Texas Football: Complete Spring Game Preview
Texas football fans eager to watch some gridiron action will get their fix Saturday at the annual Orange-White spring football game. The Longhorns have finished the first spring practice of the Charlie Strong era, and it has not been all smooth sailing.
A handful of potential starters will not participate in Saturday's game due to new and lingering injuries, including the injury of potential starting quarterback David Ash. He suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and will be sidelined for the spring game.
But not all news heading into Saturday's game is dreary for the Longhorns. Here's a look at what to watch in the Texas Longhorns spring game.
Game nickname: Orange-White Scrimmage
Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET
TV: Longhorn Network
Radio: AM 1300 The Zone
Admission: Free to the public
Position Battles to Watch
The Longhorns lost All-American defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and are looking for someone to take over his role. Texas returns Cedric Reed, who at times played as good as Jeffcoat last season, but who will play opposite of Reed is up in the air.
There are three candidates to take over the starting role: Shiro Davis, Bryce Cottrell and Caleb Bluiett. Davis has spent the last three seasons backing up Jeffcoat, Reed and Alex Okafor, but his time to shine could be quickly approaching. Cottrell saw action in 11 games during his redshirt freshman season, and Bluiett played in nine games in 2013.
One could assume the position is Davis' to lose, but expect a fight from Cottrell and Bluiett.
The Longhorns entered 2013 with one of the most veteran offensive lines in the nation. 2014 is an entirely different situation. Outside of center Dominic Espinosa, the O-line has a combined 10 starts between the group. But guard is the greenest position.
Sedrick Flowers is the only guard who has started a game at Texas, but he proved to be a reliable backup in 2013. Aside from Flowers, Taylor Doyle and Curtis Riser are the only two who have any playing experience. This position is entirely up for grabs and will likely continue to be throughout fall camp.
Depth Issues at Quarterback
The Longhorns only had two scholarship quarterbacks heading into spring practice. Now the lone quarterback is Tyrone Swoopes due to David Ash's injury. Texas fans do not want to hear a position group is desperate for depth, but the quarterback position is desperate for depth.
The spotlight has never been brighter for Swoopes as he attempts to take over the starting role after only seeing action in six games last season—the majority of the experience came during garbage time. But now is the time for him to step up and listen to what Strong and quarterback coach Shawn Watson are saying.
"I told Tyrone: 'The key for you is all about confidence. It is all about doing everything we ask you to do and playing within yourself,'" Strong said. "I said, 'Now that you are the quarterback, just take the field and know this is your team and it is up to you to go lead it.'"
Saturday's game will not be the determining factor of Swoopes' chances to take over the starting job, but he can show the fans and critics what he has to offer.
What the Experts Are Saying
Injuries plague the Texas offense
The injuries to various positions on the Longhorns offense could make the spring game lopsided, and Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com is warning Texas fans not to expect to see much from the offense in the spring game: "The spring game on Saturday could be ugly. If you're expecting the Texas spring game Saturday at 1 pm to show you much more than a first-team defense feasting on a depleted offense, you probably need to recalibrate your expectations."
David Ash No. 1 before injury?
The injury bug bit the quarterback position hard. Strong said Ash had established himself prior to his injury, and ESPN.com's Max Olson weighed in on that:
Charlie Strong on David Ash as starting QB: "I wouldn't say he’s clear No. 1, but he really established himself."— Max Olson (@max_olson) April 15, 2014
The Longhorns had a handful of lingering injuries from various positions heading into spring, but the injuries kept coming during practice. Here are two key injuries that plagued the Longhorns' spring practice.
David Ash, Quarterback: The blows keep coming for Ash, who was sidelined for the majority of the 2013 season with recurring head injuries. His latest injury is a Jones fracture in his left foot that will require surgery. Strong does not know when the injury occurred but said you couldn't tell the quarterback was injured by solely looking at Ash's performance.
"You would have never known that he had the injury by just how well he has been practicing and the way he has been carrying himself," Strong said. "He understands that a team is going to come and go as their quarterback goes and he wants to be a leader."
Kent Perkins, Offensive Lineman: Perkins underwent surgery for a knee injury that he suffered during spring practice. The Longhorns offensive line is very young and inexperienced. He was one of the few players with starting experience, so his injury is a big blow for the O-line.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.