April 3, 2007

Breaking down the spring

The Texas Longhorns wrapped up spring drills on Saturday with the annual Orange-White scrimmage and now it's time for the team to head into the rest of the off-season with both eyes firmly focused on the fall. But, what did we really learn about this team in the last month? What questions were answered and which ones weren't? In looking back at the spring, Orangebloods.com has a list of five things that we know and five things that we don't know after 15 workouts over the course of February and March.

Things that we know

1. This is Colt McCoy's team.

It's amazing to think that it was less than four months ago when there were actually whispers that McCoy might not ever fully recover from the shoulder injury he suffered at the end of the 2006 season, but it didn't take long for McCoy to emerge as not only the best player on this team, but the heart and soul of the program. The third-year quarterback improved in every area as a player this spring and seemed to play at an even higher level than he did during his historic freshman season. When you couple McCoy's continued emergence with what might be the deepest and most talented group of receivers that Texas has had under Mack Brown, it's pretty clear that this team will feature one of the nation's top passing attacks.

2. The interior of the defensive line will be among the nation's best

If you're looking for the position that impressed the most as a group this spring, look no further than defensive tackle. Even with likely preseason All-American Frank Okam out with an injury, the tandem of senior Derek Lokey and junior Roy Miller was dominant from start to finish. Once Okam returns in the fall, the Longhorns should have a trio of tackles that can match-up with anyone in the country. Even more important than that was the development of redshirt freshman Brian Ellis, sophomore Ben Alexander and true freshman Dre Jones. All three players have made significant improvement and Ellis looks like a player that the staff must find a way to get on the field this season. Lokey is still the heart and soul of the defense, but the program is in a much better position to handle an injury to a front-line player at this position than it was a year ago.

3. The strength of this team on the offensive side of the ball is the passing game

Junior Jamaal Charles has completely dedicated himself to football and seems poised to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season, but this team is clearly more comfortable in the passing attack than it is with the running game. With Limas Sweed, Quan Cosby, Billy Pittman, Jordan Shipley and Jermichael Finley all roaming the field for McCoy as pass-receiving options, the Longhorns have the pieces in place to torment teams at will through the air. The question is whether or not this team will be able to run the ball effectively. The offensive line is still a major concern and it's hard to imagine how the running game can improve when you consider that McCoy is still not a threat in the running game, the schemes don't appear to have changed and the line play is not nearly as strong as it was a year ago.

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