Monday, March 14, 2011
Breaking down spring practice: Texas
By ESPN.com staff
Schedule: Texas opened spring practice on Feb. 24 and will play its spring game on April 3. ESPN will televise Texas' spring game live at 3 p.m. ET.
What’s new: Uh, what isn't new? Texas coach Mack Brown had to replace five coaches and took six hires to do it. Jerry Gray was hired as secondary coach before leaving to become the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Texas also hired a new strength coach, Benny Wylie, but the headliners are offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin from Boise State and fast-rising, young defensive coordinator Manny Diaz from Mississippi State.
On the mend: Offensive lineman Tray Allen missed all of last season with a broken bone in his foot, but he's back this spring and contending for a starting spot. We won't know if he gets it for awhile, as Texas' depth chart is non-existent for now with so much change in the coaching staff. The offensive line could get interesting, though. Because of injuries, the Longhorns have just eight linemen practicing this spring.
On the move: Alex Okafor moved from defensive end to defensive tackle last year, but he's back on the outside this spring at his natural position.
Key battle: Quarterback. There's no question about it for Texas. Teams with good quarterbacks win in the Big 12. Getting a good quarterback requires having a good supporting cast around him, but Garrett Gilbert didn't have much support in 2010. Texas' quarterback spot is open now, and Gilbert will try to hold off Connor Wood, Case McCoy and freshman David Ash after starting all 12 games last season.
New faces: Ash has garnered some early praise from the coaches, and defensive back Quandre Diggs, one of the best corners in the 2011 class, is also on campus early and practicing with the Longhorns. Defensive back Dakota Haines, tight end M.J. McFarland and linebacker Chet Moss round out the early enrollers.
Breaking out: Linebacker Emmanuel Acho. He was overshadowed a bit by his older brother, defensive end Sam Acho, but the senior will likely be a captain in 2011 following a pair of All-Big 12 seasons. With a new defense, the linebacker could become a household name by midseason next year.
Don’t forget about: Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. He earned plenty of buzz early last season with big performances against Texas Tech and UCLA, but an ankle injury sidelined him for four games and slowed him late in the season. Once one of the nation's top recruits, Jeffcoat could be in for a big year in 2011 if he stays healthy. He was already one of the team's best pass rushers last season.
All eyes on: Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. The pressure isn't just on the quarterbacks. Texas' defense was good enough to be a solid team last year, but the offense was dreadful. Harsin will be responsible for injecting his new philosophies and ideas into the Longhorns offense, which hopes to be able to do everything. That includes lining up with two running backs and running downhill and spreading four and five receivers wide and speeding up to a no-huddle pace.