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APRIL/MAY 2018

GREAT EXPECTATIONS A STRONG SPRING HAS LIL’ 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 |

by

6

Joe Cook

Both sides of the ball made progress this spring.

Uncommon Gifts |

Mike Blackwell

10

Paul Waddlington

16

by

Lil’ Jordan Humphrey stands out anywhere he lines up.

Scipio’s Thoughts |

by

Scipio’s thoughts on the team after re-watching the Spring Game.

Spring Game - 5 Quick Thoughts |

by Ian

Ian explains why he is largely optimistic about 2018.

The Indespensibles |

by

Boyd

Paul Waddlington

What positions have the largest drop-off from starter to backup?

Well Armed? |

by

Joe Cook

The key to a successful postseason will be pitching depth.

Pure Texan |

by

Mike Blackwell

Augie’s larger-than-life presence was as big as Texas.

22

28

34

38

Publishers -- Michael Pearle, Clendon Ross | Managing Editor--Clendon Ross | Editor-- Mike Blackwell InsideTexas.com Editor -- Justin Wells | Lead Writer -- Joe Cook | Contributors -- Ian Boyd, Paul Waddlington Designer/Photographer -- Will Gallagher | Recruiting Analyst -- Eric Nahlin To Subscribe/Customer Service -- Phone: 512-659-8167 | Email: help@insidetexas.com insidetexas.com

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SPRING GAME WR - TEXAS vs KANSAS -

by Joe Cook

AUSTIN — 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

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RAP: 23-13 WHITE

Breckyn Hager

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7


- SPRING GAME RECAP -

T

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

8

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- 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

Jordan Pouncey

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 Lil’Jordan Humphrey is ready for his play to live up to his hyperbole.

10


LY TALENTED

Photographs by Will Gallagher


Certainly it’s easy to see why Hum-

of negatively.”

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

make plays.”

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

pounds.

2018 as his own particular breakout

outsized defensive backs. He can use

season.

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

him.

“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.

teenager.

line.

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

12

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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-

around.

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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“Absolutely.”

13


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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.

Sam Ehlinger

He redeemed that with some good chain moving work, a

OFFENSE

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

surprised.

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

16


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

WIDE RECEIVERS

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.

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17

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,

Zach Shackelford

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

TIGHT END

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

18

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

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- 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

Join the Conversation

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.

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21


5

QUICK

thoughts by Ian Boyd

I

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

tive one.

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

season.

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

22

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#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

Charles Omenihu

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.

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23


- 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.

24

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- 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.

Chris Brown

insidetexas.com

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- 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.

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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.

Gary Johnson

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

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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-

insidetexas.com


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

Kris Boyd

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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

www.insidetexas.com

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

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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

Shane Buechele

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

Shane Buechele.

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

Indispensable idea?

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.

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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.

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Thoughts?

Join the Conversation www.insidetexas.com

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Kraken_Texas_mechanical.indd 1

5/19/11 2:17:09 PM


by Joe Cook

Bryce Elder

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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.

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- WELL-ARMED? -

“I look at it and say I think he’s trying to do

hand.”

bullpen option.

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

conversation.

the hitter and me? Am I locked in in that

able to trust in the postseason. “We’re just

battle?’”

mixing and matching and trying to utilize

Pierce’s prime candidate for that No. 4

our matchups as much as possible, and

spot?

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

Texas facilities.

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

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- 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

easier.

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.”

Josh Sawyer

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Belong Here.


AUGIE WAS PURE TEXAN - TEXAS vs KANSAS -

by Mike Blackwell

Charles Omenihu

A

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

Kevin Costner.

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.

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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

Toneil Carter

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

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Inside Texas 2018 Spring Review  

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...

Inside Texas 2018 Spring Review  

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...