Tracking the Longhorns: Spring Game

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Randy Maltz is a die-hard sports fan, with passion for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns. He is Founder & Editor of Silver and Blue Report and Hook 'em Report. He still idolizes Roger Staubach and Tom Landry.
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Tracking the Longhorns: Spring Game
The Texas Longhorn offensive and defensive coordinators and several players spoke following the 2011 Spring Game.

http://www.mackbrown-texasfootball.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/040311aac.html

April 3, 2011

Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin
On the quarterbacks: I think our goal today was to go out there and see those guys operate the offense. If the play is called correctly, getting in and out of the huddle, making good decisions, try to stay away from the turnovers, avoid the sacks – those types of things. Things that they can control and keeping us out of bad down and distances. So there was some good things. There were some bad things in there. We’ll go back, and until we can really evaluate, we’re a work in progress with those guys. And really from this point, what we’re going to do is take this evaluation and from the three scrimmages [and] look at what is the next step for this summer. And that is really going to be the next key for us, is what are we going to do from this point until we come back to fall camp together. And you can grow leaps and bounds as a quarterback, and really every position, by studying and having a better understanding of what we are trying to get done. So that will be the focus coming out of this film session with these guys – seeing where we go from here.

I think there were a lot of good things by all of those guys. That was one thing. I thought they’ve gotten better and better each practice. I thought they did some really good things. And I think there are a lot of things we still need to work on. We have each of these guys and the cutup of all of their plays, and when I get a chance to take a look back at all the throws they’ve made and all the plays they’re been in on, what were the things we need to improve on and what were some of the things we’ve gotten better at. And once we decide those two things, we’ll look at the next step. We need those guys to continue thinking about those things, work on them, continue to improve on what they’ve gotten better at, and compete through the summer and push themselves to get better.

On QB Case McCoy: Case did a really good job. He moved us down the field. We had some situations there where we had to make a play, and he was able to move around the pocket and get it up there. [WR Darius] White went up and made a play on the ball when it was a short pass. The bottom line is getting from point A to point B. And there were some good things in there from all those guys, and Case did a nice job of getting us in the end zone.

On what will separate the quarterbacks: I think the main thing is their preparation habits. Each player will come out with an evaluation of  “here is where you are and here is what you need to continue to improve at.” Now, it is a matter of what are you going to do to improve in those areas – what are your preparation habits? How much time are you going to spend watching tape? How much will you be in here pushing yourself extra in the weight room or out there throwing? Those type of things. That is really what I think will define and separate guys between now and fall camp, is that little extra that each guy does for themselves to get to where we need to be.

On QB Garrett Gilbert: From what I’ve seen since I’ve started to work with him, he has done a really nice job up to this point. And the thing with the interception is that those are going to happen. We’re going to take shots down the field, and we’re going to try to take advantage of guys clearing out, and the defense made a nice play on it. What I want to see, because I know those things are going to happen, is how you respond. And I believe he came back, was 3-for-3 and we went down and scored. So those are the things to me. I like these guys to be in tough situations right now. We don’t want to have that when we play a game. But right now, how do you come back from that, how do you respond? What are you going to do? And I thought he did a real nice job shaking that off, saying “Okay, let’s get back down there and score.” That is really the goal of the quarterback. You have to go out there and manage your time. Whether you do something good or bad, it doesn’t matter. You have to go back out the next series and manage that team the same way, and get them in the end zone and he did that. So I’m proud of him for that.

On a depth chart for the quarterbacks: Again, we came in with a pecking order. And each guy through camp – and I think everybody had an opportunity today to go with the first group – we’re just trying to keep it as even as we can in terms of getting these guys their reps. Each guy has their own tape, and we’re going to go back and look at each one individually, and see what they do when they had the first group in there and when they had the second group in there. How did they operate? How did they manage the offense? From this point is – where do we go from here with each individual guy? And to be fair with these guys, they’ve all had their individual opportunity. Here is what you need to get done. Now you have four months of preparation, what are you going to do from this point to when we get back for fall camp? Especially at that position, you can do a lot of things over the summer, and I’m excited to see what they’re going to do.

Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite
On RB D.J. Monroe’s explosiveness: What D.J. has done is what we have seen before in games. He came in late. [He] had a good indoor track season. He has joined us and really taken to the books as best as he can, and we are just trying to find ways to continue to get him the ball for explosive plays.

On the running backs: Fozzy Whittaker had a really good camp, and he did a great job going after a ball today on third down and had to go out with his shoulder. But he came back and gave us some snaps. He has got to work in the offseason to get his shoulder conditioned where he can take more. We’re going to ask a lot of Cody Johnson these next four months learning both fullback and halfback and wearing those two hats. Jeremy Hills did some nice things today, [and] Traylon Shead had some nice runs going against the first defense which is really tough for the younger guys who don’t have as clean of looks as the first team. But they did a good job. Like the rest of the team, we just need to have a good four months of preparation.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz
On where the defense is right now: I think it is a work in progress, which is what we saw all of spring. We are a defense that has to do everything right to be successful, and on the plays when 11 guys lock in and do their job, we are hard to move against. But we still have very little margin of error when we don’t play within our technique or we don’t play within our assignments. I would think the same thing would be true, whatever value you have for us as a defense, if we come back with that same value the first practice in August – we are in trouble. It is really important for our players in the off-season to make some strides. Right now, we think we know. But when we come back, we need to know we know. And that is tough and all part of the transition of going into a scheme, and even our top guys have a good idea of what the basis of the scheme is. But we have to know we know. We can’t just have it memorized. We have to have the understanding, and that should come in the summertime.

On the secondary: I think the secondary has done a great job this spring. I think they have really improved. I think we have a group of fighters back there. Obviously, with the first drive they scored. They had the underthrown ball, which in man-coverage is probably the hardest to defend – the underthrown deep ball. And then we just got beat on a leverage situation on the touchdown, when a guy just has to stay inside his guy. And again, that is the type of situation that is really not a skill thing or a talent deal, but just understanding the defense, understanding the stress of the defense and what we have to defend down there in that position. I love the kids we have in our secondary. They are hard workers. They are diligent. I think this is a bunch that you have to watch what you tell them because they’re going to try to do it exactly the way you tell them. And I think if they continue that attitude, and they continue to work with Coach [Duane]Akina, I think we will be okay back there.

On DE Alex Okafor making plays at defensive end: That is what we saw just going back to the 5:45 a.m. workouts – running around cones, which is very unglamorous. We saw that he had the ability to move around and change direction where he could be that guy that can move around. And he is a big imposing figure out there at defensive end. The thing is this – he has to be that guy for us. If you look around, he is it. He is our elder-statesman at defensive end. If he feels like he can be good some of the time, then we’re going to be good at defense some of the time. For us to be really great on defense, we need him to be great on defense. I think we had a good wakeup call today. I feel like in the first quarter, we were too casual and a little too cute in our preparation. And I think from that point on, we put it on our guys to go there and play. They should dominate the way we had the scrimmage setup, even though we were very vanilla on defense from the second quarter on.

On showing a limited defense: It was very basic. Part of that was by design. We just wanted to see our guys go play. We have things that we know will give offenses trouble, but that wasn’t the issue for today. We just wanted to see who would go out and play. If we just drafted two teams and split up 11-on-11, who would you want to pick on your team? And hopefully the film will show that.

On CB Quandre Diggs: What I thought of Quandre today is what we have seen through the course of the spring. For a guy who should be walking around and taking English 4 in high school right now – you know he had to be diligent to get out of high school a semester early – he has a knack for making plays. He did a great job on a deep ball on the first drive of the game. He came up and put his face on somebody later in the scrimmage. So Quandre is a guy who was born to play defensive back. He just has the knack. Some guys you have to draw them a map, but Quandre understands what it takes to play there. He is still young, and like young guys do, sometimes they are there and sometimes they are not. But we are glad he is with us.

