One day after their first scrimmage, the Longhorns held an efficient, fast-paced practice Thursday morning at Denius Fields. Practicing in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, there was much less hitting as the Horns continued to implement their game plans as they prepare for the August 31st opener against New Mexico State.
Despite the heavy rains yesterday, the field was in very good condition.
The next practice is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. tonight.
Much of the action in today’s practice occurred in 11-on-11 competition. For the final 35 minutes of practice, the Horns again split the field, running the first offense vs. the second defense on the North end of the field, and the second offense vs. the first defense on the South end, running plays in rapid fire succession.
Frankly, the first team defense is by far the most impressive unit and looks poised for perhaps its best year under Mack Brown. Today, though the second team offensive line provided Vince Young better pass protection, there was still very little the second team offense could accomplish vs. the No. 1 D. The coverage by the secondary was like glue for the entire set of drills, leaving Young and Matt Nordgren nowhere to throw. I don’t think I saw a receiver or tight end open during the 11-on-11. The only pass reception was a nifty short pass over the middle from Young to Josh Graham-Chapman into tight coverage. Nathan Vasher, Cedric Griffin, Phillip Geiggar, Matt Melton and Aaron Ross all had PBUs during the drills.
With no success throwing the ball, the second team offense tried draws and short passes to the running backs, but saw very few gains. Linebacker Derrick Johnson filled the hole quickly on a draw to Selvin Young, giving him a good pop and stopping him for no gain. On a play that typified the morning for the first team defense, Tim Crowder and Marcus Tubbs blew through the line and converged on Nordgren just as he finished his play action fake.
By contrast, the first team offense was efficient and more successful against the second team defense. The offensive line provided very good protection, giving Mock a good pocket and time to throw. On a couple of occasions, the coverage by the second team defense was strong enough to force Mock on the move, but he made no mistakes with the ball and either found an open receiver short or ran with the ball.
Overall, Mock was very accurate throughout the drill, hitting Roy Williams for 22 yards on a play action roll out. Mock also hit Tony Jeffery on a post for a big gain. The receivers also dropped a couple passes, one a 30 yard strike down the right side that would have gone for a touchdown. B.J. Johnson appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball on the play.
The line also blocked pretty well for Cedric Benson on the few running plays attempted. A reverse right to B.J. Johnson and an option left to Benson both were sprung for big gains.
The second team defense had its moments as well, usually when WRs Williams and Johnson were on the sideline. On one pass play, all four options were completely locked up, resulting in a coverage sack on Mock. Later, Marco Martin and Eric Foreman sniffed out a draw and stuffed it at the line of scrimmage on the left side.
Play of the Morning
During 11-on-11 drills, Mock executed a perfect play action fake, rolled left a hit TE Neale Tweedie 10 yards over the middle, but a terrific block by David Thomas turned a nice play into a huge gain.
The offense, again emphasized motion, play action and formation shifts, while the defense continued to rotate players in every four or five plays to develop depth.
All three quarterbacks have developed an excellent play action fake. Each seems very comfortable utilizing the fake and rolling out of the pocket.
Recovering from off-season surgeries, Bo Scaife and Kalen Thornton sat out this morning’s 11-on-11 drills but should return to the field tonight.
Roy Williams is open whenever he wants to be. The coaching staff is wisely working to develop other threats rather than just throwing the ball to Williams 20 times during practice.
Garnet Smith seems to get better every day. During 11-on-11 drills, he totally shut down the middle against the run and had a sure sack of Young on a blitz.
Working with the second defense, Aaron Harris looked very good in 11-on-11 drills, locking up the tight end in pass coverage and making a good read to plug the hole on a run by Benson. Harris worked mainly with Scott Derry and Eric Foreman.
How good is the first team defense? During 11-on-11 drills, I wrote down "nowhere to go" on seven of 11 plays run by the second team offense.
Aaron Ross continues to be a revelation. Working with the first team, Ross broke up two consecutive passes. On the first pass, he jumped a short route and just missed an interception. On the second, he blanketed his receiver on an intermediate sideline route and slapped the ball away. Ross also made a nice stick on Benson, wrapping him up for little gain.
OG Mike Garcia continues to wear a brace on his left knee.
Linebackers Robert Killebrew and Derry continue to make plays. Killebrew showed terrific speed on a blitz that probably would have been a sack in live competition, and Derry just seems to be around the ball.
TE David Thomas should be a major target in the red zone this year. Twice during red zone drills, Thomas got open over the middle of the field for big plays.
One of two things happened today. Either the defensive linemen backed off a bit on their pass rush, or Mac McWhorter chewed out the offensive line in film review and his charges responded. Either way, there was generally much better pass protection by the first and second team offensive lines this morning.
The wrap on center Will Allen’s injured right thumb appeared to be smaller today.
William Winston looked very good this morning against the 1st team defense, providing good pass protection on the right side.
Rodrique Wright did some extra running work after practice with fellow line mate Marco Martin.