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Spring games across the country finish up but still leave many unanswered questions for Alabama, Auburn, Texas and USC.

QB Max Wittek visits Texas again

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
9:56
PM ET

AUSTIN, Texas -- Former USC quarterback Max Wittek visited Texas for its spring game Saturday, multiple sources confirmed.

Wittek was on Texas' campus for the third time this spring since electing to transfer, and the second time since the Longhorns began spring practice.

Wittek, a backup for the Trojans in 2013, is completing his degree at USC this semester and would have two seasons of eligibility remaining. He's expected to make his decision in the next month.

Texas continues to seek help at quarterback, particularly after David Ash suffered a foot fracture earlier this month. Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes took the first-team snaps at the spring game Saturday and was backed up by converted tight end Miles Onyegbule and walk-on Trey Holtz. Freshman Jerrod Heard joins the program in June.

Wittek, who has also taken a visit to Hawaii, threw for 600 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons at USC.


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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas' Orange-White spring game ended Saturday afternoon with a boom from the Longhorns' traditional cannon, and then another boom on the recruiting trail.

Shortly after the scrimmage wrapped up, Texas landed a verbal commitment from Converse (Texas) Judson defensive back Keivon Ramsey.


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The Texas spring game failed to offer any answers about the starting quarterback for the Longhorns next season.

Steve Edmond: Baylor is 'trash'

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
7:22
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Texas
AP PhotoSeveral months later, linebacker Steve Edmond says he's still mad about Texas' loss to Baylor, which ended the Horns' Big 12 title hopes.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas linebacker Steve Edmond is still bitter over losing the Big 12 title to Baylor last season.

The senior admitted after the Longhorns' spring game Saturday he's still frustrated, five months later, by the 30-10 loss in December.

"We could have won the conference," Edmond told reporters. "Even though I didn't get a chance to play in the Baylor game, I really feel like we should have beat Baylor. I really don't like Baylor. I still think they're trash."

Edmond did not play in the Baylor game after suffering a lacerated spleen the previous week against Texas Tech, an injury that ended his season.

His comments came after a reporter asked if new Texas coach Charlie Strong can turn the program around following two disappointing seasons.

"I'm mad as I can be. I knew we were a better team than they were," Edmond said. "And then ... Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It's not like you never won a game. I'm like, 'They won it, so what?' They still suck to me."

That game, the final one at Floyd Casey Stadium, decided the Big 12 championship and sent the Bears to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Several Baylor players responded to Edmond's comments on Twitter.


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Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes struggles

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
4:46
PM ET
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The Charlie Strong era began at Texas with a shaky performance at quarterback and few questions answered about just how quickly the Longhorns can rebound in the Big 12 under their new coach.

Tyrone Swoopes' audition had its downs and ups, leaving Texas with little clarity for its quarterback concerns after the Orange-White spring game on Saturday.

The sophomore got off to a rough start, missing on seven of his first nine pass attempts, but finished with 229 passing yards and three touchdowns. He led the Longhorns' first-team offense on four touchdown drives during the two-hour scrimmage at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Swoopes received every first-team snap in place of David Ash, who missed the final week of spring practice with a fractured foot, but every snap came against the Texas second-team defense.

"You like the way he (was) able to bounce back," said Strong, who was hired in January from Louisville to replace Mack Brown. "He missed some big throws there, you'd like to see him complete those balls, but then the way he settled down and was able to bounce back, now you feel like, 'OK, he's getting himself back under control.'"

Swoopes was sacked on his first dropback of the day, and then threw an interception to walk-on Dylan Haines on his first attempt. The Texas starting offense accounted for 4 total yards on its first 18 snaps against the No. 2 defense.


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We've been doing something different with the mailbag, including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...

Trotter: At this point, I think it's only a matter of time before Grant Rohach is named the starter. He was clearly the best QB in the spring game, and coming off the way he played at the end of last season, momentum is in his corner. I know the Cyclones are high on the potential of redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, and Rohach will have to perform once the season begins to keep the job, but at this point, it's difficult envisioning anyone other than Rohach starting the opener against North Dakota State.

Trotter: Texas' Cedric Reed, Kansas State's Ryan Mueller, Oklahoma's Charles Tapper, TCU's Devonte Fields and Baylor's Shawn Oakman. On the next tier, I'd have Oklahoma's Geneo Grissom, Texas Tech's Branden Jackson, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey and Oklahoma State's Jimmy Bean.

