GREAT EXPECTATIONS A STRONG SPRING HAS LILâ€™ JORDAN HUMPHREY POISED FOR A BREAKOUT YEAR IN 2018
W W W. I N S I D E T E X A S . C O M
in this issue
Spring Game Wrap |
Both sides of the ball made progress this spring.
Uncommon Gifts |
Lil’ Jordan Humphrey stands out anywhere he lines up.
Scipio’s Thoughts |
Scipio’s thoughts on the team after re-watching the Spring Game.
Spring Game - 5 Quick Thoughts |
Ian explains why he is largely optimistic about 2018.
The Indespensibles |
What positions have the largest drop-off from starter to backup?
Well Armed? |
The key to a successful postseason will be pitching depth.
Pure Texan |
Augie’s larger-than-life presence was as big as Texas.
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SPRING GAME WR - TEXAS vs KANSAS -
by Joe Cook
AUSTIN â€” Texas head coach Tom Herman enjoyed a strong culture going into his second spring. Confidence following the Texas Bowl victory was high, and those who stayed viewed 2018 as a season with a lot of promise, as well as opportunity. 6
RAP: 23-13 WHITE
- SPRING GAME RECAP -
he Longhorns took the first step toward that opportunity in
Sophomore Josh Thompson led both teams with eight total tackles.
2018 Saturday during the Orange-White spring game. The
Senior Anthony Wheeler recorded seven tackles for the Orange,
first two quarters were mostly first- and second-stringers
showing an ability to make plays in space. Walk-on JarMarquis
while the third and fourth running clock quarters were made of
Durst led the White team with six total tackles, followed by junior
third-stringers and walk-ons. In the end, the White team ended up
Jeffrey McCulloch with four tackles, three of them sacks. Freshman
victorious in the final practice of the spring, 23-13.
BJ Foster had a spectacular PBU running from the hash to the sideline to prevent a completion to Johnson that was matched shortly
A strong defensive performance by both the Orange and White
after by senior Kris Boyd’s PBU that made sure Humphrey did not
squads limited the teams to a combined 33 in-game points after
haul in another ball.
the White team was awarded three points for winning the circle drill competition before the game. Both defensive lines performed well
The offensive line struggled against what might be the best defensive line unit in the Big 12. Sophomore Marquez Bimage and senior Charles Omenihu each accounted for sacks for the White squad, while the Orange team had just one TFL by senior Jamari Chisholm in the entire game. Those OL struggles translated to the running game. Walk-on Tim Yoder led all running backs with 24 yards and a score on four carries. The leading rusher among scholarship RBs was Toneil Carter who averaged 2.5 yards on 10 carries. The two other rushing touchJarMarquis Durst (28) and Marquez Bimage (42)
downs weren’t even scored by a full time RB. Humphrey carried both into the end
against a single-unit offensive line with limited depth, only allowing
zone; one on a traditional handoff, the other from the wildcat.
89 combined non-QB rushing yards. After halftime, the QB duties were split between freshmen Casey Though the run game was limited, the passing game looked to take
Thompson and Cameron Rising. Both had efficient evenings, with
a step forward top to bottom on the depth chart. Sophomore Sam
Rising going 6-of-9 for 57 yards including a long pass to redshirt
Ehlinger was 13-of-22 for 151 yards while junior Shane Buechele
freshman Jordan Pouncey. Thompson passed well, going 5-of-9 for
was a similar 12-of-21 with 130 yards and a score. Each found
88 yards including a long pass to Johnson. He also showed athleti-
juniors Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson multiple times, with
cism running the ball, gaining 36 yards on the evening but finishing
both eclipsing 90 yards receiving and Johnson hauling in a tough
with a net of 18.
score from Buechele. In addition, senior Jerrod Heard was one yard short of 90 on four catches, and junior Devin Duvernay hauled in
Senior Josh Rowland hit both of his field goals including a
two tough grabs.
50-yarder, but sophomore Chris Naggar missed his only 40-yard
- SPRING GAME RECAP -
opportunity wide right. Freshman Ryan Bujcevski had a solid DKR debut replacing his cousin Michael Dickson, but the dropoff in ability was apparent. Bujcevski showed he had some of the family bloodlines in his leg, however, on a booming 59-yard punt early in the first quarter. Texas sustained some injuries during the spring, but none that should preclude any Longhorn contributors from being ready for Maryland. In addition, Senior linebacker Gary Johnson is sidelined but should be ready to contribute in the fall, and his absence allowed defensive coordinator Todd Orlando to work other players in at Rover. Herman called the injury that prevented freshman Caden Sterns from playing “really, really minor” and it won’t require any surgery to treat. The only injury from the Spring game belonged to Wheeler who sprained his knee. Now UT moves into conditioning, and coaches move into evaluating and hitting the road recruiting. The next major news will be when freshmen enroll in June, including some immediate help on the offensive line in grad transfer Calvin Anderson.
YOU HYDR AT E
WE DON ATE
UNCOMMONL By Mike Blackwell
The stories are real, but often read like mythology. His name, his size, the way the people talk about him almost reverentially. And now it appears that Texas receiver Lilâ€™Jordan Humphrey is ready for his play to live up to his hyperbole.
Photographs by Will Gallagher
Certainly it’s easy to see why Hum-
phrey has been hyped since early in
can describe his game is a football player. You can put him anywhere on
his high school career. He was always
After his performance in the annual
the field and he’ll figure out a way to
not only quite obviously talented with
Orange-White Spring Game, there
natural instincts and ability, but he
should be very little doubt about how
was also physically a big player, one
Texas fans will respond to his name in
Obviously he’s big enough to win
who is now listed as 6-4 and 220
2018. Humphrey looks ready to use
most one-on-one battles with mostly
2018 as his own particular breakout
outsized defensive backs. He can use
his body on slants and short passes.
He was and is a player with an unlimited ceiling and an uncommon name. And about that name...
