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February 25, 2012
Spring practice notebook
Texas went through its second workout of the spring season on Saturday afternoon, with the team going through a spirited practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets.
Things will really pick up when the team suits up in full pads on Tuesday, but we checked with multiple people tonight to get some updates on Saturday's practice.
--- Mack Brown said at his press conference kicking off the spring season that just about every offensive player (and some defensive players) have volunteered to take over Fozzy Whittaker's role as a wildcat specialist.
This position likely will not be settled for a long, long time and it's hard to gauge much of anything from the ground game before the team goes to full pad workouts (most of Saturday's work was in the passing game), but a couple different players took direct snaps at the practice.
Jeremy Hills and Jaxon Shipley both spent a bit of time as a wildcat quarterback on Saturday. Common sense would indicate that Shipley, after gaining valuable experience in the roll last year, will be a part of the equation in some form or fashion in 2012. Hills will likely be part of what will be a revolving door as several guys are tried at the position over the course of the spring and into the summer.
--- We're told that David Ash took the overwhelming majority of the quarterback reps and nearly all of the first-team snaps. Case McCoy is second in the pecking order and true freshman Connor Brewer third.
Mack Brown didn't name Ash as the runaway leader at the quarterback position in his press conference on Thursday, but it was pretty clear coming into the spring season that Ash was the frontrunner for the top spot on the depth chart. Through two practices, there's been little doubt.
"Ash got way more of the meaningful work," one person said. "But you know what? All the quarterbacks actually did some nice things. Everyone knows Ash is the guy and everyone is cool with their roles. McCoy was in a good mood even when Ash was getting the most reps so he seems to be handling everything just fine. And it's still early."
"Ash looked really good. He did really well," another source said. "Actually, all the quarterbacks did well. But you can tell Ash has been working hard and it's paying off already."
--- When a team is in shorts, it tilts the scales towards the offense, since the defensive players cannot really get physical at the point of attack in the trenches and in pass coverage.
The offense took advantage and had a good day on Saturday. A couple people we talked to mentioned that it's night and day from what was shown in 2011, and the offensive players have a sense of confidence in their second year in the new offensive system.
"Everything is just flowing a lot better," one source said. "The passing game is light years better now at this time than they were last year."
--- Wide receiver Mike Davis was singled out by multiple sources as having a terrific day. As was Jaxon Shipley. Looking for an early sleeper? Bryant Jackson was said to have had a terrific practice.
There was some thought that Jackson could move back to defensive back, but he's been locked in at receiver through the first couple practices and he's made a strong impression through the first two workouts. So he's receiver only?
"Yep, and he's getting better every day," one of our top sources said.
--- There's not a lot that can be determined at the defensive tackle spot through two workouts in shorts and helmets, but Brandon Moore was once again singled out as one of the defense's top performers.
A second source noted the performances of both junior college transfers (Moore and Donald Hawkins).
"Those JUCO dudes are huge, and huge assets," one source said. "They're big adds."
--- More on Hawkins and the offensive line ...
Hawkins worked out at left tackle, with Josh Cochran again running with the first team offense at right tackle.
"Hawkins looked really, really good. Cochran moved over to right tackle and Hawkins was at left again," one observer said. "Hawkins is just very active. It's his first time being out there, but he's an active guy. He's quick and he has really good feet. He stood out with the offensive line."
--- Yet another source pointed to Hawkins and Cochran when asked about standouts in the trenches on Saturday.
"Hawkins and Cochran looked really good. And the center (Dominic Espinosa. Actually, all the linemen looked good as much as you can in no pads, but those three really stood out the most," one observer said.
"It's pretty crazy with Hawkins. He's new to the whole system, but he just gets it. He's good student of the game. In the morning in the film room, he was busy taking a bunch of notes. He makes sure he's a good student of the game. He's going to be able to run block and pass block and he's showing well against really good defensive ends. That really sets him apart."
--- We'll stress again that everything should be taken with a grain of salt until the team puts on the full pads. And truthfully, the first week of spring practice is a bit of a feeling out process while the coaches mix and match new combinations of personnel. The real test will come when the team returns after spring break for the final stretch run.