On the defensive line: I think it was hot and cold. We make it a big deal that we don’t want the ball run through the heart of our defense. I thought the first bunch was okay at that. I think our depth is still what we’re waiting on to come along. And then when we put them in just a four-man straight pass rush situation, what we talk about is a garbage sack. And some of those today will make the fans excited, but a lot of times in the game, it is the second guy that is going to get the sack. I think our guys understand and are hearing what [defensive line] Coach [Bo] Davis is telling them, but they are not living it yet. And that is where the improvement has to come – just the “go” mentality. We are getting there, but we are not there yet.

RB  Foswhitt Whittaker
On the offense: I thought it was pretty good. Guys are still learning the system, but they are getting along and progressing and learning the offense. We still have a way to go as an offensive unit, but I feel like in the fall we will be ready.

On the performance of the quarterbacks: I think they all did a good job. It is hard to tell without looking at film,but I think they all did a good job and went out there and fought.

On DE Alex Okafor: From the offensive standpoint having to block him on certain plays – that is tough enough. His ball “get off” is extremely fast especially when he is coming off the edge. That messes with us because we give help on the tackle if we have to chip in on the inside or outside just to try to slow him down. And he messes up the timing even with us getting into our routes, and you can tell he is a big impact defensively as we have to change up our scheme offensively.

DE Alex Okafor
On the last time you had five sacks: Not even in high school. I just went out there and had fun. [I’m] glad to be back on the edge.

On just practicing as a defensive end: I have only worked at [defensive end]. I do not know what their plans are for the fall, but as of right now I am strictly a DE. I didn’t get the move until a couple days before spring started. I was preparing to be a tackle, and they pulled the trigger and moved me back.

On his weight: I have been putting on weight but good weight, and I don’t feel like I have lost my speed. I feel like I could still play both positions. I am at about 262[lbs] right now.

S Blake Gideon
On who has improved from last year: I would say both corners, especially Adrian Phillips moving from safety this past year it helps that all of us are starting at a level ground with a new defense coming in. I thought that both of those corners did a nice job of stepping up and really establishing themselves out there as the front-runners this fall.

On CB Quandre Diggs: Quandre is going to be a very good player. He has a chance to do some great things while he is here. There is only so much you can coach, and he seems to have that natural part, that instinct, that knack for the game. That is something that is rare in a young defensive back. And he will come up and hit you, and I think everyone is pretty excited about Quandre and what he brings. He keeps his mouth shut, and that is an important aspect of being a freshman here.[laughs]

On DE Alex Okafor needing to step up his game after losing a guy like Sam Acho: It is very important especially with this new defense. Coach [Manny] Diaz has a theory that we are going to stop the run by rushing the passer, and when ever you get guys like this that you can turn loose and just let them get loose on the edge, it makes it easier on everyone else and clears up that much quicker and clears up what the offense is trying to do. They have to get out of their disguise, and they have to show you the final formation a little faster when you have threats on the edge like that. It is very important. The best pass defense is the rush.

On Alex Okafor: You know what you are going to get when Alex steps on the field. He is going to give you a 100 percent even if he is not feeling it that day. You are going to get the same Alex. He is going to come to practice and come to work everyday, and it is always going to be the same guy. That is the main thing. You have to have in a defense football players with that kind of effort

On the quarterbacks: They competed. We always like to have a fun time with trying to trash talk and get inside their heads. You saw me out there – I threw a ball at Case [McCoy] after a play. That is us competing everyday for 15 practices during the spring. That is the kind of guys all of them are. They are competitors whether it is not flowing for them that day or their timing is off. They are out there to compete. They are not going to worry about whatever excuse they have in their back pocket.

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