Texas opened it first two practices of fall camp to reporters. Here are our observations and thoughts based on what we saw on Saturday and Sunday.
First, the offense. We’ll look at the defense in a separate post.
Tyrone Swoopes has always had a right-armed cannon. His problem has been accuracy and consistency, and that’s why freshman Shane Buechele has the edge right now over the senior with 14 career starts.
For example, Swoopes found Reggie Hemphill-Mapps for a beautiful sideline pass on Saturday. But on the very next play, Buechele delivered an even longer throw to a diving John Burt.
On Sunday, Buechele dialed up deep balls for Jacorey Warrick and Devin Duvernay. Swoopes found Armanti Foreman with a nice throw, but there just weren’t as many of those did-you-see-that moments like with Buechele.
Jerrod Heard is clearly No. 3 at the moment. Observers spent the weekend wondering why he’s wearing gloves on both hands more than anything else. Matthew Merrick is fourth, and Kai Locksley is fifth.
Arguably the deepest position on the team already has flashed depth following a hamstring injury that Chris Warren III brought with him to camp.
Through two practices, Warren has mostly watched others carry the ball, so we’ve yet to see him join forces with D’Onta Foreman for a punishing duo that combines for about 500 pounds.
In Warren’s stead, Kirk Johnson got the majority of reps with Kyle Porter and Tristian Houston battling to keep pace. Johnson looks good, showing the same explosion he exhibited before tearing his ACL last Thanksgiving against Texas Tech.
Though Charlie Strong said Warren’s injury is a minor tweak, it’ll be a concern until he is able to get onto the field and begin practicing.
Sunday’s best run came by Foreman, who continued to picked up steam during a misdirection run that went for 20-plus yards. Since players are in shorts, tackling is off limits.
There’s real temptation to label John Burt as one of the nation’s best playmakers. His acrobatics over this first weekend were dazzling. But the sophomore has only 28 catches on his résumé. That number is going up dramatically soon.
Sunday’s practice looked like a home run derby at times. Foreman went deep and beat Kris Boyd for a touchdown catch. Hemphill-Mapps got past Kevin Vaccaro. Duvernay, who slipped out of his Baylor scholarship, now will spend the fall eluding everyone else.
But who’s going to keep the chains moving? Freshmen Collin Johnson (6-foot-6) and Lil’Jordan Humphrey (6-foot-4) can be matchup nightmares. Those two should never lose jump-ball situations.
Don’t be surprised if tight ends Caleb Bluiett and Andrew Beck get more involved with catches in traffic over the middle.
It looks like the only starting job up for grabs is right tackle, where Tristan Nickelson currently has the edge over Brandon Hodges, Patrick Hudson and Denzel Okafor.
Nickelson impressed his coaches in the summer by toning his body and now is looking to improve on his technique.
The other jobs are earmarked for Connor Williams (left tackle), Kent Perkins (left guard), Zach Shackelford (center) and Patrick Vahe (right guard), although Perkins and Vahe flip-flopped for Sunday’s practice.
It’s key for Shackelford, a freshman, to stay healthy because there’s not much behind him. Jake McMillon, who over the past few years has floated back and forth between defense and offense, is having some early issues getting snaps into the air.
Garrett Thomas and Baylor signee J.P. Urquidez are getting work behind Williams at left tackle.
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