And though he doesn’t having track In the spring game, Humphrey caught
speed, he’s blessed with the natural
seven balls for 100 yards, and also
instincts of a running back, so running
scored a pair of touchdowns on runs
after the catch is also a thing with
from the backfield. Showing the ability
“Usually, the people around me,
to catch, and to run, and to score did
the people I know, just call me LJ,”
very little to tap down the Humphrey
With good quarterbacking, there is
Humphrey said in high school. “When
Hype train that has been rolling down
not much one can imagine that LJH cannot do on a football field. “We’re improved at receiver,” Texas coach Tom Herman understated after the spring game. “I don’t know (if he’ll play) at running back. I think there’s definitely going to be some situations where I think you’ll see some Wildcat stuff with him, absolutely. “And he’s a guy who can catch the ball on a third and medium or third and long and get you a first down.”
First downs would be progress after 2017, when the Longhorns spent the entire year nursing quarterback injuries, trying to determine who their quarterback would be each Saturday and attempting - usually unsuccessfully - to run the football behind an I go someplace new, I’ll say my name
the tracks since he was a young
injured and inexperienced offensive
and get a crazy look. I laugh at it.
to where people will be cheering my
“LJ is a baller,” Texas receiver Col-
Despite working from these limita-
name and saying it positively instead
lin Johnson says. “The only way I
tions that were completely out of his
Hopefully, I’ll work my butt off enough
control, Humphrey caught 37 passes for 431 yards and a touchdown. Texas coaches and fans - especially after his showing in the spring game - will clearly expect those numbers to be significantly higher this season. But expectations are something that Humphrey should be accustomed to by now. Here’s a guy who was firstteam all-state at Southlake Carroll and received his first scholarship offer - from Ole Miss - after his sophomore year. His junior season was even better, as he produced these eye-popping numbers: 1,817 yards rushing (on 289 carries) with 29 touchdowns to go along with 26 receptions for 283 and three scores. Perhaps his best game came against Cedar Hill, when he gained 176 yards (with two touchdowns) on the ground and also snared five passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. He was named as an honorable mention All-Big 12 performer last year, and from the looks of the spring game, he appears ready to put together a rather gaudy junior season for the Longhorns. “It’s no secret, quarterbacks throw the ball to guys they have confidence in,” Herman says. “When you see a guy like him and a guy like Collin get the catches that they do, it means the
Herman doesn’t stop there.
accept them and embrace them.
“”He can play in the slot, He can play
He has said he wants to win a Heis-
outside,” Herman said. “He can carry
man, or perhaps a Biletnikoff Award
the football. He’s got unbelievable
as the country’s best receiver. He’s
ball skills. LJ’s about as versatile an
supremely confident, as witnessed by
offensive skill player as I’ve ever been
all of the times he’s made the deci-
sion to leap over a would-be tackler
“Really, really football smart, and re-
on the field.
ally proud of his development.” Gifted, strong, big, confident: it ap-
quarterbacks believe in him. Nobody’s going to confuse his speed with John Burt’s or Devin Duvernay’s, but he doesn’t need track speed to get open. He’s a really, really good football player. Really good.”
pears that Humphrey’s time is now. Of course with all of the “attaboys” headed Humphrey’s way, one might
After lighting up the spring game, Her-
expect him to have to avoid that
man was asked if Humphrey was now
trappings and entitlements that come
a Texas difference maker.
with huge expectations. Instead, Humphrey seems more than willing to
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THOUGHTS FROM Sam settled down as the game progressed and hung in the pocket instead of his patented sprint out default. That was a big positive. Discouraging the QB running game certainly didn’t play to his favor with respect to play action. Settled Down Sam is our best QB, but the settling is the issue. Buechele had a couple of poor deep throws that should have been scores. He overthrew a wide open John Burt under severe pressure from Mal Roach and then overthrew the track star again without any duress.
He redeemed that with some good chain moving work, a
just-let-it-go deep strike to Jerrod Heard (as he kind of got sacked), and a throwback against the action to Collin Johnson for a TD on our patented goal line roll out play that I despise. He consistently showed recognition of what the
QUARTERBACKS I wasn’t happy with Ehlinger or Buechele early. Some of their prob-
defense was doing, but if he can’t capitalize, it’s a moot point. On to the youngsters...
lems were agnostic to the poor OL play. Cameron Rising spins a terrific looking ball and he’s certainly no Sam’s early issues were ball security and decision making. Ehlinger
statue. Accurate, strong arm. It’s what I saw in HS so I can’t say I’m
fumbled a zone read and mishandled an errant but salvageable
shotgun snap. He also wrong-shouldered a throw to Johnson when he found him iso’d near the goal line on Boyd with leverage. If Kris
Casey Thompson showed the mobility I expected, but his accelera-
catches that, it’s a 14 point swing. Ehlinger’s best throws were a
tion and elusiveness surprised me. He also turfed a intermediate
44 yarder to Duvernay on a post and some beautifully thrown inter-
out route outside of the hash early, which is exactly what I saw in
mediate balls to LJH - most notably an in-route near the goal line.
his HS tape. Showed excellent touch outside on a Collin Johnson
THE SPRING GAME by Scipio Tex
jump ball. I like what I saw from both freshman.
RUNNING BACKS Tim Yoder scored and must start. Plano Plowhorse. When the team’s breakout WR serves as the goal line back and scores two touchdowns, a message is being sent to RB stable. On the positive side, the expected strength of our RBs as receivers was evident. Obviously, this game didn’t feature the running game for reasons of DL dominance, a desire to get some passing Toneil Carter
game reps, and the inability to use a QB in the running game, but I’m comfortable asserting that it’s currently 1a Young and
open up the offense, but execution - route, throw, catch - is the rub
1b Carter. Kyle Porter did a solid job as a lead blocker.
here. Heard is probably our third or fourth guy right now and that suits me just fine. Though our insistence on running him off tackle amuses
me. Interested to see more of Pouncey. If we’re trading last year’s On offense, I was the most pleasantly surprised by the WRs, which
eight man rotation for four guys with some chemistry who run real
is encouraging considering that this unit spent a good portion of
routes and compete for the ball, that’s an improvement.
