Monday Practice Observations

Glynn, OL improved since Wednesday scrimmage

Observations from the Horns' Monday morning practice at Denius.

Overview

The Longhorns returned from their day off to wage a brisk, business-like, two-hour practice this morning at Denius Fields.

Practicing in shorts and shoulder pads, the players stretched and warmed up for about 20 minutes before breaking off into unit drills. In passing drills, quarterbacks Chance Mock and Vince Young struggled a bit with their accuracy at first, but settled into a groove, though Young continues to be inconsistent with his accuracy on short routes. Mock didn’t appear to be too bothered by the thumb he injured in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Because of two-a-days, they Horns skipped one-on-one receiver/defensive back drills and went right into 11-on-11 competition. For the most part, these drills were mix-and-match, with a combination of first and second team offense taking on a similar combination on defense.

The Horns closed the final 20 minutes of practice by splitting 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.

The next practice is scheduled for this evening at 7:05 at Denius Fields.

11-on-11

The first team offense, with Matt Nordgren at quarterback, squared off against the first team defense on two series this morning. On the first play of the first series, the line provided Nordgren with excellent protection, but the secondary gave him no place to throw the ball resulting in an incompletion. On the second play, linebacker Derrick Johnson streaked in on a blitz for a sure sack, but the play continued as Nordgren threw over the middle and was nearly picked off by safety Dakarai Pearson.

Mock then joined the first team, but didn’t have much better luck than Nordgren. Mock had few places to throw, hitting Brian Carter for a 7-yard pick up, but missed or just got rid of the ball on his other three attempts. The line provided excellent protection on all but one snap, as Marcus Tubbs blew up the left side to get pressure on Mock.

The coaching staff then split the field up, pitting the first team offense against a mixture of the second and third team defense on the North end, and the second team offense against a mixture of the first and second team defense on the South end, one play after another in rapid fire succession.

The story of the morning was the protection provided by the first team offensive line. On all but one play, Mock was able to stand in the pocket and go through his reads. At times, he could have read the morning paper back there. The line also opened up good holes for the running backs, opening huge holes on the left side for Selvin Young on an off-tackle run and a toss sweep. In a hopeful sign of things to come, center Jason Glynn hit Tully Janszen and then rolled forward and blocked linebacker Scott Derry to help spring Mock on an option keeper.

The play of the morning was a 40-yard strike to B.J. Johnson for a touchdown behind great blocking by the offensive line. A close second was the final play for the first team offense, as Mock executed a perfect play action fake, rolled left and hit Roy Williams 15-yards up field for what likely would have been a touchdown Mock finished 8-14 with one, if not two touchdowns.

On the South end, the first team defense again ruled the day, getting good pressure on the quarterback and stuffing the run. On the very first play, Marcus Tubbs stormed into the backfield for a sure sack. The play was allowed to continue, and Young hit Dustin Miksch for a two-yard gain. The defensive line and Garnet Smith then stopped Brock Edwards on a fullback draw for no gain. The play of the morning for the second team offense was a good, hard off-tackle run by Erik Hardeman for about 7 yards.

The defense limited Young to short passes to the backs and tight ends. While Young was pretty sharp on those short routes, hitting on 5 of 6, the longest play was an 8-yard completion to Edwards over the middle. Even that play may have been a sack, as Kalen Thornton, who is taking snaps at both right and left DE, got good pressure on Young.

Nordgren also saw action on the South end and was harried by the pressure and tight coverage of the first team defense. On the day, Nordgren was just 1 of 7, his one hook-up coming on a nice play fake and completion to Josh Graham-Chapman on a crossing route. Pearson came very close to picking off two Nordgren passes.

The Doctor is In

Tailback Brett Robin returned to practice Monday after missing Saturday’s scrimmage to take the MCAT, the medical school entrance exam.

