With the offense strongly focused on the running game, the team has been working on improving the passing side of the offense.
“We are trying to prove that we can pass the ball and have an evenly split offense between running and passing,” said wide receiver Jaxon Shipley. “So I think it is definitely going to be important for the running backs, but especially for us wide receivers.”
The offense has been working on the passing game and senior running back D.J. Monroe has been making the transition to wide receiver. With Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron ruling the back field and running back Johnathan Gray arriving in Austin in the fall, Monroe will likely not get much time in the backfield.
But, he is making progress.
“The best play D.J. has for us is the speed sweep, and he is a wide receiver when he does that,” Brown said. “He will work more with (receivers coach) Darrell Wyatt the latter part of practice so we can try to get him in the game without giving it away that he’s in there only for a play that he runs.”
Brown also said Monroe needs to expand his overall package and catch better. The Longhorns are quite thin in the wide receiver position.
“He’s still not there,” Brown said. “But we feel like we’ve made some progress.”
In addition to Monroe, the wide receiver corps are welcoming back John Harris. Harris missed most of the 2010 season due to a foot injury and half of spring drills. But now, he is cleared to fully participate in spring drills.
Harris believes that he, the other receivers and the quarterbacks need to build chemistry. His and Jaxon Shipley’s injuries hindered the offense’s ability to create opportunities in 2011. But his return could provide the team with depth that is sorely needed. Harris was brought back on the field slowly and is catching up on what he missed during the season.
“John is a big target and has big hands,” said quarterback Case McCoy. “As long as we have as much depth as possible at receiver, I think that is when we are going to be at our best. We want to air the ball out, and we want to throw it. When we get fresh legs in there as much as possible, it will be nice.”
In addition to the changes at wide receiver, Texas fans will be able to compare the quarterbacks that are dueling for the starting spot. David Ash showed his improvement during the team’s open practice in March, and the gap between him and McCoy seemed to be widening. But practice is different than a game, and interception-prone Ash’s weaknesses could be displayed Sunday when there is more pressure on him.
“We feel like we’re so much further ahead off the field than we were this time last year,” Brown said. “We were still trying to get them excited, get them going, and get them to buy in. Right now they’ve bought in.”
Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: Texas looks for improvement in spring game