Coming off a 9-4 finish in 2012, which was either a marked improvement or a substantial disappointment — depending on whom you ask — the Texas Longhorns enter spring practice in preparation for 2013 with plenty of questions to answer.
We’re here to break down the two sides of the ball over the next couple of days and give you our impressions on what the biggest storylines will be between this Thursday and Saturday, March 30th when the annual Orange/White Spring Game takes place at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.
Who will emerge as the backup QB?
Since it finally appears that the quarterbacking job is firmly in the hands of David Ash, the next most buzzy conversation on the Forty Acres is who will emerge as Ash’s backup.
Nominally, the job belongs to junior Case McCoy who, of those on the depth chart, has the best skill set and experience level to step in and take over for Ash should adversity or injury arise — which is almost certain to happen once during the 2013 season.
However, McCoy won’t have the job on lock without beating out some competition from redshirt freshmen Jalen Overstreet and Connor Brewer. Brewer arguably is an odd-man out who could be looking to transfer given the arrival of 2013 commit Tyrone Swoopes, but could surprise if given enough snaps this spring to prove himself.
Overstreet seems to fit Major Applewhite’s new promised dynamic offense more closely, and is almost certain to receive some snaps in WildHorn and direct snap sets and could indeed be a nice change of pace to Ash?
Does Overstreet have enough to dethrone McCoy as the most desired backup on the Texas roster?
Who will emerge as a third impact wideout?
It’s a given that Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis will be looked upon by the Texas coaching staff and fans alike to carry the majority of the load in the passing game next fall.
The biggest question regarding the corps is, who will make an impact as a third receiver?
It’s widely assumed that sophomore Cayleb Jones — an Austin native — could be the guy. At 6-3, 211 pounds, Jones is known for his sticky hands and outstanding ball skills which allow him leverage against even larger defensive backs. His detriment, at least as of now, is a lack of breakaway speed, which would likely render him not as useful in a deep passing attack, making Davis Texas’ only true deep threat option.
Everyone is raving about the athletic ability and presence of sophomore wideout Kendall Sanders, and it’s just as possible that he, or as a long-shot, 2013 commit Montrel Meander, end up being a secondary deep threat for David Ash that opens up the intermediate passing game for the tight ends and Shipley.
Can a pass-catching threat emerge at tight end?
Over the recent history of Texas football, the Longhorns have almost always enjoyed a pass-catching threat at tight end — apart from the past few seasons, that is. David Thomas, Bo Scaife, and Jermichael Finley all stood out at Texas and have found themselves permanent NFL homes.
For whatever reason, the tradition hasn’t continued as of late, and Major Applewhite and Mack Brown will certainly be searching for a pass-catching threat at tight end who is an adequate enough blocker to not be a liability in the running game.
Texas has two talented tight ends with very different skill sets. M.J. McFarland is the athletic converted wideout, while Greg Daniels is a solid blocker who isn’t as adept in the passing game.
If McFarland can develop his blocking technique over the spring and summer — and I’m positive it will be a focus area — he could well emerge as the threat the Longhorns need next fall.
Check back for more on spring practice over the next month!