My Two Cents

Don’t look now, but the first team offensive line is beginning to play some very good football. Last season, Jason Glynn was often overpowered and overmatched. But how much of that was due to a scheme that clearly didn’t play to his strengths? Since Will Allen went down with an injured thumb, Glynn has been quite good. Offensive line coach Mac McWhorter seems to be scheming to his players strengths and, more importantly, to cover up a player’s weakness.

For instance, Glynn continues to get a lot of help from guards Tillman Holloway and Mike Garcia. The much-maligned zone-blocking scheme was working well this morning, as Mock had literally all day for much of the morning. Overall, in 11-on-11 action, even when facing the first team defense, there were only a few instances where the defensive line got real pressure on the quarterback. The line also opened several good holes in the running game, often getting to the next defender to get a good hit on a linebacker.

I won’t get too far ahead of myself, since it was only shorts and shoulder pads this morning, but the fact is that the offensive line has looked better each day since Wednesday’s first scrimmage. I plan on watching the line closely again this evening and will report back.

Kicking Game

Richmond McGee may be getting a chance to win the punter’s job. After a solid performance in Sunday’s scrimmage, McGee and Taylor Landin, not Justin Smith, worked on punting from the 50-yard line and their end zone, including the proper way to take a safety. McGee got a bit of an earful from Special Teams Coordinator Mike Tolleson when he did not get out of bounds in the face of pressure.

Landin booted his kick from the 50-yard line into the end zone, and got off a pretty good punt from his end zone. McGee hit a nice punt from the back of the end zone.

The punters closed out this morning’s practice, Landin getting off a low, short punt that took a great bounce, resulting in a 60-yard effort. McGee then boomed a very high 40-yarder.

Overall, the punters continue to struggle with consistency, and are a real concern as the season draws near. Head Coach Mack Brown has been keeping a close eye on the progress of this unit, monitoring each drill. If other practices are any indication, Justin Smith will likely take most of the snaps at punter in tonight’s second practice.

Quick Hits

Vince Young appeared to tweak his ankle, missing a few plays during 11-on-11 drills. He returned and showed no ill effects.

Tim Crowder continues to impress. When matched up against the second offensive line, Crowder got good pressure on Mock on back-to-back plays. The first came on a pure speed move to the outside, which he followed up with an excellent inside move.

Mike Garcia, who was helped off the field during Saturday’s scrimmage, returned to practice and showed no ill effects.

Will Matthews continues to run as first team fullback. He had another strong morning, picking up the blitz, running the draw and punishing linebackers on the lead block.

Linebacker Brian Robison rotated in with the first team defense for part of the morning.

Phillip Geiggar continues to rotate with Michael Huff on the first team D. Geiggar has been a standout on defense and special teams this fall and is making it difficult for Huff to win back his starting strong safety position.

As has been the case thus far this fall, wide receiver Sloan Thomas sat out the first session of two-a-days.

The offense continues to emphasize play action, the draw, roll outs and the option.

Larry Dibbles had a very good morning, penetrating to stop a reverse in the backfield and blowing past Garcia to get good pressure on Mock.

Will Allen was one of the first players to arrive this morning, hitting the field at 6:55 a.m. with the punters, kickers and long snappers. He continues to snap to quarterbacks in passing drills with his left hand.

Injured defensive end Mike Williams continues to stretch with the team and is wearing a light brace on his knee.

Freshman defensive back Erick Jackson appeared to have either taken a hit to the head or was suffering from dizziness. He was taken off the field by trainer Kenny Boyd and did not return to action.

Mock is really being careful not to force passes into tight coverage. He is staying in the pocket, making his reads and then either runs or throws the ball away.

Trey Bates and Justin Blalock continue to practice snapping the ball to reserve quarterback Robert Mitchell. Bates has taken snaps at center with the first team offensive line.

Safety Dakarai Pearson appeared none the worse for wear after tweaking his left ankle in warm ups prior to Sunday’s scrimmage. The ankle was wrapped and he performed all drills and in 11-on-11 competition.

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