Spring game reveals depth concerns

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mike Davis didn't catch a ball.

Malcolm Brown ran one time.

David Ash threw three passes.

Those, Longhorns' fans, are your starters. And they didn't do much in the Texas' spring game. That, according to coach Mack Brown, was by design. Because Texas has designs on being two deep when September rolls around.

"We have got to have some of those guys grow up in the two deep," the Texas coach said.

Judging from the production in the last official practice of the spring, that needs to happen quickly and the players will have to do it on their own. Coaches are no longer involved in the equation. It will be hands off until August.

"We're going to have to get everybody not the same page," senior Alex Okafor said. "We have to be one unit out there."

Not one unit of 11 guys. But each side of the ball has to have 22 guys ready to play. That was not the case in the Orange-White game and the coaching staff was quick to point it out.

"As of right now, that is still a big ask for us," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "If our second 11 doesn't continue to come on, then we will be exposed and that is fairly obvious."

The issues with the two deep on defense is in the back seven players. Texas just doesn't have much experience behind veterans Kenny Vaccaro, Jordan Hicks and Carrington Byndom. Sure, the talent is there, but as Diaz adroitly pointed out: "There can be the assumption of potential that they can just take the place of the guys that we lost."

That is not possible. Sure Steve Edmond fills the gap better than any linebacker that has been around Texas in a few years. But he still has to fill the right gap. And yeah, Demarco Cobbs is, as Vaccaro said, "crazy fast." But he has to be running to the right place at the right time.

There are plays when they do just that, but then there are other plays.
"You may still go left when you are supposed to go right. You do that twice a day and you are going to lose," Diaz said.

That issue is not exclusive to the defense. The second team offense, save for Brown or Bergeron, is suspect at various positions.

Case McCoy was the first quarterback under center with that unit. He failed to move the ball at all against the first-team defense and threw a couple of passes that should have been picked, and ended up throwing two interceptions.
Neither of the interceptions was all that special. Instead it was McCoy forcing the ball where it should not have been thrown.

Those miscues did not change Brown or offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's stance on playing two quarterbacks. They weren't, however, as kind about the other positions.

"We are trying to get more depth and be competitive," Brown said. "Depth and toughness are the words we have used all spring. We are really trying to send that message to the players. It is about being at least two deep at every position."

That certainly holds true for receiver and offensive line. Mack Brown fully expects the four freshmen -- Kendall Sanders, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones and Daje Johnson -- to compete for playing time at wide receiver.

Even special teams wasn't spared.

"We will go into the fall with competition there at both of those kicking positions," Brown said. "We're not settled who is going to return punts and kickoffs. Those will be big decisions."

There are plenty of big decisions to be made around Texas. Now, all the coaches can do is wait to assess what they really have and hope some lessons from spring carry over to fall camp.

The coaches will meet with each player, tell them where they are on the depth chart and explain where they need to be. And then it is up to the players to see that through.

"That is the challenge to our guys, get in there, study and learn, ask questions and become a student of the game," Harsin said.