The Texas spring game did less for Longhorns fans than expected. Rising junior David Ash is the clear starter at quarterback for an offense that was borderline terrible last fall.
He was moderately successful in the spring game going 17-of-24 for 162 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, but that wasn’t the performance that was expected from the rising veteran.
Still, his overall performance this spring is something that the coaches were happy with.
Bryan Harsin told the media (via Texas Athletics):
Both those guys are better in the pass game because they understand what the expectations are in each play. The receivers, the tight ends, the backs; everybody that is out and eligible on those past concepts are better at what they are doing. So it is just an overall more consistency in the pass game, and that is really what we needed to see and we did see. I thought those guys did that today for what we asked them to do.
I thought it was pretty balanced in that standpoint. Those guys did what we asked them to do and I was happy with the performance from both those quarterbacks.
When asked about the quarterback competition, Harsin said “David Ash is ahead one day and Case McCoy is ahead the next day. It is a pretty even split as far as what those guys did as far as completion percentage and things like that in each practice.”
Even though the coaches speak calls for an even race, this job is Ash’s to lose at this point.
A positive out of spring was undoubtedly future third string quarterback Tyrone Swoops.
He had a strong spring and proved that he will be a factor in the near future at the position.
The defense was tattered with injuries this spring, and it was difficult for the program to field a full two-deep during the spring game. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had this to say to the media about the depth issues and building a new depth chart (via Texas Athletics):
Well, we're not two-deep, is the first answer to that question. I think that was evidenced today. But it's just really what we need, is those at-bats. We have some talented guys that we're asking to step up in terms of their role compared to where it was last year. And they all make that step at different times. So what you always see when you put together a spring game, and you put it out there, what you see is a photograph taken today on April 1st of where we all stand today. Some guys will take it upon them to improve themselves this summer at varying levels and speeds. And we'll do the same thing. We'll reconvene back in August and take our temperature then and see where we are at.
There is a huge need along the defensive line for the Longhorns and this summer will be huge in developing the position with voluntary workouts.
The need to bring along younger players at nearly every defensive position is also a major concern and factor. This spring was a major stepping stone back in the right direction for Texas, but there is still a lot of work left to do this summer before the program is at championship level.
Update: March 8
The most interesting news to come out of Texas spring so far has not been about position battles or breakout players, but the return of Vince Young.
Young isn't on the team and he isn't coaching, but he is serving as a mentor to the incumbent starting quarterback David Ash.
Ash is talking to Young who has returned to campus in search of a degree. Ash told Mike Finger with the Express News that “I tend to kind of be business all the time, so I have to work on that.”
Taking advice to relax is a good thing for the rigid Longhorns signal-caller.
In interviews with TexasSports.com on Thursday, Manny Diaz and Major Applewhite discussed the progression of spring.
Diaz said that Adrian Phillips is progressing a lot at the safety position and is a player to watch. He also said the attitude has returned as they try and get back the hard-nosed mentality. He also had this to say about practicing against the spread:
It’s a godsend for us. It’s the world that we live in. I’ve been around it both ways. It’s so hard to simulate, so when you see it every day in practice it helps everything you do. It adds to the energy in practice, because there’s no time to wait around. It’s been great. Practices have been very competitive and back and forth.
Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said that David Ash is making solid strides in the offense, and that he has a solid progression each day.
He also said that this is a great offense for getting the ball to playmakers.
This is what he had to say when asked about players making moves so far through eight practices:
I thought all three of the young wideouts, Kendall (Sanders), Marcus (Johnson) and Cayleb (Jones) did a good job this week. Marcus improved in the last two practices and made some moves today, but it is just that consistency. Can you get yourself to be as consistent as (Jaxon) Shipley or Mike (Davis)? That is what those three young guys are competing and trying to do is put themselves on that level. Malcolm (Brown) has done great, too.
Update: March 6
The Longhorns are moving into the middle of the spring practice session with a lot left on the table to be developed.
The Longhorns are moving into a no-huddle offense, and according to senior offensive guard Mason Walters, the Texas offense has a ways to go before it reaches the tempo the coaches are looking for despite a lot of hard work this spring.
Walters had this to say to the media after practice on Tuesday (MackBrown-TexasFootball.com):
This offense is a bear to change your mentality coming from a huddle team to a no-huddle team. The coaches have what they want this offense to be in their head, and they are not accepting anything less than that. Even though we are processing and going through the steps to get quicker, they are not going to be happy with it until it is exactly where they want the ball to be snapped on the play clock. We have a lot of practice left through spring ball that we can work on it.
He went on to say that the young Kennedy Estelle is a player that is coming along and could challenge for a starting spot this fall. Starting lineman Josh Cochran fell to a fractured leg early in practice opening the door for Estelle.
Other notables from the first half of spring have been the development at receiver and the middle linebacker battle.
In the middle, Steve Edmond and Dalton Santos are battling hard, with Santos currently holding the edge in the battle.
In Saturday’s open practice, he took reps with the ones.
At receiver, Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Cayleb Jones are all making strides as they attempt to take the edge off of the loss of Marquise Goodwin to the NFL.