Trotter: My two darkhorse picks at this point would be Texas Tech and TCU. Schedule is a big part of this, and Tech gets Oklahoma and Texas at home, and Baylor in Arlington, Texas. If the Red Raiders could escape a September Thursday night clash at Oklahoma State, then they could be a factor. QB Davis Webb has made tremendous improvement since December, and he's going to have plenty of firepower surrounding him. Assuming Fields is back to his old self, the Horned Frogs will again be a formidable defense. The big question, as always, is, can they score enough points? But if Matt Joeckel can step in at QB and direct what is essentially the same offense he had at Texas A&M to respectability, TCU could be a handful.

Trotter: Charlie Strong can't get destroyed by Oklahoma. Can't enter any fourth quarter without a legitimate chance to win. Can't lose more than three games. If he avoids those three potholes, he has chance to take Texas a step forward. To me, that's the litmus test.

Trotter: Anytime a team loses its leading tackler, it hurts. Fortunately for the Sooners, they're deep at linebacker, and can absorb a key loss there better than they'd be able to at some other positions. Jordan Evans played well as a true freshman, and shined in place of Shannon in the spring game. A linebacking corps of Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Dominique Alexander, sack-master Eric Striker and Evans would still be stout. Of course, it would be even better with Shannon.

Trotter: That's a tough question. It was startling how much the K-State defense suffered when Ty Zimmerman wasn't on the field last year, but I have faith Dante Barnett is ready to assume a leadership role in that secondary and stabilize the defense. I have less faith right now in K-State's running backs. So far this spring, no one has really emerged from a crop of backs with almost no meaningful experience. The K-State attack has always been predicated on a strong running game, so this is no small issue. Maybe freshman Dalvin Warmack can jumpstart the position when he arrives this summer. But running back looks like the biggest question on a solid-looking team with not many questions elsewhere.

Spring game preview: Texas

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
2:00
PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- The first Texas football game of the Charlie Strong era will look a lot more like a practice.

The Longhorns hit the field this weekend for the first time since Strong arrived. Even though fans can expect a more scrimmage-like approach to the annual Orange-White spring game, there will be plenty worth keeping an eye on.

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMISophomore QB Tyrone Swoopes will get a chance to work with the No. 1 offense in a game setting Saturday.
What to watch for:

  • Swoopes' confidence: The last time we saw Tyrone Swoopes in action, he looked like a flustered freshman (he was, in fact, a freshman) trying his hardest not to mess up amid a beatdown from Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He wasn't afraid to take some shots, and he scrambled for a 28-yard gain, but all in all it was a tough ask for a first-year QB who still had a lot to learn. With David Ash sidelined, Swoopes gets a chance to run the No. 1 offense in the spring game and show how far he has come in 14 practices with Shawn Watson, Texas' new quarterbacks coach. Watson is enthusiastic about the sophomore's future and praises his work as a student of the game, but this is a chance to see how well he can execute with a crowd watching and a No. 1 defense coming after him. Strong says the key to Swoopes' play is confidence and playing within himself. Everyone in attendance on Saturday will want to see if he can do just that.
  • New-look defense: This is going to be a vanilla ballgame on both sides of the ball. Both coordinators acknowledged that after their final practice Thursday. Why give up the good stuff when any Big 12 opponent can DVR the game on Longhorn Network and pick it apart? Even fiery defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will show restraint. But how he lines this defense up, both in scheme and personnel, will be intriguing. Texas coaches say this will be a multiple defense capable of lining up in 4-3 or 3-4, and you could see a little bit of both on Saturday. No, the defenders can't touch Swoopes. But you better believe Bedford will demand they get after him and put up a fight.
  • Playmakers on the outside: The hype is building for this Longhorns receiving corps, and their coaches have had nothing but good things to say about a group that must make up for the loss of deep threat Mike Davis. Nobody will be surprised if Marcus Johnson is the breakout player of the spring game. He's a star in the making. Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Sanders, Daje Johnson and Jacorey Warrick are all said to have had a big spring as well, and don't be shocked if you see tight end Geoff Swaim do some things in the passing game after primarily serving as a blocker in 2013.
  • Rising returnees: A new coaching staff means a clean slate for these Longhorns, and that means a fresh start for players who either weren't playing or were underperforming. The differences will be far more noticeable by August after a long summer of lifting and drills, but there will be some new standouts on Saturday. Guys such as safety Mykkele Thompson, offensive guard Taylor Doyle and linebacker Tim Cole have made an impression on the new staff and could do so again this weekend. Or perhaps it'll be someone nobody else is talking about, like how Duke Thomas caught everyone's eyes last year.
  • New sheriff in town: It's going to be a little strange to see someone other than Mack Brown on that sideline, isn't it? You know plenty of Texas fans will have their eyes on Strong for a glimpse of how he operates in a game setting and what he bring to the Texas sideline. You know the 100-plus recruits in attendance will care about that, too. For all the talk about how Strong is a stern coach out to lay down the law and whip the Longhorns into shape, let's see him have a little fun on Saturday.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
12:00
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NBA playoffs start this weekend. This should get you ready for the fun!
AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong’s #letsride movement is picking up momentum, and it’s going to the next level on Saturday at Texas’ Orange-White spring game.