2017 irritating me. Collin Johnson won multiple 50/50 balls and used his body like a big WR (6-91-1) and LJH (7-100, 2 rushing OFFENSIVE LINE
TDs) has evolved his game into real route running and soft skills instead of just being Great Athlete Will Hurdle You Guy. Duvernay got some run and perhaps enough “hey, don’t transfer!” looks to
As an overall unit, they were lambs led to slaughter when Hager
placate him. Receivers often break out in Year 3 when they figure
and Omenihu were cranking and Orlando brought Roach on interior
stuff out. It’s time.
blitzes, but some of that was a function of the rotation, the pass rush being really good, and not always having Best Five on the
John Burt could have scored twice with better thrown balls and
field. A few guys were inordinately physically exploited and overall
as one trick ponies go, I’ll take that. He’s an X factor that can help
cohesion was an obvious issue.
Photos by Will Gallagher
- SCIPIO’S THOUGHTS | SPRING GAME wide on 3rd and 9 anymore.
DEFENSE If you thought the offense struggled, imagine if the defensive front 7 hadn’t been split up by the Spring game draft format. Roach, Omenihu and Hager sharing the same pass rushing space is a daunting proposition for a lot of offenses. Particularly when all three can credibly line up at multiple positions and come in unexpected ways. Overall, the defense dominated in stretches, featuring a withering pass rush and a good display of depth and tackling from the secondary.
DEFENSIVE LINE When Breckyn Hager was being evaled as a recruit,
I thought his best realization would be 50+ pounds Denzel Okafor can’t play tackle for us, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a future at guard. Urquidez just isn’t ready. Cosmi is promising but not quite ready for prime time. Shackleford needs to have a good 3+ months in the weight room and regain the lower body strength his injuries have cost him, but the problems outside suggest that we’re not moving a viable tackle like Kerstetter inside to seek improvement at center.
how it played out. Hager’s offseason weight and strength gains (he looks somewhere between 260-270 now) have allowed him to add a potent bull rush to his gap-taking arsenal. He’s going to be a handful. Speaking of handfuls, Charles Omenihu looked good playing a more conventional DE outside of the tackles and he’s using his
There’s still time for this unit to improve substantially in the weight room and in Fall Camp, but Texas clearly needs upgraded play outside and depth development across the board. Calvin Anderson will be a welcome addition.
hands and length well. He’s made the realization that his wingspan allows him first contact and first shot at hand placement and he gets to lead the dance if he does both of them correctly. We’ll still need him to hunker down and disrupt against the run as a 5 technique and that’s what the NFL expects too. Jamari Chisholm has completely remade his body while gaining
good weight and he showed better activity level than last year. I did
Reese Leitao didn’t look out of place out there. He’s sort of a happy medium between Beck and Brewer. It was good to see Beck back and I think the game offered a realistic assessment of his true impact for the Texas fans who fancy him as Tony Gonzalez. We’re certainly improved at this position from last year, but that’s a relative statement. At least I don’t have to see Kendall Moore split out in five
north of his HS playing weight with a hand on the ground. That’s
a double take when I saw him run out. Wilbon was a little sluggish as a pass rusher and needs to work on get off and not giving up the advantages of his frame with high pad level. Get him some Roy Miller and Poona Ford tape post-haste. I liked what I saw from Graham at nose tackle and he’s certainly
- SCIPIO’S THOUGHTS | SPRING GAME carrying 290 well. Now he needs to bring the relentless motor that
he’s really diagnosing or if he’s just jumping plays he’s seen a mil-
Orlando is looking for when he plays a converted DE at NT.
lion times from our offense.
Bimage certainly looks the part and he got a gimme sack on a
DeMarco Boyd got quite a bit of run and he has a nose for the ball.
blown blocking assignment. Christmas made no impression.
He doesn’t always finish and he gets swallowed up by size. The second LJH touchdown run is a good example. Adeoye certainly
Nelson didn’t play due to injury and if he sticks around (Herman is
looks the part. It’s unlikely he redshirts, even if we only play 1-2
courting him with press conference mentions, he’s listed on the “1st
“true” linebackers this year. No Edwin Freeman or Gary Johnson
team” depth chart etc), he’s a tremendous situational asset.
Saturday and we clearly need a third LB to emerge for depth purposes.
LINEBACKERS DEFENSIVE BACKS Orlando lined Roach up at Rover and he dominated on inside stunts. He was credited with a sack and 2 tackles for loss. I saw
A good display of depth and open field tackling. The quality in our
a lot more than that. Roach is carrying 270, but he’s retained his
young guys is obvious.
