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Following practice on Saturday, Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando noted how important Sunday’s first scrimmage would be for his defense, specifically his middle linebackers.
“It will be a big test for a whole bunch of guys to see if they can do it when all the coaches are away from them and can communicate and make plays,” Orlando said.
Texas head coach Tom Herman mentioned Sunday he “felt,” or took notice of, McCulloch and freshman Ayodele Adeoye from the middle linebacker group during the scrimmage. Herman said things got chaotic when the offense pushed the pace at the position where he’s seeking to replace Anthony Wheeler and Gary Johnson.
“We’ve got to settle ourselves down and get that fixed,” Herman said. “They knew the call. They knew the formation and had an opportunity to line up. I thought they did a really good job.”
McCulloch looks to be the leading candidate for Rover, but several other linebackers join Adeoye in the competition for Mac.
When asked about junior college transfers Juwan Mitchell and Caleb Johnson, Herman said that pair also made sure they were “felt” Sunday.
“Juwan has a knack for the ball,” Herman said. “Caleb can really run.”
Herman said Johnson reached 20.5 mph on Texas’ GPS tracking technology during recent kickoff drills. While he can move fast, Herman mentioned the game around him often moves too fast for Johnson and other newcomers.
“For them, it’s still just speed of the game,” Herman said. “Assignment. When they’re in the right place, they do the right thing. You feel them. You don’t feel them being mismatched or anything like that and they make quite a bit of plays.”
Freshman Marcus Tillman is also in the mix. Asked specifically about the early-enrollee from Orlando, FL, Herman praised him more than any individual defensive player in his brief availability.
“I think he’s really, really smart,” Herman said. “When it comes to football, he’s still a freshman and he’s got a lot of learning to do. He’s got a ton of energy. He flies around. He doesn’t take plays off. It’s going to be fun to watch his development over the course of this training camp, this season, and his career.”
That’s high praise for a true freshman, but it’s part of a mostly positive message that continues to come from the head coach and his defensive coordinator about a position group of concern.