With Charlie Strong’s first Texas Longhorns Spring Game quickly approaching, I decided to list a few things I’m hoping to see out of the first edition StrongHorns. Of course, when I say see, what I actually mean is, I hoping that other people see it and write about it so that I can confirm these things, seeing as how I can’t actually watch the Texas Spring Game. Thanks, Longhorn Network!
1. David Ash Picking Up The Offense
Gaudy stats are meaningless in a spring game. For a prime example, just look back at Garrett Gilbert’s scintillating performance in 2010. He was so good that day that it infected Longhorn Nation with a full-blown case of Gilbertmania. We all know how that worked out.
Unfortunately, we won’t know how he has recovered from his concussion problems until he takes some hits, which won’t happen until the fall and some rust is to be expected since he hasn’t thrown a meaningful pass since September. What we do need to see from Ash is the ability to quickly read, react and deliver the ball to the right place. Quarterback teaching wasn’t exactly a strong point of the previous regime, so Ash displaying a firm grasp of the offense would be a welcome sight.
2. New Faces At RB, OT
Injuries, off-field issues and recruiting and/or development failures have resulted in major depth issues at these two positions. (I wrote about RB issues here) The Longhorns need young blood to emerge at these positions. A lot of attention will be paid to the job that RB Coach Tommie Robinson and OL Coach Joe Wickline do this year and this will be our first glimpse at what they’ve accomplished so far.
3. Do We Have Any Linebackers?
One of the most critical failures of the last staff was the failure to recruit and develop linebackers. I’m sure that Strong and LB Coach Brian Jean-Mary will eventually return the position to one of strength, but what can he do with Mack’s leftovers? Will Peter Jinkens flash some of that potential we saw at the end of 2012? Can Kendall Thompson salvage what’s left of his career? Have Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond improved with actual coaching? Some solid LB play would be a bonus right here.
4. What About Safeties
Duane Akina’s strategy to recruiting DBs was: find corners who can play man and teach them to play safety. The last time Texas fielded two solid safeties at the same time, those safeties were Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon, and I’ll let you debate the merits of Balke Gideon.
With the graduation of Adrian Phillips, there are nothing but question marks at the back-end for Texas. Akina left Vance Beford a lot of talent to work with but it falls on Bedford to turn them into true safeties. As we’ve seen the last several years, it’s hard to survive in the Big XII without solid safety play.
5. Who Will Replace Anthony Fera
Nick Jordan didn’t exactly light it up as the primary place kicker in 2012, but he enters the season as the most experienced kicker we have. Nick Rose has been nothing but a kickoff and specialist and Will Russ…Will Russ is still here, right? Yeah, PK could be another cause for concern in 2014. It would be nice to see some quality kicking out of someone.
6. Tactical Tidbits
I don’t expect anything too exotic out of either coordinator in the spring game, but we should start to get an idea about some base packages and plays. Those little tidbits can then be used to fuel a summer full of analysis and theorizing. It will also be interesting to see how the three-headed play caller will work under fire.
The culture change at Texas has served to whet the appetite of Longhorn fans who have been waiting for years to see some solid, well-coached football on the 40 Acres. Invariably, it will be a poor filler for the real thing, but at the very least we might learn a little something about our team this spring and that will have to do until September.