mobility and he has a great feel for avoiding trash and taking the best route to the QB. Our very own Levon Kirkland? He also played the run well inside the tackles, largely because he doesn’t take false steps. In our “regular” defense, I expect him to split time outside at B-Backer and inside at Rover. Offenses will try to exploit him in space, but I’m guessing Orlando has some counters for that. McCulloch led the defense in sacks. Most of that was favorable match-ups or blown assignments, but he looks more fit and that’s improved his motor and work capacity. He’s always had a good first step, but he’s learning to run the arc more efficiently and persevere if someone counters his initial move. Like Roach, he’ll rep B-Backer or Rover, but I’m less confident about him against the run. I expect to see some pass rush packages DeMarco Boyd (36) and Josh Thompson (29)
that go McCulloch-Hager-Omenihu-Roach. Anthony Wheeler looked good inside. I haven’t written that in a
Kobe Boyce really showed me some ability and his development is
while. Hopefully, I’m not being fooled by the simplicity of our Spring
going exactly as I anticipated when he was a “too-skinny” three star
running game, but he tackled well in space, moved much more flu-
inked out of high school. He’s the second best pure cover guy on
idly than last year’s Mummy Shuffle and looked solid covering the
the team right now behind Kris Boyd. But he can’t tackle like Kris
short passing game. Maryland will tell the tale for me as to whether
and is about twenty pounds lighter. Boyd was terrific and dialed in
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- SCIPIO’S THOUGHTS | SPRING GAME on every snap save getting beat once by LJH up the sideline, but he recovered enough to tip the ball on a bad Ehlinger throw. BJ Foster showed range, anticipation and maturity that I didn’t expect from a player who doesn’t have that many reps at safety in high school, much less at Texas. He’s ahead of plan. Chris Brown did some really good stuff Saturday and his aggression and football IQ allows him a play-fast speed that his athletic attributes don’t suggest, but #15 also had an unnecessary PI on Leitao when he had him covered and then a hit that could have easily been called targeting had the officials been interested in throwing the flag. Brandon Jones played with poise and evidenced real aggression and good angles supporting the run. Contrast that with what we saw a year and a half ago against Maryland. Like Wheeler, I’ll be very interested
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to see how this translates under live fire. John Bonney continues to be a versatile depth guy who can help us at multiple positions. Jarmarquis Durst displayed some ability as a tackler, but I’m not sure if that translates to game action. Donovan Duvernay had a nice break up on his brother and he can play cornerback fairly credibly in bump-and-run if he’s guaranteed a cover over the top on the shallow hash. I didn’t see much from Cuffee. Taken as a whole, the group loses some 2017 front line talent with the losses of Hill and Elliott, but depth is top notch, the systematic aspects of the defense are starting to take hold, and Texas should be able to put six quality DBs out on the field whenever Orlando chooses. The overall unit average could very well be as good than the 2017 group if that cohesiveness sticks.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tough to tell on Ryan Bujcevski, but the Aussie cousin certainly has enough raw leg. The question will be ball placement under fire and how much he freaks out when he experiences his first all out punt block rush or a bad snap that calls for improvisation. Rowland nailed a 29 yard gimme and then a career high 50 yarder, but I’m not sure if the trajectory of the latter clears the LOS against a defense with their DL putting up their hands and getting a little penetration. Naggar missed a 41 yard opportunity pretty badly.
thoughts by Ian Boyd
t’s fun to watch Texas play football again, isn’t it? There was a lot to take in with this game, normally there are 11 guys to try and eyeball on a given play for your team but
in the spring game there are 22. Like most everyone else, my eyes mostly watched the ball and the play of the QBs so there will be some things I’ll wait to evaluate until I can watch more carefully.
spring is in the air
#1 Don’t panic on the offensive line yet The OL was often a sieve in this game but
likely what they do better than anything else
it wasn’t always as bad as it looked. Well, it
in the playbook. Then there’s Calvin Ander-
was, but it wasn’t always as clear a nega-
son, who will be facing high expectations but
tive omen as it sometimes seemed. Denzel
is a three-year starter that has protected the
Okafor and J.P. Urquidez couldn’t hold up
blindside of a college QB in a lot of football
in matchups against Charles Omenihu and
games over the last few years.
Breckyn Hager and that’s more of a positive indicator for the 2018 season than a nega-
This group reminds me of some of the old
Joe Wickline units he had at Oklahoma State. They’d often have only seven guys
We saw Okafor go up against top edge
that they felt like could be trusted to take the
players last year and get whipped, if he’s still
field in a college game in a given year and
not up for that challenge that hardly means
they’d make do, even winning the Big 12 title
that Texas is in trouble since he’s probably
that way in 2011, and they just had to trust
not playing tackle next year anyways. Ditto
in having some good luck. Texas needs to
Urquidez, who didn’t even see the field last
hope they don’t suffer injuries at OT like last
year but even in that event they’re still in bet-
The OL also didn’t get a ton of action block-
ter shape than they were at this time in 2017.
ing inside zone on the defense, which is
#2 Texas’ pass rush is elite Texas has three, maybe four pass-rushers on this team that can be a problem for teams that have an iffy tackle on the field between Charles Omenihu, Breckyn Hager, Malcolm Roach, and Jeff McCulloch. Technically Roach did his work today on inside blitzes from the Rover position, which are far and away the most deadly Rover insert blitzes that Texas has had from ANYONE since Todd Orlando took over the defense. McCulloch, Hager, and Omenihu were devastating the overmatched Texas offensive tackles and killing multiple drives with the negative plays they were inflicting. That level of depth and quality on the edge is very promising and should allow Texas to overmatch most
every offense on the schedule. The Longhorns are no exception around the league in terms of hoping to find at least one tackle in a given year that can hold up in isolation, if the defense can require that you have two AND excel at attacking inside with disguise and blitzes then you get into serious trouble as an offense. Texas showed some more even fronts in this game to allow these guys to work in space against the tackles and I’m sure we’ll see more of these even fronts that the coaches have discussed in obvious passing situations next season. And again, Roach is really devastating as an inside blitzer. Can he do all the things he needs to be able to do in order to play from down to down as an insidebacker? I don’t know, but if nothing else Texas is going to have to package some ways for him to be involved as an inside rusher. It might just be a passing down tactic, Wisconsin would regularly get TJ Watt lined up as a Mike LB on 3rd down so they could blitz him at isolated guards rather than tackles.
