For the second year in a row, Texas is heading into its annual spring game coming off a bowl victory. While head coach Tom Herman, who’s entering his third season, continues to turn around the program, there’s a lot more fanfare being added to the spring game itself.
Player autographs, the return of Bevo Boulevard and a concert from Ludacris are just some of what’s going down Saturday night, but questions regarding key areas still linger. Here’s a quick rundown of what to look out for in Herman’s third spring game:
Winning at the line of scrimmage
One of the biggest question marks this spring and heading into the fall surrounds the offensive line. With the departure of key offensive starters, Texas has been utilizing multiple combinations of offensive linemen in practice and in scrimmages.
The same can be said for the defensive side of the ball as well. The departures of senior defensive linemen Charles Omenihu and Chris Nelson have left underclassmen with big shoes to fill, and it has let the Longhorns’ rushing attack break free in the backfield. For offensive coordinator Tim Beck, it’s easy to measure progress using a simple play.
“It’s handing the ball off on a power play and (running back) Keontay (Ingram) breaks the tackle and goes the distance,” Beck said. “Maybe our first year we didn’t break the tackle, maybe last year we broke it and got an 8-yard gain. Now it’s 44 yards.”
As both units take the field on Saturday, look for the battle at the line of scrimmage to show the directions both the offensive and defensive units are trending heading into the fall.
Apart from the line of scrimmage, Texas will look to build depth behind quarterback Sam Ehlinger. After losing two quarterbacks to transfers in the offseason, Texas has redshirt freshman Casey Thompson and freshman Roschon Johnson taking reps in practice to further their development.
“I think (Casey), he’s progressed about as good as you could hope for,” Herman said. “He’s at, if not ahead of, schedule.”
In addition, the absences of senior wide receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay from practice have opened the door for receivers such as Brennan Eagles, Malcolm Epps and Al’vonte Woodard to get more passes thrown at them.
Look for the Longhorns to get those further down the depth chart heavily involved in Saturday’s affair and working at improving more specific in-game situations.
“It’s one thing to put them out in the spring game and say, ‘You’re on your own,’” Beck said. “How they’re gonna react when all that stuff happens, that would be my only (concern) … ‘cause we are a young football team.”
A bigger jump
The first two springs of Herman’s Texas tenure focused more on developing a base of talent. Now, with two hand-picked recruiting classes in hand and his staff’s training, the spring game has most of the blank spaces filled up.
Players such as running back Jordan Whittington and linebacker Joseph Ossai are just a few who continue to make strides in the weight room and on the field. On the flip side, Herman is seeing more of his players emerge as vocal leaders whether they’re on the field or yelling from the sideline.
“It’s hard to lead when you’re not playing,” Herman said. “They’re doing as best as they can … (defensive end) Malcolm (Roach) is doing a good job holding down the fort, but we need some reinforcements there.”
Despite the spring game playbook being relatively limited compared to a regular game, Saturday night could be a clear indicator as to how far Texas as a team — and as individuals — has come. Texas’ Orange-White Game will kick off on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.