Strong and his coaching staff already have picked up seven verbal commitments since taking over and could have a chance to lock up a few more at the annual spring game. As many as 100 prospects from the 2014, 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes are expected to be on the sidelines and in the stands for the unofficial first game of the Strong era.

The highlight of that lengthy list? Texas is expected to receive unofficial visits from the following members of the newly released ESPN 300:

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Defensive Backs Coach & Special Teams Coordinator Chris Vaughn wired during 2014 spring practice.

The athletic director with the largest budget in the nation said Thursday he doesn't support paying athletes nor a system in which they can market themselves, and doesn't understand the recent quest by some Northwestern football players to unionize.

Steve Patterson, who took over as AD at the University of Texas this past November, told ESPN.com that he listened to the case made by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, which was backed by the College Athletes Players Association, and it wasn't clear what he was seeking.

"It's interesting when you look at the objections of the plaintiffs in the case; we address all of them," Patterson said. "If our athletes get hurt, we pay all their medical bills. If they want to come back and graduate, we pay for them to come back and graduate. We do everything that they say they wanted."

Northwestern players, who were found by the National Labor Relations Board last month to be university employees, are set to vote on whether to unionize late next week.

Patterson, who oversees an annual athletic budget of roughly $170 million, said the "whole thing smells of guys in the legal profession looking for a fee."

Patterson directed that comment towards sports labor lawyer Jeff Kessler, who last month filed an antitrust claim against the NCAA and the five largest conferences in New Jersey federal court, hoping to represent all scholarship players in college basketball and football players.

Kessler is arguing for a more free market in which schools can offer more than a scholarship to win over a player's services.


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Two sons of a former Texas legend are following in their father's footsteps.

San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian running back Kirk Johnson and younger brother receiver Collin Johnson announced their commitments to Texas on Thursday during an unofficial visit.



Kirk is Texas' third running back pledge for the 2015 class, while Collin is the new first member of the Longhorns' 2016 class. And nobody is happier than their father, Johnnie Johnson.

“This is an awesome day for the Johnson family,” he said. “Watching them give their commitment to Charlie Strong was a precious moment.”

A consensus All-America defensive back for the Longhorns in 1978 and 1979, Johnson brought his sons back to Austin last month for a junior day that nearly ended their recruitment on the spot. Both brothers were offered that day, but they held off because they'd promised to take more visits elsewhere.

They still had more trips on the schedule, too, including to UCLA next week, but a return trip to Austin on Thursday was all they needed to lock down their commitments.

In addition to Strong, the Johnsons were made a priority by defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, receivers coach Les Koenning and running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Johnson played with Bedford and Koenning while at Texas, so he knew what kind of men were going to coach his sons.

“You could’ve have asked for better, stronger character guys with values,” Johnnie Johnson said. “The other factor is the fact that Charlie and his staff continued to communicate how high they were on their board and how much they wanted them.”

Kirk Johnson, a three-star prospect, held offers from Cal, Washington, Utah and Colorado State. Despite an ankle injury that held him to seven games, he still rushed for 1,228 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Texas also has verbal commitments from ESPN 300 backs Tristian Houston and Jordan Stevenson.

The recruiting interest was starting to heat up for both of them, especially Collin Johnson. The 6-foot-4, 192-pound wideout held offers from TCU, Arizona State, Cal, Utah and Colorado State and had strong interest from USC.

Landing pledges from the Johnson brothers could be the first step toward Texas growing its recruiting footprint in California. While the Longhorns have found junior-college transfers Geoff Swaim and Desmond Harrison there in recent years, the previous coaching staff signed just two high school prospects out of that state in more than 15 years.

Though they have committed early, the Johnsons are sure to sign. Now that they've made their pledge, their father says the recruiting process is completely over. The brothers wanted to weigh their options before deciding, and in the end, that decision led them back to their dad's alma mater.

And he can’t help but fantasize about the day he first watches Kirk, and then both boys, run onto the field in burnt orange like he once did.

“It’s a dream I can’t even describe to know they are going to be able to experience that,” Johnnie said. “I’ve shared with them it’s a feeling I can’t even describe. Anything I could say wouldn’t do it true justice until they have that first experience.”

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LHN analyst Ahmad Brooks breaks down Saturday's Texas football spring game (1 CT/LHN).

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Spring Game Wrap-Up: April 19
Spring games across the country finish up but still leave many unanswered questions for Alabama, Auburn, Texas and USC.Tags: Spring Games, Garry Paskwietz, Alex Scarborough, Max Olson, Greg Ostendorf
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