- 5 QUICK THOUGHTS | SPRING GAME -
#3 Lil’ Jordan Humphrey is poised for a big year That was the topic of my recent gameplans and it was fairly obvious given what he flashed in 2017 and the fact that his primary competition inside at the slot (Reggie Hemphill-Mapps) transferred. Still, he’s a special player and Sam Ehlinger went to him early and often over the middle of the field. Then, quite interestingly, they inserted him at RB in order to run power on the goal line. I don’t know if it was more shocking and encouraging to see Texas’ TEs execute straight ahead, kick out blocks on power or that Humphrey was the ballcarrier plunging ahead through the traffic for a pair of scores on the play. Motioning the slot in to be the ballcarrier behind lead blocks from the TE and traditional RB should be a useful trick for Texas next season both for the purpose of getting big and running downhill behind multiple blockers at tempo as well as making sure that Humphrey never lacks for touches from week to week. I bet there’s a wrinkle in there where Ehlinger motions out or runs a route and Humphrey takes a direct snap and throws to him on a pop pass. Obviously he’ll get some Wildcat looks as well and Herman is admitting as much even now in the post-game presser. Hopefully the reason that Breckyn Hager bubble screen was such a terrible play was that those trick play reps are going towards other, more worthy efforts. I’d love to hear the story behind that play call. Collin Johnson had a pretty solid game today but Humphrey will probably be the lead man next season and Johnson will likely benefit regardless. If Herman is worried about Collin not getting enough opportunities at beating man coverage then Humphrey is likely the solution to that problem.
- 5 QUICK THOUGHTS | SPRING GAME -
#4 This team is tackling well I noticed multiple occasions where Texas made quick and immediate tackles on ballcarriers in space. John Bonney made an excellent tackle from a two-deep alignment, every Lil’Jordan Humphrey catch featured him instinctively getting small because he knew a big hit was coming, and every toss in the flat seemed to do very limited damage against the open field tackling from this team. Walk-on JarMarquis Durst made a lot of tackles and even an INT, I don’t know if his coverage is good enough or not for him to play in a Big 12 game (not a doubt, I’m pleading ignorance) but at the least that guy seems emblematic of a culture where everyone plays hard. DeMarco Boyd took that notable opportunity to flatten Duvernay on a pass attempt on a trick play. I imagine that a more careful viewing of the game will reveal more details on this but it was obvious that good tackling is something that is cultural and taking place at every level of the roster and not just from the top players.
- 5 QUICK THOUGHTS | SPRING GAME -
#5 Texas has a very talented qb room
Casey Thompson (8), Shane Buechele (7), Cameron Rising (3)
Sam Ehlinger was probably the most aggressive QB in the
supremely skilled in time, it’s just really easy for him to throw
spring game, taking multiple deep shots and working the post
the football. Casey Thompson had me concerned early when
route in the flood concept on multiple occasions. That may
he made some shaky throws that recalled bad throws I’d seen
have been because of superior pocket presence, or perhaps
him make in HS but then he settled in and shot off some really
because he didn’t face Malcolm Roach in his face on insert
impressive lasers. I don’t know how much time Rising will
blitzes like Shane Buechele did.
need to put it all together but Thompson will probably need a few years, but they’ll be years he’ll get and then look out.
Ehlinger missed a few deep shots, including one painful throw that was a touch late and a likely TD otherwise, but also
Texas will probably want to play only Buechele and Ehlinger
landed a few nice throws over the middle. Buechele just barely
next season so that the freshmen can redshirt and get some
missed on multiple throws, either because of the pressure or
separation from the former two but it’s not hard to see Rising
lack of sync with the receivers on his team (Herman even sug-
or even Thompson getting to the point where they could go in
gested the skill players probably had tired legs). Buechele’s
and execute some plays to help Texas win in 2018. Things are
work on quick hitters was as sharp as ever and he hit Collin
really looking up here.
Johnson on some impressive plays and also hit Heard up the P.S.
seam (another nice catch).
Texas running power as well as they did was very encouragCam Rising has the best arm on campus and Casey Thomp-
ing. They didn’t even really attempt it a year ago because it’s a
son might have the best legs. Rising could end up being
hard block for the TE, but it was a staple in the spring game.
Follow Inside Texas twitter.com/InsideTexas
by Scipio Tex
THE PREMISE IS SIMPLE
The players on both sides of the ball who need to stay healthy for a successful 2018 season.
First, the Defense....
the deficiencies in this unit, but a glass half full outlook posits that it could be an opportunity for the staff to develop some depth. John-
An Indispensable is defined by the distance between the starter and their replacement within the context of the overall value to the team. So crowning Gary Johnson King of the Defensive Indispensables wasn’t very hard. He’s a very good player who is primary to the defensive scheme and the replacement quality behind him is a marked drop.
play more physically than his size suggests, and cover receivers and running backs can’t be overstated. Johnson was eased slowly into 2017, found his stride, and was excellent over the back half of the season. The likelihood that carries over and further augments in 2018 is high. His field speed is known but the growth in his play speed was his most important development. A healthy Johnson will lead the team in tackles. The drop off from him to his replacements
1. GARY JOHNSON - LINEBACKER
is the same plummet that Gandalf takes with the Balrog.
Gary is the most important player on the Texas defense. There’s a good argument for the entire team, even given the primacy of QB and OL play. I’ve made my opinion known on the linebacking shallows chart and if you think 2019 looks potentially grim, 2018 without Gary is a Penthouse Pet calendar featuring Madeline Albright and Angela Merkel. Gary Johnson’s Spring injury serves to remind us of
son’s importance as a spread busting LB who can eat up ground,
What Would Texas Do Without Him? First, Todd Orlando will put his fist through nine white boards. Then, while he’s cauterizing his wounds with a soldering iron, he’ll start fiddling with ways to play a 4-1-6 or call two LB nickel defenses where the linebackers stunt rather than read. Predictable run blitz-
ing is a no-no against Big 12 offensive coordinators and it’s a good
Townsend is pulling reps at running back (and I’m anxiously waiting
way for an otherwise sound defense to get gashed. It could also
for the “I think Cameron Townsend will surprise at RB!” takes from a
force Texas to play its best DL assets (Hager, Omenihu) in ways
Texas site when a bored coach decides to mess with them). Demar-
that aren’t conducive to their skill set.
co Boyd doesn’t seem to be in this staff’s immediate plans.
