Spring Football: Scrimmage Notes and Analysis

A new Benson? (Gallagher)

Notes and analysis from the Horns' Saturday scrimmage.

Run, Cedric, run: Cedric Benson carried the ball on three of four plays on the first-team O's 70-yard scrimmage-opening TD drive Saturday. Benson went for seven on a misdirection pitch where he found the left corner on first down, took a straight handoff over left guard for 18 yards, slipping DT Tully Janszen and leveling FS Dakarai Pearson along the way, and then he burst up the middle and outrun the Texas secondary on a 39-yard scoring scamper. The two key words in the last sentence are "burst" and "outrun." So far this spring, this is NOT the Cedric Benson of the '02 season, who often looked tentative and a step slower hitting the holes than he did in '01. On that first drive, Benson ran behind fullback Will Matthews and an offensive line consisting of LT Jonathan Scott, LG Tillman Holloway, C Jason Glynn, RG Mike Garcia and RT William Winston.

Somewhat misleading statistics: Starting QB Chance Mock completed six of 17 attempts on Saturday for 106 yards (with 70 of those yards recorded on a nicely thrown touch pass to David Thomas), No. 2 signal caller Matt Nordgren connected on three of five tried for 19 yards and an INT, while redshirt freshman Vince Young nailed four of five throws for 45 yards. Young also rushed twice for 23 yards and a TD. Remember, though, that Mock went against the first-team defense on all of his possessions while Nordgren and Young faced off vs. the second-unit D which consisted of walk-on corners and Phillip Geiggar and Matthew Melton at the safety spots. Also know that B.J. Johnson did not play and Roy Williams only played sparingly, pushing Sloan Thomas and Tony Jeffery into the first-team wideout roles. According to a UT official, Johnson was held out of practice for precautionary reasons due to a minor but undisclosed injury. Brian Carter, along with Jeffery, saw substantial action at Johnson's flanker spot.

Not a misleading stat: Vince Young's two rushes for 23 yards and a TD. It's obvious that the coaches plan to take advantage of the running ability of their redshirt freshman QB, both on called QB draws and on option plays. On the first play of Young's first series under center, he slid left down the line of scrimmage before option pitching to No. 3 tailback Brett Robin who made the corner for an 11-yard gain. On the next play, Young took the snap, dropped three steps and then immediately scampered through the middle of the defense for a six-yard gain. Later in the scrimmage, Young turned the same play into a 17-yard TD run. On the draw, the QB started up the middle to the left but abruptly changed directions and angled to the right pylon, outrunning the defensive pursuit. Although his work on the ground was certainly impressive, something else stood out to me as well: his ability to stand his ground. At least twice, Young faced significant pressure but, rather than tuckin' and runnin', he remained in the pocket and calmly located an open receiver for a completion (the first time to Neale Tweedie for a 23-yard gain and the second to Robert Timmons on a play that was called back because of a hold). Mock, who also has the ability to tuck and run, typically did just that when pressured during his first two springs in Austin and didn't show the same pocket ability until his third spring.

Speaking of Mock: The junior QB didn't attempt a pass on the first O's first series, but he completed his first attempt of the day on its next series, a seven-yarder to Roy Williams on a stop route. Mock dropped back to pass on the next two plays, but Rodrique Wright badly beat Jason Glynn for a second down sack and then Garnet Smith blew into the backfield on a blitz to again sack Mock on third down. Then, on the first play of the next ones vs. ones series, Derrick Johnson screamed past FB Will Matthews on a blitz for what should have been the D's third consecutive sack of Mock (the play was ruled an incomplete pass). Mock faced similar pressure all day, much of it coming from Wright up the middle on Glynn and LBs coming off the right edge around William Winston. Derrick Johnson's play is no surprise, but Smith has been one of the unexpected standouts through four days of practice and looks to bring a (much needed) far more physical presence to the SAM spot than last year's starter Lee Jackson. Wright looks to have picked up where he left off in his fabulous freshman campaign, and, on the flip side of that, Glynn also looks to have picked up where he left off.

More Mock: On the scrimmage's final series (one-minute drill), Mock efficiently moved the team from the 30 to the opposing 46 with a 10-yard completion to Jeffery, a six-yard completion to Jeffery and an eight-yarder to Timmons sandwiched around a throw away. But with a first down at the 46 with approximately 20 seconds remaining on the game clock, Mock was almost picked by Nathan Vasher on an attempt for Brian Carter on the right sideline (Carter slipped, which set up the near-INT). The junior QB followed that by overthrowing Jeffery on second down and then David Thomas on third down before the coaches sent on the field goal unit (they moved the ball up to the 30 to do it).

Highlight reel play of the day: Although Neale Tweedie and David Thomas' big gainers, as well as Cedric Benson's long TD scamper and Vince Young's scoring run deserve mention, I'd instead like to point out a defensive play. Vince Young, after faking a handoff up the middle, instead handed the ball to Carter on a right-to-left reverse. SAM LB Brian Robison sniffed out the play and stayed home, forcing Carter further to the outside, where the mammoth Marco Martin swallowed up the diminutive wideout for a five-yard loss. On the next play, sophomore DT Larry Dibbles recovered the ball after a fumbled exchange between center Lyle Sendlein and Vince Young. Although Martin has a long way to go to earn substantial playing time with Wright, Marcus Tubbs, Dibbles and Janszen in front of him, he has the potential to be a 15-snap back-up, adding to the embarrassment of riches the Horns have in the defensive middle.

Fakin' it: The fake has become quite pervasive in the revamped Longhorn offense. Fake reverses, fake draws, play action fakes, etc. were evident on a good portion of UT's Saturday plays. The reverse look, whether actually run or not, is also prevalent.

Pittman gets two: The only defensive end that warranted mention in the notes I took during the scrimmage was Chase Pittman. Pittman combined with Martin early in the scrimmage for a stop of Robin and he showed up later with a sack of Vince Young rushing from the right DE spot.

A good day in the punting game (and the kicking game, too): Taylor Landin and Justin Smith followed up Friday's miserable punting performance with a far better effort on Saturday at the stadium despite the damp, slippery conditions. The official stats list Landin with a 41.3 average on four punts and Smith with a 40.7 average on three punts. Landin (according to my notes) hit his first attempt 34 yards and last attempt 38 yards, but knocked 48- and 47-yarders in between. Smith's long traveled 50 yards. "Yesterday, the kicking was fine and the punting was really inconsistent and we put punting in the team periods today because we wanted them coming back off the bench," Mack Brown said. "They punted so well when we were inside and I was really excited about it and then yesterday it looked like everything went too fast and I was really disappointed for them in the work they'd put in since last fall and I think that was one of the best things that happened today." The Longhorn kickers were perfect during scrimmage situations for the second day in a row, with Dusty Mangum, David Pino and Richmond McGee combining to go 6-6 (five from 37 and one from 47).

Let's play two: Anthony Johnson worked at both WR, his new position this spring, and RB, his position last year as a redshirt freshman.

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