was a better day at the office Saturday for QB David Ash following his previous
day’s spotty performance, as Texas capped its second week of spring football at
DKR. It obviously helped to have WR Mike
Davis back in action, and Jaxon Shipley was his usual, Velcro-hands self. But the Horns may have found another
legitimate, deep ball threat.
What’s more, he wears No. 4.
Sophomore Caleb Jones (listed at 6-3, 211 pounds) does not quite fit Roy
Williams’ profile, and that may not be a bad thing.
It seems that for every physics-defying grab, Williams also
played as if he was afraid to break a nail or hurt a DB’s feelings. Jones made the highlight reel receptions
during Texas’ two ‘open practices’ this weekend that will remind many of a
young Roy Williams. But where Jones
seems to be ahead of Williams at this stage in his career - and certainly light
years ahead of where Jones was last season – are in the intangibles best
described as moxie, confidence and bravado.
When that ball is lofted into the brisk breeze, it’s as if an internal voice
is activated inside Jones’ helmet that insists ‘My ball! Mine!’ He’ll make the adjustments on the route, and
he’ll elevate, and he’ll get separation from the DB, and the partisan crowd
sequestered in the north end zone roars its approval and…
…and it’s just spring football. To be sure, there have been
those who could have earned first team All-Spring Training honors during the
Mack Brown era (DeSean Hales and Barrett Matthews come to mind) only to toil in
relative obscurity when it counts. So,
let’s put an asterisk next to Caleb Jones.
For now, the latest No. 4 looks legit.
Early on, the DE’s worked on collapsing the pocket and then
on tipped-ball drills. At the same time, the DTs ran through a series of drills
emphasizing footwork, balance, hand placement and gap control. Meanwhile, the
linebackers focused on dropping back into coverage. Offensively, Friday’s focus
on the zone read shifted to an emphases on a perimeter rushing and passing
Jones came up with the day’s most acrobatic catches in
one-on-ones as well as seven-on-sevens.
Third-year WR John Harris has proven dependable the past two days, while
sophomore Kendall Sanders’ star is on the rise.
Collectively, Longhorn wideouts compensated for Friday’s
across-the-board erratic outings from all of Texas’ QBs. (For the record, even Shipley had a rare drop
Friday when the passing game was hit-or-miss).
Ash was much more poised Saturday and backup Connor Brewer
was notably more efficient than Friday’s dazed-and-confused performance. It was
about what you’d expect from Case McCoy (he’s pinpoint one play before tossing
a WTF throw the next).
Seven-on-seven drills emphasized goal-line situations. First snap, Ash’s perfectly placed ball from
a five-wide set found WR Bryant Jackson streaking across the back of the end
zone. Ash then failed to connect with Davis on a fade but, next snap, Sanders
made the snag on the same play. CB Duke
Thomas had a couple of nice PBUs when it was McCoy’s turn to run the goal line
offense with the twos.
Ash rolled right on the first snap of 11-and-11s and found
Shipley just beyond the pylon for a TD toss.
S Adrian Phillips chalked one up for the defense with his
PBU on Ash’s next attempt. The defense
added a feather to their caps by stuffing a ‘zone read’ run but, next snap,
Jonathan Gray bounced outside for a good 20 yards. (Note: it’s been a helluva fine two days for
Brewer did a nice job directing the threes, but the drive
ended poorly with Nick Rose’s missed FG attempt from about 36 yards out.
Ash immediately went up top on a post route and hit paydirt
after Davis who put the moves on sophomore DB Kevin Vaccaro. Gray added another 11 yards off RT before the
defense shut down the ‘zone read’ on the next snap. RB Joe Bergeron rumbled for
eight yards but, next play, his collision with LB Steve Edmond was of such
magnitude that Bergeron remained sprawled on the turf for nearly one minute
while Whaley clearly was seeing double. Play continued while both Bergeron and
Whaley collected themselves.
The play seemed to galvanize the defense. S Kendall Thompson made a teeth-jarring stop
of Gray for no gain. DE Bruce Cottrell was credited with a sack of QB Tyrone
Swoopes. The defense also held Daje Johnson
to a minimal gain off a reverse.
Malcolm Brown got the last word when he bounced outside left
tackle and scored from 20 yards out, becoming his own blocker once inside the
The first half of Longhorn spring drills concludes Friday
when the university begins spring break.