Many are optimistic that Anthony Wheeler will raise his game as a
I want a healthy, happy Gary Johnson to anchor the defense for our
senior and it’s not an unreasonable expectation, but I have logged
win total, but also so he can win Preseason First Team All Big 12
too much 2016/2017 game film watching The Mummy shuffle to
honors, be a team captain, and have Herman introduce him to Gary
be there yet. Even if he improves in Year 2 under Orlando, we’d be
Patterson in August up in Dallas: “Fat Gare, meet Fast Gare. Fast
more comfortable with him playing Tonto to Johnson’s Lone Ranger
Gare, meet Fat Gare.”
and not thrust into the primary role.
2. KRIS BOYD - CORNERBACK
Adeoye certainly looks the part but he’d be a true freshman tasked with open-ended responsibilities inside. That’s sink or swim and I
The Boyd Tax has been a maddeningly inescapable fixture of #2’s
question all freshman buoyancy. Nor am I sold on the possibility of
career but the second half of the 2017 season suggested some
Jeff McCulloch playing away from the LOS.
acquaintance with the Laffer Curve and more comfort in Orlando’s system. He’ll always be a lot better doing his work early than trying
Edwin Freeman’s decline has been a mystery and his re-aggra-
to shadow, track and recover with the ball in the air, but at least he
vation of a tricep injury hasn’t helped fuel optimism about a once
has stopped randomly stopping while the ball is in flight.
promising athlete finding some direction in the program. Cameron
Whatever his inconsistencies, there’s no dispute about who the
Longhorn’s #1 cornerback will be in 2018. Holton Hill’s on field play
wide in a pinch. The point being: we have options. Texas would
against both run and pass was as reliable as his THC markers and
lack a pure cover corner (Davante Davis needs a cover over top
the hope is that Boyd makes a similar jump. My guess is that in a
and help inside) that can handle isolation during key moments, but
contract year, he’ll do just that.
Orlando could call the entire defense to compensate.
What Would Texas Do Without Him?
Boyd would be missed, but it shouldn’t be a horror show.
While losing Gary Johnson could result in widespread depreda-
3. YOU TELL ME. I DON’T THINK IT’S CLEAR CUT.
tions, the possibility of a Gate to Hades opening up in the Littlefield Fountain, and widespread cannibalism, losing Boyd would just be
One can make persuasive arguments for Charles Omenihu,
generally bad. That’s partly due to a much better depth situation in
Breckyn Hager or Malcolm Roach equally. A revitalized PJ Locke
the secondary and because the incoming freshman have a much
is important. And we’re all hoping to see Brandon Jones make the
better chance to contribute meaningfully twenty yards from the ball
jump to an impact performer.
in space rather than trying to develop their GPS in the middle of the maelstrom at linebacker.
So who is the defense’s third most indispensable?
Join the Conversation
Kobe Boyce has shown flashes and his upside will continue to realize itself as his body catches up to his athleticism, true freshmen Anthony Cook and Caden Sterns haven’t looked out of place, and
athletes like Josh Thompson or even John Bonney could move out
Offense is trickier.... The Indispensables isn’t about identifying our best players per se. Even a marginal starter with a huge drop off behind can be pretty indispensable. You also have to look at what the offense asks of its components. Some positional deficits can be schemed away. Others - like QB and OL - stubbornly sit on your white board no matter how you draw up the play. Keep that in mind as I state my case.
1. SAM EHLINGER - QB As a true freshman, Ehlinger led all Longhorns in rushing with 381 yards; a commentary on the pathetic nature of the 2017 offense as much as his capable legs. Sam also led Texas in passing with 1915 yards while averaging 7.0 yards per attempt and a 11-7 TD/INT ratio. He struggled with accuracy and late game decision-making, but what else would you expect from a true freshman with Sam Ehlinger
his surrounding assets?
When Ehlinger was healthy, Texas was reduced to playing the true freshman as a One Man Gang in an offense conceptually built around simplicity and physical dominance that could offer plenty of the former and not so much of the latter. That desperation approach had its brief moments, but it’s living off of credit card debt. Eventually, the football gods collect. That’s no knock on Sam. #11 is the most important player on the offense and his improvisation and leadership are the best hope for a mundane unit to elevate to competence if he can complement those attributes with more accuracy and trust in taking the easy throws. To be effective, Texas will have to play a lighter version of Hero Ball - the complementary hosses simply aren’t there to think otherwise - but if Sam is consistently amassing 50-70 total scrimmage plays (rushing + passing attempts) every game, particularly in a passing game built around lengthy improv rather than quick read distribution, the odds of Ehlinger finishing the season whole are fractional. Sam’s health is bound to the overall health of the
Texas offense. As is the inverse. What Would Texas Do Without Him?
Buechele’s lack of pocket presence can be maddening, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that he can show improvement and the
offense can help him with cleaner windows, better skill position complements, and sounder OL play. Buechele has his own injury
See entry #2.
history and doesn’t have a body well disposed to a full season grind, but that’s now what will likely be asked of him. And if it is
2. SHANE BUECHELE- QB
asked of him, his status as the #2 Indispensable isn’t disputable, is it?
What? The guy we think will be backing up Ehlinger is an Indispensable? Dumb post! I’m out!
What Would Texas Do Without Him?
The distance between Ehlinger and Buechele isn’t a chasm. Or at
Start yet another true freshman QB. How’s that gone for us? What
least it wasn’t last year. Doesn’t this defy the key premise of the
would it for our chances of victory in any 3-4 game stretch? An 0-4
run or 1-3 run in that period vs. 3-1 is how Texas ends up as a 6-7 win team, Herman’s promises of a bright future are blunted, and
Not really. It should tell you something about what I believe about
program buy-in craters. Same old Texas.
Ehlinger’s upside as well as his reliability as a 13-14 game starter. Keep multiple ideas in your head at one time. It also tells you that
QB health is really, really important for Texas if you understand
I believe the season will swing on offensive competence in close
what this season is really about.
games. A percentage of which Ehlinger is likely to miss.
That written, it’s not impossible to conceive that we have four players with relatively equal ability - whether all competent or below average. In which case, the Indispensability of any one is mitigated.