But you have to like what's being said about the guys up front. Along with Hawkins, Cochran and Espinosa being mentioned on Saturday, one spectator said Mason Walters made his mark in keeping the offense focused.
"Walters, the guard. He's a good leader. He was telling everyone to pick it up. He just motivates people," a source said. "I really like that out of him. And so does everyone on the team. He doesn't like people to slack off.
"And if you don't agree with what he's saying, who is going to tell him? No way. Not that guy."
--- For the second straight day, there was not a single turnover in scrimmage work. That's a credit to the quarterbacks, but the common theme of the day on Saturday was the strong play of the receivers.
"The receivers caught everything," one source said. "Big difference (from last year)."
"The receivers are killing it," another person said. "But the pads come on on Tuesday so we'll start seeing separation after that."
--- More on Shipley ...
"Jaxon Shipley is just a freak. Watching him is something else," one observer said. "He's so quick, his feet are so fast. You can barely see his feet when he's moving, that's how fast they move. But he's fluid with his routes. He definitely stood out.
"All the wide receivers were getting after it. The tempo was great. Everyone was going hard all the time."
--- According to a source, Texas did more throwing than running during Saturday's practice session. During one period, the quarterbacks did a "blitz period" that was designed specifically for making quick reads to the correct hot route. Also, the Horns did the usual - seven-on-seven, two team sessions, and one-on-ones - during the practice session. UT was running a lot of multiple sets on offense with different looks consistently. Of the quarterbacks, this source said "both Ash and McCoy looked about the same with some good throws."
Mike Davis was singled out as someone that had a great practice.
--- One person who paid particular attention to the offense said that side of the ball had a good day on Saturday.
"They all looked good. Even the second team looked great. David Ash and Case McCoy looked really, really good throwing the ball today," the source said. "Ash got a really good view of things. The defense showed lots of blitz packages as always. They got to see how he reacts under pressure. He reacted really well."
--- The wide receiver position battled through injuries and some bad luck last year, but the guys at that position are charged up through the first two workouts and their attitudes have been terrific. Jaxon Shipley had a good day today and one source told us that Mike Davis is really stepping up his efforts as a leader.
"The wide outs look to be focused today. There weren't many dropped passes at all," one source said. "Mike Davis chewed somebody's butt out for going for going half speed in a drill. If any of the wide outs drop a pass, they jump down and do push ups without anybody telling them to."
--- M.J. McFarland showed some nice hands today. No real input on his blocking yet and that won't come until the full pads come on next week. McFarland will still need to prove that he can improve his footwork and blocking skills, but he did some nice things in the passing game on Saturday.
"You can tell he use to star at wide out in high school," one person said.
--- Workouts in shorts are usually more favorable for defensive linemen than offensive linemen, but we heard that the defensive line was "getting off the ball pretty quickly" on Saturday.
"(Ashton) Dorsey is a hoss and Chris Whaley is an athletic freak," a source said.
Alex Okafor and Reggie Wilson picked up first-team defensive end reps and Wilson turned in a solid day.
"Wilson blew by a poor lineman and almost ran down Jeremy Hills on a play," a source said.
Again, the true test for the defensive line and offensive line will come when the team moves to full pads.
--- On linebacker Steve Edmond ... "He looks like he's 250, maybe more. He hit somebody earlier and the coaches came and talked to him. I think they told him to calm down."
--- During the practice, Dallas Lake Highlands OT Kent Perkins "was getting all the love he could possibly want."
--- Quandre Diggs and Kenny Vaccaro both impressed from a purely physical standpoint. Diggs was described as being very filled out after his time in the off-season program. Vaccaro "looks like a linebacker," one person said.
"And Kenny is jawing to every wideout that comes across the middle," a source said.
--- Tevin Jackson lined up on the edge in a buck position and showed some flashes. One person said he looks like a young Sergio Kindle and he could see Jackson growing into a combo LB/DE role in time.
"I think that's where his future is, if not this year maybe next year. He looks every bit of 6-3 and 235. He'll be 250 way before he leaves."