pretty put-together physically. Joe Bergeron appears to have slimmed down some, and still has nice feet for a power back.

Interestingly enough, Texas utilized a set that had Swoopes at quarterback and Overstreet at running back. Not as a "trick play" formation … just because Swoopes and Overstreet's reps happened to coincide. But that could make an interesting duo in certain situations.

The main thing that stood out to me about this group was that they were often utilized in the passing game. Gray especially has great hands and made some really nice plays as a receiver out of the backfield.


Wide Receivers

With neither Mike Davis nor Jaxon Shipley really taking reps, we had a great chance to take a look at the younger guys. Kendall Sanders was outstanding and really looks like he's come a long way from last year, but so has unsung fellow sophomore Marcus Johnson. Johnson isn't the fastest receiver out there, but he ran nice routes, got open, used his body well and caught the ball. Bryant Jackson is Bryant Jackson. He looks good in the body, and doesn't do anything especially well, but he's a pretty good-looking wideout.

Davis was doing some drills, so it could just be a matter of time with both he and Shipley.

Daje Johnson saw a number of reps in the slot, and he struggled at times to catch the ball cleanly. He'll probably need to continue to work on that to be a legitimate receiver in this offense. Chevoski Collins was the best of the freshmen on Monday. He has wiggle, accelerates and catches the ball. I also liked how explosively quick Jacorey Warrick could be. I didn't see a bunch from Jake Oliver or Montrel Meander, though I saw Oliver out there.


Tight Ends

This is another position that is hard to gauge without pads, especially when the Longhorns are looking for a do-it-all guy who can block and catch the ball. From what we saw, it appears that there's still somewhat of a separation in each ability: Greg Daniels was by far the better-looking guy at sealing the edge as a blocker, while M.J. McFarland still appears superior as a receiver, hauling in a pass in 7-on-7 play. Geoff Swaim saw some action in both roles. It will be interesting to see how Texas handles this position moving forward this fall.


Offensive Line

First off, the first-team Texas offensive line looks pretty good. But second, in a snap judgment — and again, without pads — I think the line could be even better with a few tweaks. And that idea hasn't passed the Texas coaching staff by.

We all know the experienced starters coming back (from left): Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Dominic Espinosa, Mason Walters and Josh Cochran. That still appears to be a pretty darned good group, with Cochran looking healed from his injury issues. But Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searels went with an intriguing lineup at one point in the one-on-one pass-rushing drills, one that has certainly been batted about on message boards (again, from left): massive JUCO transfer Desmond Harrison, Hawkins, Hopkins, Walters and Cochran. It's impossible to know how that lineup would work together, as again, they aren't in pads and in one-on-one pass-rush, players aren't relying on their teammates to help pick up rushers. But from a pure talent standpoint, that's a pretty nice group.

Harrison was as advertised. He's huge, long, has nice feet and a powerful punch. At one point in one-on-one drills, he stunned Jackson Jeffcoat with a one-handed punch to Jeffcoat's chest. Hawkins was good in one-on-one drills, especially when he moved inside and could overwhelm defensive tackles with his short-area power. Hopkins could be an interesting fit at center, in that he's stronger than Espinosa, but has the athleticism to make the tricky angle blocks that Espinosa pulls off so well. Walters lost a couple pass-rushing battles to quicker tackles like Chris Whaley, but also mauled guys when he got his hands on them. You know what you're getting with Walters. As I said above, Cochran looked full speed and was really pushing himself. It was good to see.

Honestly, I don't think this is too much of a stretch: Texas's second-team offensive line (at this point, Harrison, Sedrick Flowers, Garrett Porter, Curtis Riser and Kennedy Estelle) is probably better than the Longhorns' first-team offensive line in 2010. And that lineup could change further as freshmen like Kent Perkins and Rami Hammad push forward. Darius James stubbled some with the heat … then came back in the bubble and had some excellent reps in one-on-ones.

I really liked how hard Searels pushed this group outside. With the Longhorns running up-tempo, the hardest thing is going to be for the linemen to keep up with the pace. And he was pretty unforgiving outside, shuttling guys through pad drills that emphasized conditioning. Also apparent outside was the level of leadership that the offensive line has. When players were tired, and some were leaning down or moving slowly, their teammates were quick to grab some shirts, pull them up and throw them forward for the next rep. Great sign.

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