WHERE’S.... Andrew Beck? I’ve seen several folks posit that Beck is our most Indispensable offensive player. While a 255 pound Hback who can crack linebackers and kick out DEs would be a balm to our running game (and have myriad benefits elsewhere), we’re letting a historical deficit and some posting about why TE’s are valuable to the full realization of Herman’s offense prejudice a more balanced view about the prime movers of offense. We can scheme around TE deficits. Can we scheme around QB and OL deficits? Derek Kerstetter
Further, Beck isn’t Gronk, much less Geoff Swaim. We’re looking for yeoman’s work
3. CALVIN ANDERSON!(?) OR ANY STARTING TEXAS OT?
from #47: solid blocking, more physicality on the edge, and a few sneaky catches when the defense treats him as a pure blocking tight end.
Too many question marks there. You know you have question marks when your potentially most Indispensable OL has never
Colin Johnson? The 2017 leading receiver (765 yards on 54
taken a snap wearing Burnt Orange and won’t be unveiled until a
catches) is certainly valuable, but his abilities are best realized in
month before the season opener. The Rice grad transfer has the veteran experience that Texas sorely needs and no one questions his smarts to pick up scheme, but his actual ability at this level is unknown. He was a solid, not dominant, multi-year starter at Rice. He won’t be facing Old Dominion, Prairie View and UTEP in Austin. So his Indispensability is premised less on our having landed Jonathan Ogden at LT, but the hope that we’ve landed simple compe-
an offense we’ve not yet shown ourselves capable of executing. We also have decent replacement options. He’s an offensive magnifier, not a building block. It’s hard for any WR to be the core of an offense if you can’t block or throw. A Texas RB? One who could run for more than the play is blocked and not fumble would be helpful and there’s no question we lack
tence. The needs at tackle are so glaring, he has been effectively
depth, but there’s no clear #1 between Young and Carter. Unless
penciled in as a starter absent any real data.
you’re a Porter Man! I suspect we have another committee.
What Would Texas Do Without Him (Them)?
A more sobering 10,000 foot view assessment is that it’s difficult to
The health of our QBs is tied in no small part to the quality of play we get from our tackles. Indispensability here really relies on the
evaluate Offensive Indispensability because so many of the players are unproven or have major questions. We’re relying on a lot of projection and best-case scenarios.
health and ability of any potential starting OT. Whether that’s Anderson, Kerstetter, Cosmi, Rodriguez... If after a full Spring and Fall camp, we’re starting any tackle Hand deemed third or fourth on the team, we’re likely in some real trouble.
Join the Conversation www.insidetexas.com
5/19/11 2:17:09 PM
by Joe Cook
WELL-ARMED? BY JOE COOK
AUSTIN, TX -- At this point in the season, David Pierce’s Texas Longhorns (3017, Big 12 12-6) can start to think about problems postseason teams face. While Texas is poised to be in the NCAA tournament, the series loss at West Virginia dealt a serious blow to Longhorns’ hopes of hosting a regional. Prior to West Virginia, both Baseball America and D1Baseball.com had the Longhorns as the last host. That outcome is highly suspect at this point and in order to climb back into the hosting converstation Texas will have to finish strong and learn how to best utilize a pitching staff with problems at No. 1 and no clear No. 4. Hitting and a resilient attitude have kept the Longhorns in countless games during the 2018 season. Junior Kody Clemens and freshman Zach Zubia lead the offensive attack and made sure no lead is insurmountable for this bunch. On Tuesday night, Texas overcame yet another three-run deficit more because of that resilient attitude than because of hitting. Though those are to positive qualities to have, there is a hole on the roster as it comes to postseason pitching. Texas’ No. 1 starter for all of 2018, junior Nolan Kingham, has been anything but consistent. Kingham was a strong candidate to be a high-round pick in the 2018 draft, but his performance this season has greatly reduced his stock as a starter. His bullpen contributions have been phenomenal, but his first innings have been problematic. In 2018, he has just two starts of more than five innings and less than three earned runs allowed, not what one would expect from a Friday night guy. Despite all these struggles and a suspension for not adhering to the team’s academic attendance policy that scratched him from a start at OU, Pierce noted Kingham’s preparation and everything leading up to the game has been what he expected.
- WELL-ARMED? -
“I look at it and say I think he’s trying to do
day. “There’s a fine line of playing hard
There’s no lack of options, but like Pierce
Chris Fearon, Tristan Stevens, Brandon
and playing aggressively and then forcing
said, there’s no clear-cut No. 4. With
Ivey, Bryce Verplank and Matthew Whelan
the game. He has to go back and go ‘is my
multiple recent series wins and two more
have received limited opportunities, but
arm free and easy? Am I in the competi-
Tuesday matchups, there are still opportu-
likely won’t factor into the No. 4 or No. 5
tion? Am I in the confrontation between
nities for Pierce to see options he might be
the hitter and me? Am I locked in in that
able to trust in the postseason. “We’re just
mixing and matching and trying to utilize
Pierce’s prime candidate for that No. 4
our matchups as much as possible, and
too much right now,” Pierce said Wednes-
“If he can get there mentally, I think it’s one
trying to extend guys that could possibly “I would say right now Bryce Elder could easily be a starter for us but at the same time, as you saw last night, he’s in such a crucial role for us two times a week where he can also be extended,” Pierce said. “It’s not as easy as we would like it to appear to be, but there’s not cut and dries yet. We talk about it, but this is a unique staff.” Elder is 5-1 with a 5.81 ERA in 16 relief appearances, his lone start a five-inning effort in place of Kingham at Oklahoma. He likely projects to be a starter in the coming seasons, but as Pierce mentioned, he is most effective out of the bullpen. Why the reliance on younger arms? The experienced players are serving specific relief roles. Juniors Josh Sawyer, Andy McGuire, Parker Joe Robinson, and senior Jake McKenzie have solidified themselves as short relief options. Sawyer is the lone reliable left-handed option on the staff.
pitch at a time from there.”
be that fourth or fifth starter,” One name off of that list was the previous
Fixing Kingham’s early-inning woes would
Freshmen or players who are playing their
closer, junior Beau Ridgeway. Ridgeway
go a long way toward making the path
first year in Austin make up most of the list.
has been completely ineffective in 2018,
through the postseason a lot easier. Texas
Kamron Fields has been reliable out of the
leading to McGuire taking over the closer
won’t be able to rely on just three weekend
bullpen, but likely can’t throw more than
role for Pierce. Ridgeway currently pos-
starters during the Big 12 Tournament and
three or four innings. Nico O’Donnell has
sesses a 9.82 ERA, but not inside the
ensuing playoff matchups. They’ll need to
11 appearances, but hasn’t had the same
look at options four, five, and six.
effectiveness he showed in his four inning start against Stanford.
