Wednesday Scrimmage Notes and Analysis-Part 1

Young turns in the play of the day

Part 1 of notes and analysis from the Horns' Wednesday scrimmage.

Overview

A day after an extremely physical practice, the Longhorns held their first official scrimmage of the fall before a good-sized crowd at DKR-Memorial Stadium.

The pace was quick, but the hitting was a little less intense than last night’s practice, as the referees blew the whistle pretty early on several plays. There were several huge hits, however, including a crushing blindside block by Bryan Pickryl on kicker Richmond McGee on the opening kickoff. Unfortunately for fans, the scrimmage was called off about 20 plays early due to lightning in downtown Austin.

The Longhorns next practice is scheduled for 7:15 a.m. Thursday morning.

Quarterbacks

Quarterback Chance Mock played exclusively with the first team offense, while Vince Young played only with the second team. Third string Matt Nordgren played sparingly with a combination of second and third team players.

Mock took part in three series, all against the second team defense, connecting on 5 of 9 passes with 2 touchdowns. The highlight was a great read and throw to B.J. Johnson for a 52-yard touchdown to cap off his first drive. Mock also led a solid drive later in the scrimmage. He capped off the 62-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Sloan Thomas while rolling to his left after a nice play-fake.

Overall, Mock looked poised and in command on the afternoon, avoiding pressure well and making good reads. He avoided any big mistakes and made several nice plays with his arm and feet, escaping heavy pressure on several occasions and scrambling for positive yards.

Young also played three series, all against the first team defense, with some substitutions. Young had to scramble for his life most of the afternoon to avoid the constant pressure. He was "sacked" a couple of times and finished only 1 for 3 for no touchdowns. His best pass came on a perfectly executed roll out and throw back screen to tight end Neale Tweedie that picked up 25 yards on second and 16. Young also made several plays with his feet and instincts, including the play of the day (see below). Young did make one poor decision in the passing game, when he tried to force a pass to Limas Sweed on a sideline route that was perfectly covered by Aaron Ross. A better thrown ball probably would have been intercepted and taken back the other way.

Nordgren looked good in his two back-to-back series against a combination of second and third team defenders. He was pretty sharp, connecting on 2 of 3 passes, including a dandy out route to Sweed off a play fake that gained 21 yards.

Offensive line

The first team offensive line showed flashes of dominance, opening huge holes for the running game and offering a strong pocket for Mock. Unfortunately, the line also had several breakdowns in both pass and run blocking that led to lost yardage. The second team defense got in the backfield on the first three plays of the scrimmage, but the offensive line did tighten up on the drive, providing Mock with good protection and opening holes for Cedric Benson. Justin Blalock and Tillman Holloway looked particularly strong, and Jonathan Scott shook off a rough start to play well.

A good sign for the line was that they kept fighting until the end of the play, especially Blalock. He kept fighting on one play that looked like a sure loss of yardage for Benson, who bounced off a tackler on the play and ran hard for 10 yards.

The second team offensive line was just overmatched by the first team defense. Kalen Thornton and Pickryl were fixtures in the backfield throughout their three series. Redshirt freshman Lyle Sendlein was a relative bright spot on a day the second unit would probably like to forget.

Running Backs

New running backs coach Mike Haywood’s influence continues to shine through. Running backs Benson, Selvin Young, Brett Robin and Erik Hardeman all looked strong when given any chance to run. They finished hard and were rarely brought down by the first man. Fullbacks Brock Edwards, Will Matthews, Eric Hall and Albert Hardy made some big hits, and Matthews and Hall made a few nifty runs on fullback draws, including a 20-yard gain for Hall.

Benson looked particularly good, breaking off several good runs, often after he had been hit in the backfield. Hardeman also displayed his power and shiftiness running with the third team.

Receivers

The receiving corps, along with the defensive middle, is the deepest unit on the team. Roy Williams played only a couple of series, but came up with two short catches that led to a first down. B.J. Johnson made a fantastic catch in tight coverage from Tarell Brown. The weight work Johnson put in during the summer clearly paid off, as he was too strong for Brown, as he broke away down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown.

Tony Jeffery took a perfectly executed wide receiver screen on 3rd and long and slashed and sprinted for a 30-yard gain. Sweed ran good routes and showed good hands, hauling in a nice sideline route from Nordgren. TE Tweedie also took a wide receiver screen from Vince Young for 25 yards. He looks like a natural at the position.

TE David Thomas and WRs Sloan Thomas and Brian Carter each dropped a pass that would have resulted in big yardage. Sloan Thomas made up for it later with a 25-yard touchdown reception after staying with his route as Mock rolled left.

Few other receivers got an opportunity, especially on the second team because of the defensive pressure put on the quarterback.

Overall, the offense continued to showcase the option, rocket pitch, shifting formations, the shotgun and multiple tight end sets. Getting the backs involved — both the halfbacks and the fullbacks — was a major theme of the scrimmage as the offense ran the ball much more than it threw.

Checkpoint

A little under halfway through fall practice, two things are clear: the defensive units are ahead of the offense at this point, and depth should definitely not be a problem on defense, as the reserves performed very well. The first and second defenses — particularly the defensive line units — were so impressive at times that it raises a disturbing question: is the defense that good, or is the offensive line struggling.

The answer is probably both. Texas’ defense has incredible depth and the first team, led by defensive end Kalen Thornton and linebacker Derrick Johnson, looks to be shaping up as one of the nation’s best. There are so many playmakers on that defense that the second team offense looked overwhelmed at times.

The first team offensive line alternated between great and bad. Consistency on their part could be the key to the season. Right now, redshirt freshman Blalock and senior Holloway are the clear leaders of the line. They made no noticeable mistakes and made several good, multiple blocks on running plays.

Despite the up-and-down performance by the offensive line — and the very impressive play of the talented second team defense — the first team offense did score two touchdowns in three drives, and committed no major errors. This against a "second team" that included a rotation of Tim Crowder, Stevie Lee, Adam Doiron, Larry Dibbles, Tully Janszen and Kaelen Jakes up front, Marcus Myers, Brian Robison and Robert Killebrew at linebacker, and Ross, Brown, Matt Melton and Rufus Harris in the defensive backfield.

Play of the Day

Defensive end Pickryl burst in off the edge to blow up an option pitch by Vince Young, slapping the ball high in the air…to Vince Young. The QB grabbed the loose ball in mid-air, reversed field and made a terrific run through traffic for a 10-yard gain.

Quick Hits

Linebacker Aaron Harris attended the scrimmage in shorts and jersey but did not participate.

Tubbs, who sat out Tuesday’s scrimmage, started and looked very strong, stacking the run and getting good pressure on the quarterback.

DE Pickryl had a very nice afternoon, getting consistent pressure of the left edge and holding up well against the run. He registered at least one "sack" and made several plays in the backfield.

Both David Thomas and Sloan Thomas dropped passes from Mock that would have gone for big gains.

Crowder was very impressive running with the second team defense. He got in the backfield and disrupted several plays.

Aaron Ross will be a major factor on defense this season. He played several snaps with the first unit today, as a cornerback and as a nickel back.

Vince Young made an incredible left-right move on LB Reed Boyd to escape heavy pressure.

Note: Stay tuned for a more thorough overview of the defense and more Quick Hits.

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