Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert works along the sidelines during the 2016 University of Texas Orange-White Game April 16. 04/16/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Football

Orange-White spring game: Reviewing Texas’ five things to watch

Posted April 16th, 2016

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On Saturday, we addressed five issues — other than the quarterbacks competition — that we watched for in the Orange-White spring game. Here’s how they played out:

The new offense: It was as advertised, which is to say it was rapid fire. Quarterbacks snapped the ball every 10 to 15 seconds, which is a little slower than what reporters saw in open practices, but still fast enough. After Shawn Watson falsely teased of an uptempo offense last spring, new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert delivered with 110 snaps in a scrimmage that was cut short by one half due to rain.

Yet it was concerning that the offenses combined for seven three-and-outs. Do that during the season and the defense won’t have time to catch its breath on the sideline.

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Who will kick?: There was one field goal attempt, and Mitchell Becker hooked it to the left on a 46-yard try. Becker, a punter by trade, is apparently in the running for Nick Rose’s old job along with walk-ons Evan Moore and Jon Coppens. All three of them made an extra point, and Becker made two.

Afterward, Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said, “I don’t have a No. 1 kicker” and didn’t rule out acquiring another option over the summer.

For reasons only he knows, Strong has ignored the position the past three signing classes, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up. Keep in mind that a month before the 2015 training camp opened, Texas found punter Michael Dickson in Australia.

Run defense: The defense held up well against Tristian Houston (11 carries, 28 yards) and Trenton Hafley (3-13), but was exposed by the punishing tandem of D’Onta Foreman (9-73) and Chris Warren III (7-101).

Warren stiff-armed safety John Bonney for a 51-yard touchdown, and Foreman broke off a 28-yard non-scoring run. The good news is the Longhorns might not come up against a better duo than Foreman and Warren. Improvement is needed in this area, as Texas gave up about 220 yards per game in 2015 and ranked 112th nationally. On Saturday, linemen Charles Omenihu and Quincy Vasser each had two tackles for loss.

Tight ends: A tight end did not make a catch, and the best we can recall, none of them were targeted.

This shouldn’t register as a major surprise, as it’s been many seasons since the position had an integral role in the pass offense. Last year, Caleb Bluiett and Andrew Beck had eight catches apiece, and there’s no assurance those numbers will grow amid Gilbert’s four-and five-receiver sets.

The only other tight end on the roster, Blake Whiteley, sat out with an injury. Freshman Peyton Aucoin will arrive this summer, but he’s more of a blocker than a pass-catcher and had just two career receptions at Brother Martin in New Orleans.

Plugging holes: If it wasn’t apparent before, it’s painfully obvious the defensive line needs some more bodies. They’ll come this summer in the form of freshmen tackles D’Andre Christmas-Giles, Gerald Wilbon, Marcel Southall, Jordan Elliott and Chris Daniels, and end Andrew Fitzgerald. That’s six newcomers that Strong is banking on to apply immediate relief.

The offensive line needs help, too, and will look for newcomers Jean Delance, Tope Imade and Denzel Okafor to push for playing time on a unit currently has only seven game-ready players, according to Gilbert.

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