“We’re still building that,” Pierce said on
“He’s at a zero ERA,” Pierce said. “That’s what we’re selling. Moving forward from
pitching depth. “I wish it was cut and dry
Matteo Bocchi has played well and im-
not looking at the past. That was one thing
right now, but it hasn’t become that. We’re
mediately contributed in his first season,
I felt unfortunate that I didn’t get an op-
going to continue to see who’s the hot
but likely serves the Longhorns better as a
portunity to get him in this week. You don’t
- WELL-ARMED? -
really know until you get him in the games
More information lets Texas players know
Pierce at pitcher will make the path much
and it’s crucial times in crucial situations.”
what they need to do to get those five
championships, but more research for “The one thing that you trust with Beau is that he’s going to be ready.” Finding a fourth starter will help Texas, as Pierce put it, achieve the goal of winning five championships in a season (regular season, conference tournament, regional, super regional, College World Series). Pierce has been open with both his players and the media in recent weeks about where the team stands as far as the Big 12, hosting a regional, and RPI. “I just think the more information that you have, you understand the landscape of college baseball,” Pierce said. “You understand how it works, then you have to put that aside and then you’ve got to go compete. I do it every day. I’m not in the box nor am I on the mound, but you’ve got to be able to compartmentalize that. I think it’s better for them to know than to not know and not understand where we are and what we’re playing for.”
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AUGIE WAS PURE TEXAN - TEXAS vs KANSAS -
by Mike Blackwell
ugie Garrido never pretended to be a Texan. In fact,
became the winningest coach in college baseball was pure
he never pretended to be anything other than what
Texan. The truth is, Garrido’s California cool carried with it all
he was, which was many things that at first glance
of the attributes us Texans like to claim as our own.
did not seem to be Texan at all. For starters, he was a worker who came from a family of His voice was certainly not anything like his predecessor, Cliff
workers. Is there more “Texas” of a story than one that
Gustafson, who might be the very definition of “Texan.” He
involves rising up from unfortunate hardships as a child to
drank wine and talked about psychology and hung out with
become successful simply because he or she has willed it
so? Texas is rural and in many places poor; those are Augie’s roots.
And when he first arrived in Austin, there were certainly plenty of folks in Texas who wondered why DeLoss Dodds
Garrido’s family had little, and very early on he learned that
decided to look to California – practically a whole other coun-
the only way he was going to break that cycle of struggle was
try – to find Gustafson’s replacement.
to work, and work well.
On a recent Monday afternoon, though, as they held the
Nothing paints his picture more clearly than his tenure at Cal
Erwin Center ceremony celebrating Garrido, who died earlier
State-Fullerton, where he piloted the Titans from the very bot-
last spring, it seemed obvious to me that the Californian who
tom to the absolute top: a College World Series champion.
Nothing says “Texas” more than rags to riches. And just like
can cuss a room full of people out comfortably and naturally
you, and probably your folks before you, Augie embraced and
and creatively. Who hasn’t cussed out somebody, apologized
remembered and learned from the rags as well as the riches.
at the end of the rant and stormed out of a room? That was Augie; and that is most assuredly Texas.
He appreciated the riches because he survived the rags. Texans never forget where they came from; that was Augie.
The celebration of his life included many Texans who shared
And that is Texas.
their love for Augie; love is yet another trait that many from the Lone State State claim to have invented. We love big
And Lord, he was confident. Texas is a state full of people
here and Texas, just like we do everything else, and Augie
who, when told something cannot be done often respond
clearly loved those around him. We hug and kiss and then
with, “Why the hell not?” That was Augie, who once told his
sometimes go back in for a second hug while we are at it.
Fullerton team – in the middle of a season – to be prepared
That was Augie; that’s us. He was us.
for the popcorn smell that emanates in and around Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, then the home of the College World Series. He didn’t hope to get to the World Series – and win it – he expected it. That was Augie; and that was Texas. His taste in wine and food was expensive; everything should be done right, and maximized, and savored. That was so Augie, and I’m willing to bet we all have folks in our families who think exactly the same way. That’s Texas. He may have been the world’s best smartass, too. In Texas, we are all surrounded by smartasses, whom we all hold in high esteem. Every single person in my family is a smartass; 100 percent of them. All of them. Augie would’ve fit perfectly as my crazy ass uncle. That’s
Texas; that’s Augie. And God knows he was tough. Though it’s not recommended at your workplace, if you want to look
Augie Garrido never pretended to be Texan. But the life
through a clear window into Augie’s internal house of tough-
he lived was all Texas, and those who couldn’t make the
ness, jump on YouTube and search “Augie Garrido rants.”
celebration of his life can still pay their respects where Augie was laid to rest: in the Texas State Cemetery.
I can certainly say that I’ve seen rants like that in my own Texas family on occasion; you aren’t a true Texan unless you
A full breakdown of spring football from Scipio Tex, Joe Cook, Ian Boyd and Mike Blackwell. We also look at the baseball team's prospects f...
Published on Apr 30, 2018
A full breakdown of spring football from Scipio Tex, Joe Cook, Ian Boyd and Mike Blackwell. We also look at the baseball team's prospects f...