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Texas QBs, run defense will both be on display during annual Orange-White spring game

Kickoff is 6 p.m. Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Longhorns scheduled for 100-play scrimmage instead of traditional ‘game’

Brian Davis
Austin American-Statesman
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian will lead his Longhorns into his second Orange-White spring game Saturday. It will be more of a controlled scrimmage, but fans should get a glance at the two quarterbacks fighting for the starting job and new faces on both offense and defense.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is no different from his brethren. Were it up to him, Saturday’s spring game at Royal-Memorial Stadium would be held in a vacuum.

“Unfortunately, I wish nobody would show up with a camera, and (reporters) wouldn’t have your phones and we wouldn’t put it on TV so that we could really show a lot of the things that we’re doing,” he said.

Unfortunately for his Longhorns, that’s not really an option.

“But in this day and age, everybody wants to watch and see what we’re going to do, so we’ll probably be pretty vanilla Saturday night,” Sarkisian added. “It may not be as exciting for everybody and the oohs and aahs, but we’ll try to go out and execute and play good football.”

It’s possible Texas fans will leave Saturday night thinking, “Hmm.”

Bohls:Steve Sarkisian hints that Texas' offense is slightly ahead of its defense

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First off, the annual Orange-White spring game won’t be a “game,” per se, but a 100-play scrimmage, Sarkisian said. The Horns simply don’t have enough offensive linemen for a true game format. Depth up front is a huge problem, but reinforcements are on the way.

There are a few injuries, too. Running back Bijan Robinson and offensive lineman Andrej Karic will be “limited” because of ankle injuries, Sarkisian said. Nobody wants to see the Horns’ No. 1 offensive threat hurt in what amounts to a glorified practice. The last thing Texas needs is an injured offensive lineman.

Still, Saturday is a chance for fans to eyeball quarterbacks Hudson Card and Quinn Ewers, see how they connect with Xavier Worthy, and see how the defense is coming along.

More:Texas QB Quinn Ewers opens up about hair, expectations while Hudson Card keeps grinding

More:Even with Quinn Ewers in the fold, Hudson Card remains at Texas to 'give it my best shot'

Texas players will hold an autograph session from 2-3 p.m. south of gate one on Bevo Boulevard. All the normal pregame festivities outside the stadium run from 2-5:45 p.m. Jamestown Revival will be the pregame concert on the LBJ Lawn.

The spring game, such as it is, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

What kind of serious information can fans glean from these events? Well, often times not much. The offensive plays are designed to showcase the best players and the defensive schemes are usually just base packages.

Saturday counts as the 15th and final allowable practice for the Longhorns this spring.

It’s possible the offensive line will be totally reshuffled this August after six freshmen signees enroll for the fall. Sarkisian is impressed with the seventh signee, Cole Hutson, who enrolled in January and “should still be in high school.”

Freshman edge rusher Justice Finkley bolstered his stock by enrolling early and going through spring practice. Sophomore Byron Murphy II “is a problem” to guard, Sarkisian said. “The guy is so strong, so quick, powerful. He’s been a problem.”

But other players to watch, according to Sarkisian, are defensive linemen Vernon Broughton, Alfred Collins and T’Vondre Sweat. The fact all are run stoppers correlates with something Sarkisian has said all spring — it’s been hard for Texas to run the ball.

“All three of those guys we're talking about is consistency in their play, and that starts with attacking every day, attacking every series, attacking every play,” Sarkisian said. “When they do that, they’re a real problem.”

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler is sacked by Texas defensive lineman Alfred Collins during last season's game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Collins was one of a couple of Longhorns singled out by head coach Steve Sarkisian as players to watch in Saturday's spring game.

No Texas defender should lay a hand on the quarterbacks in these controlled scrimmages. Thus, it’ll be hard to gauge how well Card and Ewers would do under intense pressure.

School officials let a few impressive plays leak out on social media, but the public hasn’t seen many incompletions or missed throws. Sarkisian has made clear that no one practice is going to determine who wins the starting job. But it sure helps if someone performs better under the lights with fans in the stands.

“I think two things that have stood out to me in both scrimmages that we’ve had thus far, both guys have played really well,” Sarkisian said. “I mean, I’ve been very impressed with their playmaking ability, their ability to when there are times to take their shots, they’re taking their shots. Not that everything was perfect, but they’ve been really effective on third down. Both guys have used their legs well.”

They both have plenty of targets out wide. Worthy has been exceptional throughout the spring, according to Sarkisian and various players. Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor, an Arlington Lamar product, is energized by playing much closer to home. Jordan Whittington is healthy again, and tight ends Ja’Tavion Sanders and Gunnar Helm are turning heads.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy had a breakout season last fall and has looked impressive this spring, according to head coach Steve Sarkisian. But Worthy will have a new quarterback throwing passes to him, as both Quinn Ewers and Hudson Card are competing for the starting job.

Last week, both Card and Ewers downplayed the head-to-head competition in their own unique way. “It’s a natural competition,” Card said, “but it’s been good so far.”

Card added, “Honestly, I just focus on myself and what I can do. Just go in it every day and do the best that I can do, and hopefully things will take care of itself.”

Ewers has proven to be a cool customer. “I'm excited to keep learning, because obviously, I have a lot of learning to do within the offense, but as of right now, I'm pretty comfortable,” he said.

Of course, the entire goal of any spring game is to get through injury-free. And for fans to get a glimpse of what’s to come and have a good time.

Recruiting went well, and so did the offseason. Spring practice has moved along with no major injuries. The only real kerfuffle was Moro Ojomo’s comments about team culture. Otherwise, Sarkisian’s solid 2022 rolls on.

Fans can be harsh critics, though. They’ll take a full inspection Saturday night.

“Like I was just talking to the guys about,” Sarkisian said, “this was a really good spring for us.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email or follow on Twitter via @BDavisAAS.

Orange-White game

6 p.m. Saturday, Royal-Memorial Stadium, LHN / 104.9