The first of three two-a-days gives me the opportunity to concentrate on one side of the ball for an entire practice. This morning, I focused mainly on the offense and will follow the defense this evening.
In helmets and shoulder pads, the team began practice with about 15-20 minutes of stretching before breaking into units. For the most part, the quarterbacks looked very accurate in their abbreviated passing drills, hitting on intermediate sideline and crossing routes. There was very little work on deep throws this morning.
The offense is really working on movement and misdirection, with multiple shifts, shotgun, roll-outs, play action and the option getting a great deal of attention. At times, it does look like a completely different offense.
Overall, this morning’s practice was the most fast-paced thus far. For the last 40 minutes of practice, the field was cut in half, with two offensive and defensive units scrimmaging against each other, running one play after another, in rapid-fire succession. On both sides of the field, the tight end and fullback were, again, emphasized in the passing game. The receivers weren’t absent, but it was clear that the coaches are focusing on getting the tight end and fullback involved in the offense. The option and draw were the staples of the running game.
The next practice is scheduled for tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Denius Fields. The first full scrimmage is scheduled for tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.
Unit Report Card
During drills, the quarterbacks were really on target today. Chance Mock was on the money much of the morning and Vince Young had his most accurate practice, hitting on nearly all of his short and intermediate tosses. Matt Nordgren looked very solid and is probably the most accurate of all three passers at this point. All three worked on throwing on the run and play action fakes and looked very fluid and comfortable.
In 11-on-11 competition, Mock again looked solid on the intermediate and short routes, but missed on his deep attempt. He finished 10-16 with two interceptions, one by freshman S Michael Griffin, who was playing centerfield on a deep bomb to B.J. Johnson, Mock really looked good moving with the ball. He ran the option and pulled down and ran with the ball once when no one was open. He had several excellent throws on play action, including a bullet to Roy Williams over the middle for 15 yards, and another 15 yarder to Sloan Thomas in the right flat.
Young got off to a rough start in 11-on-11 competition when freshman CB Tarell Brown baited him and then picked off his sideline throw. It would have been a sure touchdown the other way.
Primarily going up against the 1st team defense, Young was relegated to more short passes. He connected consistently with the tight ends, running backs and fullbacks for short gains. His best pass of the day came on a deep sideline route, drilling a perfect strike to walk-on wideout Eric Enard.
Nordgren, often the forgotten man, had a very good morning. He was excellent in the early drills, throwing precise passes and moving well. In 11-on-11 competition, Nordgren continued to look strong, hitting on 4 of 5 with no interceptions. His best throw of the day came on a nifty zip pass 15 yards up field to Sloan Thomas.
After struggling a bit yesterday, the first team offensive line looked very, very good this morning. LT Jonathan Scott was excellent in pass protection all morning. The run blocking improved dramatically over yesterday, with huge holes being opened up on the right side. The draw right looked very good. The quarterbacks enjoyed a good pocket behind the first team offensive line.
On the second unit, Lyle Sendlein really stood out at center. Even against the first team defense he was winning the majority of his battles in pass blocking.
With Bo Scaife sitting out the morning practice (as the coaches typically do during two-a-days with players coming off knee injuries), David Thomas, Brock Edwards and Neale Tweedie took all the snaps at TE. Thomas is going to be a force. He was again open in the middle on nearly every play, and his blocking looks to be improving. Edwards would probably start at TE for most teams in the Big 12, yet he will likely be the starting fullback this season.
Tweedie is really impressive. He needs to see the field at some position this season because he is an incredible talent. He lined up at both left tackle and tight end today and performed very well at both. At tackle, he completely stoned freshman defensive end Tim Crowder. Hopefully the coaching staff will script some plays to utilize his talents, because he could be deadly in a goal-line jumbo package.
Freshman TE Steven Hogan had a tough morning, dropping all three passes thrown to him in drills.
Health is the only issue here. If Williams and Thomas stay healthy, this unit will be unstoppable. Starters Williams, Johnson and Thomas just look incredible. They are catching everything and imparting wisdom to the younger guys. Robert Timmons gets better every day. He is so strong, and much faster in pads than his advertised speed. Tony Jeffery and Brian Carter are also playing great, catching everything thrown their way.
The talent at this position is criminal.
The running backs looked very good today. Cedric Benson, Selvin Young and Erik Hardeman are playing at a very high level. Each is hitting the hole quickly and with power. Hardeman is making it a tough decision to redshirt him. Each back looks very comfortable running the option or in the pro-set. They have also been playmakers in the passing game.
At fullback, Edwards is the clear starter at this point, but Will Matthews has surprised. He is a devastating blocker and is showing better quickness and hands than he is credited for. Albert Hardy just isn’t on the field enough for me to judge where he is at this point. He has lined up split with Young and Hardeman a couple of times when Mock is in the shotgun.
Plays of the Day
During 11-on-11 drills, backup WLB Marcus Myers made a great read on a play action pass from Mock, dropping back into coverage for the interception in the middle of the field on an crossing route attempt for Sloan Thomas.
In drills, Timmons made a spectacular, one-handed sideline grab on the dead run.
Out of Action
The kicking game has been a pleasant surprise recently, though consistency is still a concern. Punter Taylor Landin had a strong morning, nailing two of his three punts, including a 55-yard effort. Richmond McGee also drilled a high, deep punt in drills.
Kicker Dusty Mangum has been automatic from 35 yards and in. He hasn’t taken too many longer than that yet. For the first time in a long time, kickoffs might not be a problem. Kicking with a slight wind, McGee hit all three of his kickoff attempts into the end zone, and David Pino did the same on three of his four attempts.
DE Bryan Pickryl absolutely destroyed the second offensive line on a reverse to Graham-Chapman.
Mack Brown was really on his receivers during drills today. He chastised several receivers for taking their sideline routes out of bounds rather than cutting up field, yelling at them to "know where the boundary is."
WR Timmons is really making a push for the No. 4 receiver. He seems to make a great play everyday and loves to go over the middle.
Marcus Tubbs had a very strong morning. He was in the backfield regularly and would have had at least three sacks.
As good as Cedric Griffin is, don’t be surprised if freshman DB Aaron Ross isn’t the team's second best corner by the end of the season. During 11-on-11 drills, he was again all over his man. On one play, he had blanket coverage of Enard and knocked away the pass from Young.
Speaking of Enard, he struggled a bit today, dropping a couple of passes during drills.
Coach Brown gave backup fullback Eric Hall an earful when Hall, reacting to a late hit by the defense, threw the ball at the defender.
S Michael Griffin had an excellent morning, sniffing out and breaking up a wide receiver screen and picking off a deep ball from Mock.
TE Thomas probably has the best hands on the team. He caught everything near him once again today.
Texas is going to miss Chris Simms’ accuracy, but the athletic dimension that Mock, Young and even Nordgren brings is totally changing the offense. There is just so much more movement that even the short tosses to receivers are coming after shifts and a roll out.