The Texas Longhorns went 8-4 in 2012 in the regular season and capped their season with a bowl victory. For most teams that would be a great season but for the storied Longhorns program it probably came as a bit of a disappointment for most especially when coupled with their 1-3 record against ranked teams in the regular season.
Spring football games are what they are. You can definitely learn things from them but you also have to be careful how much stock you put into them. Some of things I was looking forward to seeing in the Texas spring game was how the QBs performed, how the defense looked (especially in the red zone and against the run) and potential play-makers.
The Texas spring game was taped Easter weekend and unfortunately Mack Brown decided to pit the number one offense against the number two defense (and vice versa) so we really didn't get a good gauge on how the first teamers did against better competition.
Texas is moving to a more uptempo offense that will incorporate more spread tenancies. It's an interesting choice because the Longhorns are absolutely stocked at RB. David Ash looked good early in the offense. He did a good job of hitting his first target with quick passes but seldom came off of the first read. He had one TD pass to a wide open receiver down the sideline for 39 yards and another in which Kendall Sanders caught a screen pass, made a couple of defenders look silly and took it to the house. Ash struggled mightily in the two minute drill at the end of the half against the first team defense (this was the only time the first teamers played against each other). On one play Ash's initial receiver was covered and he moved up in the pocket to scramble and then tossed the ball behind a RBs head (as the RB was breaking over the middle) and Jordan Hicks intercepted the pass. On the next drive, Ash ran the ball up the middle when their was only 40 seconds left on the clock and then threw the ball into a window over the middle where there was one receiver and six defenders in the area. The throw was high and it went off the receivers hands and was intercepted. It was a poor decision by Ash but it was also a poor route ran by the receiver. Ash finished the first half 15 of 20 with 2 TDs and 2 INTs. It should be noted that Texas's best receiver, Jaxon Shipley, did not play and that they are still installing this new offense.
Back-up QB Case McCoy had his ups and downs. He played with the second team offense against the first team defense so he was put in a tougher spot. Texas experimented with CB Duke Thomas at receiver and he made a couple of plays including a nice catch over the middle on third down for a conversion. Unfortunately, that play was followed up by McCoy floating a pass over his receivers head and into a defenders arms. McCoy did look good later as he hit John Harris on a 25 yard pass down the sideline during the two minute drill.
The QB that stole the show was early enrollee Tyrone Swoopes. He looked every bit a freshman but he also looked like he could be a difference maker (versus the game managers they have now at QB) in the future. Swoopes got in to play in the first half and had a few really nice scrambles that had the first team defense missing tackles and not being able to bring down the elusive Swoopes. He led the second team offense to a field goal on his first drive. Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet also got in on the action in the second half. Brewer made a couple of good plays on rollouts and Overstreet made some good plays with his feet.
The Longhorns WR corps, even without Shipley, looked like they have more play-makers then they have had in the recent past. Kendall Sanders (who recently got popped for a DWI and may sit a game or two) and Daje Johnson could be dangerous if Texas can get them in space and John Harris and Mike Davis look like good targets for the type of offense Texas will run. There does remain a big need at TE as an athletic TE can really be used in the spread but Texas mainly targeted it's WRs on very short quick hit passes and screens. DE Caleb Bluiett (RS Frosh who played on second team defense) looked good as he made more than one play.
There is no doubt in my mind that the strength of this team is still running the football as their RBs looked very good (of course the defense was very poor against the run in 2012). The up-tempo didn't look that up-tempo to me (they are still installing it) and David Ash will do a decent job of running it as long as his first receivers get open and he doesn't have to start looking at second and third options. Texas has a lot of youth on this team (the roster breakdown for the spring game was: 9 freshmen, 21 RS freshmen, 25 sophomores, 33 juniors and 20 seniors) so I would expect them to get better this summer and fall. Texas has a high ceiling but they have a lot of work to do if they want to improve on their 8-4 record.