5 quick thoughts: Spring is in the air

Collin Johnson (Will Gallagher/IT)

Collin Johnson (Will Gallagher/IT)

I have no idea who won this game, the scoring system is pretty much incomprehensible and there’s no motivation to understand who won or lost anyways. Not for me at least, I guess the losers had to run gassers. Anyways, the 1st team won most of the battles in this game which is a step up from 1s vs 2s spring games of the past.

Some major caveats to the action include the lack of RBs that will actually be at the top of the depth chart (hopefully), pass-oriented play-calling that put the 2nd team DBs in a tough spot and the 2nd team OL in a real bind.

It was nice seeing Malik scrape and make the goal line stand at the end. Texas wins a lot of games next year if Malik is playing physical and smart against the run.

Quick thought no. 1: Pass-rush…

This defense is going to destroy any team with less than good pass protection. They were in the heads of the Texas OL when bringing even rudimentary pressures. If there was any degree of disguise or craftiness involved then you could forget it in terms of the QB having any time.

Even some of the Rover insert blitzes from Freeman caught the 1st team OL with their pants down and would have landed some sacks on Buechele. With Roach, Hughes, Nelson, Ford and the overload blitzes threatening either edge Malik should get at least three sacks next year just from learning to disguise those blitzes and getting free runs into the backfield. He should get another three or so from chasing down QBs that have been flushed by those same players and tactics. If he can’t do that then Edwin Freeman can, no. 35 was looking good timing those Rover blitzes to avoid getting picked up.

Chris Nelson absolutely dominated the 2nd team OL and was pushing the pocket up the middle one snap and then whipping Delance on the edge the next snap. Delance didn’t have a good day and I’m definitely concerned about the tackles.

Malcolm Roach appeared on first viewing to be more comfortable as a stand-up edge rusher than as a 4i-tech with his hands in the dirt. Omenihu actually seemed more disruptive playing with his hand in the dirt but Roach as a stand-up player looked utterly dominant and he wasn’t bad with his hand in the dirt either. There was an early snap where he got matched up on a walk-on RB that would have been the end of Ehlinger’s season were they playing with live bullets. Ehlinger looked more concerned with setting protections after that.

The 2-4-5 front that Texas played with Hughes and Roach as stand-up OLBs is one of the most schematically overwhelming rushing sets I’ve ever seen in this league. It was child’s play for them to send Roach off the edge a few times, get the offense thinking about him, and then dropping him into coverage and overloading the opposite edge, getting tremendous pressure every time.

We’ll probably be talking about this set all offseason, it’s like Christmas came early for me.

Quick thought no. 2: This wasn’t the base offense

We didn’t see much run game in this one with the offense instead calling a lot of pass plays. Whether this was because they didn’t want to show too much on offense, they were limited at RB, the single-high coverages from the offense negates many pass options, or because Herman didn’t want to show cracks in the defense I don’t know. Perhaps it was a combination of everything, regardless they called a ton of drop back passing plays in this game and I don’t think that will be the case (to this extent) in the regular season.

If Texas was actually going into a game with Ehlinger needing to start at QB and facing a pass-rush this devastating they’d have called at least 30 plays with a QB run element or option. Instead they called power-read maybe three or four times.

The receivers are excellent and both Ehlinger and Buechele had some moments delivering the ball to them, particularly Buechele who often had more time to work and better targets to work with. No doubt Texas will throw the ball plenty next season, but they won’t be nearly this pass-heavy in the season.

Quick thought no. 3: The QB battle isn’t quite over in my eyes

Herman didn’t set this game up to be a QB battle between Shane and Sam. Buechele got to work exclusively with the first team and while he did have to deal with some nice 2nd team D blitzes and some snaps with Delance guarding his blindside, the game was set up for him to thrive.

Not so with Ehlinger, who was asked to beat the first team D with drop back passing and not much run game to help him out. Naturally, Buechele’s stats were consequently much better…much, much better. However, Shane threw a pick (seemed to fail to recognize man-under coverage from dime personnel) and Ehlinger made the throw of the day beating great coverage from Kris Boyd to hit Lil’Jordan for a TD. Then Lil’Jordan overcame impressive range and a big hit from DeShon Elliott coming from the middle of the field and held on for the score.

We didn’t get to see how either of these guys handle a lot of the base RPO calls in this offense that the staff is saving for Maryland (or USC, even). Perhaps the format of the game tells us that Herman sees Buechele as the man, hence his favorable situation, but that’d be the stronger argument to me than what happened in this scrimmage.

I’m assuming Buechele starts week one but I think there’s a solid chance that Ehlinger overtakes him at some point in the next year. Both of them need to work through their progressions quicker because they would have taken a ****ton of sacks in this one.

Quick thought no. 4: Boundary X

Lil’Jordan Humphrey looks excellent, I think his future is bright. He’ll be a worthy backup to Collin Johnson who is going to command double teams inside the 40 and possibly everywhere else on the field for other teams. This staff is going to work a lot of the offense around how teams are forced to play Johnson when he’s in close range there on the boundary. Lots of teams are going to have to play him with safety help over the top, he’s simply overpowering.

They worked a ton of Y-sail (outside WR runs a go/fade, slot runs a corner route, someone else runs a flat and I imagine they’ll use Collin Johnson running that go route to clear out space on the reg.

Interestingly Reggie Hemphill-Mapps was a frequent target on some of the corner routes and he looked good all day long. Lots of guys found it easy to find space running underneath that vertical threat though, I think we’ll see a lot of that next season.

Quick thought no. 5: Most of the big question marks remain

We saw a lot of encouraging things in this game, even signs of an elite pass-rush and elite play from Collin Johnson at wideout both of which are unquestionably worth a fair number of wins next season.

I’m not sure yet without looking closer if Texas has even two good tackles that won’t need to be schemed to help, much less whether or not they have three. This was a tough test, even the 2nd team D was capable of bringing pretty solid pressure with Shark, Omenihu, Freeman, and Fowler out there. The first team D looked like the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers so we’ll see, maybe things aren’t quite as bad as they appeared. Connor Williams’ health seems doubly important now not only for the upside he offers but for the downside his replacements might bring.

We didn’t get to see Breckyn Hager play hardly at all, nor see many snaps where the first team D was having to fit the run properly against good spread-option run game. We still don’t know how well the QBs manage this stuff either.

Nevertheless, we got to see a lot and I think everyone should be pretty encouraged overall that the 2017 Longhorns are going to have this program back on track.