Spring games for college football programs are great for really one reason: you get to watch somewhat competitive football in April.
But when your team has a new coach, there’s even more of a reason to at least take a peek. Still, you can put much stock into what happens at a spring game. Every year the Longhorns have one or two players who shine at the orange-white scrimmage, but then they don’t even get their name called during the season. In other words, take it all for what it’s worth.
As far as the Longhorns’ spring game goes, I wasn’t expecting much. And that’s exactly what I got. Tom Herman didn’t want to show a whole lot, and I think it’s because he still doesn’t know what to show.
This year more than any other, Texas fans could easily see who stood out and who didn’t. Herman still doesn’t know what he’s working with, and he likely won’t until fall camp starts. That means the players with the most talent should have been noticeable, and they were in my opinion.
The first takeaway is that Shane Buechele is going to be the starting quarterback at the first game against Maryland. Sam Ehlinger showed some positives as an early-enrollee freshman, but it’s clear Herman wants to and needs to redshirt him this year if at all possible.
Buechele did something multiple times that I haven’t seen a Texas quarterback do since Colt McCoy. He looked off receivers to throw off defenders and create open space for his receivers. If nothing else, this simple improvement from last season will help not only make himself better, but the entire offense as well.
Too many times quarterbacks have one receiver they want to throw to before the ball is snapped. And when that guy is covered, panic ensues, usually resulting in a sack, scramble for a couple yards or a bad throw leading to an interception. With Buechele showing some maturity in the pocket during the spring game, it may be a sign that Herman’s getting through to him already.
Another guy who stood out to me was Collin Johnson. I’ve had the feeling that Johnson is going to have a breakout year this year, and the spring game somewhat validated my position. Buechele seemed comfortable just throwing the ball up in Johnson’s direction and letting him go get it. Johnson has some speed, but most importantly, he’s tall and can be a huge asset in making Buechele even better.
If Herman’s offense is going to succeed in the Big 12, he has to have a big target in the red zone. He would prefer to have a tight end fill that role, but unfortunately, Texas doesn’t have one of those. I expect Herman to put Johnson in some mismatch situations in the red zone to allow Buechele to throw it in his vicinity and let him do work. Johnson’s going to have double-digit touchdown receptions this year, in my opinion.
From the defensive side, Malcolm Roach has the potential to have a breakout season at the defensive end position. He was often the best player on the field last season as a true freshman. But of course, it was the worst defense in the history of Texas football we were working with.
Roach was constantly beating the offensive line in the spring game and just looked quicker than everyone else. Teams will have to double-team Roach on the edge, which could open up some opportunities for the interior lineman like Poona Ford and Chris Nelson to have some solid sack numbers this year.
With all this being said, there still wasn’t anything that got me overly excited about this team right now. It’s still cautious optimism at this point.
Herman had the first team offense going against the second team defense and the first team defense going against the second team offense all afternoon. I guess the only good thing about that is the first team looked clearly better than the second team on both sides of the ball. The bad thing is there doesn’t appear to be a lot of depth right now. Time will tell if that aspect improves.
If you watched the Texas spring game, don’t get too excited or too disappointed about what you saw. If you didn’t watch it, there’s no need to go rushing to the TV the next time it’s being replayed on Longhorn Network.
You won’t hear a lot of hype coming out of the game like you have in years past. But maybe that’s a good thing.
E-mail Chase at chase [dot] holik [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.