Texas Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker
The Texas Longhorns head into spring after finishing last year with a win in the Valero Alamo Bowl over the Oregon State Beavers.
Despite finishing with nine wins and a Top 25 ranking, the Texas faithful are looking for more as the team heads into spring practice. There are a number of key position battles that are going down in Austin and as spring unfolds, this will be your complete guide to the action for Texas.
The spring game is set for Mar. 30 at 6:30 p.m. CT on the Longhorn Network, but before it kicks off, this will be your guide to the news and developments out of Austin this spring.
Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.
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.
Offensive Position Battles to Watch
David Ash (Jr.) vs. Case McCoy (Sr.)
David Ash is the listed starter this spring for the Longhorns, but Case McCoy made a case last season to challenge for the job and with the offensive change coming in Austin, it is hard to imagine the race being completely over.
Expect Ash to finish as the starter, but this is a closer race than it appears on paper.
Predicted Winner: David Ash
Actual Winner: TBD
Johnathan Gray (So.) vs. Malcolm Brown (Jr.) vs. Joe Bergeron (Jr.)
The Longhorns saw Johnathan Gray rise up last year and become a leader at the running back position, finishing the year with 149 carries, 701 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
He is leading the pack for the starting position this spring at tailback, but Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are challenging for the position and are well on their way to playing time.
Predicted Winner: Malcolm Brown
Actual Winner: TBD
Greg Daniels (Jr.) vs. Geoff Swaim (So.)
The tight end position struggled last fall to find a consistent playmaker, but it appears that Greg Daniels has what it takes to become a steady option.
Geoff Swaim is also a rising name and could be a major player for the Longhorns from the position by the end of spring practice.
Predicted Winner: Geoff Swaim
Actual Winner: TBD
Defensive Position Battles to Watch
Steve Edmond (Jr.) vs. Dalton Santos (So.)
Texas walked into the spring looking for a new level of passion to appear at the middle linebacker position. The Longhorns have to like what they see in both players, but Santos may be the favorite before the spring finishes.
Predicted Winner: Dalton Santos
Actual Winner: TBD
Josh Turner (Jr.) vs. Adrian Colbert (Fr.)
Kenny Vaccaro is now gone from the program and the Longhorns are looking for a new playmaker at free safety.
Adrian Phillips is expected to keep his starting role at strong safety, but there are major strides that have to be made before he is firmly entrenched at his position. With Vaccaro gone, the Longhorns need Phillips to step up.
Josh Turner and Adrian Colbert are names to watch in the battle.
Predicted Winner: Josh Turner
Actual Winner: TBD
Early Enrollees Report Card
Tyrone Swoops, QB, 6’4”, 230 lbs - 4-star
Swoops is a talented athlete that played quarterback in high school and is getting an early look at the position in Austin. Expect a redshirt season unless something drastic occurs in the next seven practices.
Deoundrei Davis, OLB, 6’2”, 210 lbs - 4-star
Davis is a talented linebacker, but so far, he is buried on a deep depth chart. Expect Davis to redshirt and develop.
Jake Raulerson, C, 6’5”, 260 lbs - 4-star
Raulerson is a center that has a lot of growth that needs to happen this spring and summer. He has talent to impact immediately, but he needs more bulk. Look for a redshirt to land on Raulerson.
Geoff Swaim, TE, 6’5”, 250 lbs - 3-star
Swaim has already made his presence known on the field as a rising star at tight end and could become a major part of the red-zone offense. Swaim is living up to his JUCO transfer expectations.
Sleepers to Watch
Bryant Jackson, Wide Receiver
Jackson needs to step into a starting role this spring. He is a rising junior and is one of the players on roster with the talent that has yet to be harnessed into production. Expect big things this spring.
Malcolm Brown, Running Back
The Longhorns had high expectations for Brown last year, but he battled to create consistency on the ground. Brown was hurt by a nagging ankle injury in 2012, so the hope is that those woes are gone so he can reach his 2011 potential in 2013.
Shiro Davis, Defensive End
The Longhorns are building depth behind the expected starters Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed. Davis needs to be one of those guys this spring.