Texas Football: Winners and Losers of Orange and White Game
The Texas Longhorns held their annual Orange and White spring game Saturday, providing a short glimpse of the developments made since beating Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl in December.
A newly installed spread offense had been the talk of the town, and any lingering ghosts from Bryan Harsin's motion-heavy schemes appeared to have disappeared as the 'Horns move into a brand new era of Texas football.
David Ash and Johnathan Gray were among several players who stood out this past weekend, but others suffered much less impressive outings.
Fortunately, the spring game is a two-way street. It allows the fan base a look under the microscope, but it also gives the players a live opportunity to showcase their growth and savvy in live action in front of eager supporters.
As the spring game delivered an enveloping look into what exactly the Texas program has been developing over the past few months, there appeared to be more good news than bad news stemming from this weekend, perhaps more of the former than the latter.
Winner: QB David Ash
In many ways, David Ash was the headliner for Texas' spring game.
With a freshly installed offense, many eyes were focused on just how comfortable Ash commanded the spread attack, and by most accounts, the junior looked very much in control with quick and decisive decision-making.
Ash did throw two interceptions, but they mainly served as lowlights under a solid outing featuring several quick throws in space, as well as a deep touchdown pass to Mike Davis.
The offense is still very much a work in progress, but Ash took another step forward as a player and as a leader under new schematics.
Loser: QB Case McCoy
Of the top three quarterbacks on the depth chart, Case McCoy, if anything, lost a little bit of ground.
As usual, McCoy looked comfortable operating a quick offense, but he still lacks touch throwing a deep ball. Solid completions preceded a lousy interception that looked more like a prayer or a punt rather than a pass.
McCoy is the undisputed No. 2 guy for now, but if true freshman Tyrone Swoopes continues to come on and make progress in the passing game, McCoy's seat behind Ash will become increasingly hot.
Winner: WR Kendall Sanders
The buzz surrounding Kendall Sanders is gaining some momentum heading into the summer months.
Slotted as the No. 3 receiver on the depth chart, Sanders satisfied that role with a catch-and-run touchdown on Saturday. A quick catch in the flat, followed by a couple of shifty maneuvers sprung him free before accelerating down the right sideline for a touchdown; a single play that will stick in the back of the coaches' minds as they move closer to solidifying more starting positions.
Sanders still has much to learn, but for him to make such an impact has most of the chips in his favor as the 2013 season approaches.
It was a good outing for the sophomore.
Winner: RB Johnathan Gray
Johnathan Gray had himself a fine freshman campaign almost by necessity after Malcolm Brown missed five games with an injury.
As one of the most talented returning players in Austin, Gray was every bit as impressive as he was last season, showing the same shiftiness and knack for extra yards after contact.
Although there was little doubt of Gray's capabilities, the sophomore simply reaffirmed he is indeed one of the offense's best weapons. In ripping a couple of nice runs, Gray's place in the offense is critical and necessary.
Gray is in for a special season.
Winner: QB Tyrone Swoopes
True freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes played just one series in the spring game, but he solicited plenty of oohs and ahhs from the crowd with his size and mobility.
Dare we say that Swoopes reminds of a certain No. 10 that ran amok during his time on the 40 Acres, but the Whitewright, Texas product has the physical attributes that should become headline material in Austin in short time.
Swoopes did limited damage with his arm, but his movement in the open field is a quality that should earn him serious looks as a backup to Ash this season, if not the next.
Winner: S Adrian Phillips
Much maligned for his poor play last season, Adrian Phillips is in line for a rebound type of year that would put him back into the good graces of the Texas faithful.
Phillips led the team in tackles in the spring game, and his poor tackling efforts that would consistent throughout the 2012 season seem to be behind him. Now, tackling teammates is one thing and bringing down stout opposition is another, but Phillips is definitely in the right direction.
The senior safety will start, and his recent outings during the spring have warranted that kind of recognition.
Winner: WR/DB Duke Thomas
A relative unknown for many Texas supporters, Duke Thomas is a recent emergence, surprisingly at wide receiver where numbers remain thin.
It still remains to be seen if Thomas will make a full-time switch to the offensive side of the ball, but there is little question that he can make an impact with the ball in his hands. The spring game helped deliver that message.
Thomas committed to the 'Horns as a defensive back, but with a very crowded secondary with a rotation that will be quite formidable, Thomas could easily have a larger grossing impact on offense.
The sophomore made some impressive runs as a kick returner, a spot he could fill in the absence of Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe.
Winner: CB Sheroid Evans
With Quandre Diggs expected to see a multitude of positions in the secondary—especially at the nickel corner—others will get looks at the vacated spots.
Sophomore Sheroid Evans flashed some brilliance in limited action last season, but he has come on this spring as a solid option opposite to Carrington Byndom at cornerback, a move that easily could solidify the front end of the defensive backs.
The added confidence in Evans has shown, as he has moved ahead of others like Duke Thomas and Leroy Scott as the top cornerback option not named Byndom.
Winner: TE M.J. McFarland
We have not heard much from M.J. McFarland in his first handful of seasons in Austin, but the move to a spread offense could benefit the El Paso product tremendously this year.
The 6'6", 245-pound tight end got some early looks in the passing game, and delivered with good hands and a strong run after the catch, dragging two or three defenders with him in the process.
McFarland is still a young pup, but for a tight end group that has not had a ton of success in recent years, he could be in for a big season if he continues to show progress. The spring game was a great start.
Loser: TE Geoff Swaim
Geoff Swaim was supposed to become a quick-fix option at tight end, but those tales have hardly unfolded for the JUCO transfer.
In fact, not much buzz has surrounded the 6'4", 250-pound Swaim. While it is still very early in the grand scheme of things, he could fall by the wayside if McFarland continues to come on this spring.
Swaim is only a loser because he has not made a big enough dent in the tight end ranks. So as long as others make up ground, the junior Swaim loses it.