Congratulations fellow football fan, you have survived the first phase of the offseason. Spring ball begins on Monday, giving us a couple of weeks to do what we fans do best: overanalyze, theorize, and ultimately convince ourselves that our team will win the Natty. And I love every second of it.
Everyone is competing in the spring. Whether it’s for a starting spot, a backup spot, or to put your name in the hat for playing time, this is where the roster begins to take shape into the team we will see on the field in the fall. With that being said, here are some questions I am excited to see answered for Texas football this spring.
Who will emerge at Will LB?
Last year, the development of both Demarvion Overshown and Jaylon Ford gave the Longhorn defense something it had not had in about 5 years from its linebackers: competent play. Jaylon Ford will return and be the leader of the defense, which leaves all eyes on how Texas will replace Overshown. There is not one exact replacement for Overshown, who had a unique set of traits for the position. Instead, LBs coach Jeff Choate needs to train someone who can not be a liability and work with Ford and others to replicate Overshown’s production
- David Gbenda
- Gbenda is next in line for the job, yet whether he actually earns it or not will be dependent on him finally having the light bulb turn on. Gbenda is plenty athletic for the position but needs to prove he can diagnose what is happening in front of him and be in the right place at the right time. If he can do that, the veteran will finally break into the starting lineup.
- Morice Blackwell
- Blackwell is an interesting case as he is undersized for LB but too big for safety. He showed flashes at the end of last year playing the Overshown role of LB/Edge rusher and has plenty of potentials to end up being the Longhorn’s best option at Will.
- Anthony Hill
- The true freshman and former 5-star recruit have all of the traits to come in and win this job immediately. This spring, Hill will need to focus on the mental side of the game and learn the defense while building durability in the weight room. If Hill does come in and win the job from his raw talent, it will be indicative of a lack of development on Gbenda’s part.
- Liona Lefau
- Despite coming in with less hype than Hill, Texas coaches are just as excited to see what Lefau can bring to the table this spring. Don’t be surprised if Lefau earns his way into some playing time.
How do Safety and Corner cross-training turn out?
The competitions at both safety and corner will be interesting to monitor. Safety looks to have its two starters in Jerrin Thompson and Jalen Catalon. But with Catalon’s injury history, there needs to be a backup that can be counted on. Veteran Kitan Crawford will look to finally put it all together and hold off younger players such as Michael Taafe, BJ Allen, and Larry Turner-Gooden. At corner, Ryan Watts will hold down the boundary, but the field side will be an intense battle between Gavin Holmes, Terrance Brooks, and Austin Jordan. While these competitions are occurring, it is possible if not likely that Brooks, Jordan, and nickel Jaylon Guilbeau will all cross-train at safety and/or nickel. So while the starters may be fairly straightforward at this point, I am interested to see where each of these guys ends up fitting in best and in what order.
Pecking Order at Edge?
The edge position still lacks clarity, though it has improved from being a massive liability just two years ago. The infusion of young talent brings upside to the position in 2023, so this spring will be a great indicator to see who is separating themselves from the pack. Justice Finkley should get the first look at Buck, while Barryn Sorrell will start at Jack. The young guys making up the rest of the depth chart will be looking to overtake them, but also be positioning themselves for playing time. At buck, this includes Ethan Burke, who showed promise last season, and J’Mond Tapp who might be the most physically gifted of the group. Redshirt freshman Jaray Bledsoe will push Sorrell for playing time and has the traits to overtake him over time. Whoever from this group asserts themselves the most by end of spring will be set up for major playing time come fall.
Shift in Offensive style?
Last season, Texas operated almost exclusively out of 12 personnel (2 tight ends, 1 running back). This was presumably to tailor the offense to the run game powered by Bijan and Roschon. In the Alamo Bowl, we got a different taste of the Sark offense, one that operated out of 11 personnel and tailored to QB Quinn Ewers. I look forward to seeing how the offense looks this spring with Ewers as the focal point, and expect to hear of a heavy dose of 11 personnel. This will get more receivers on the field, including a likely starting lineup of AD Mitchell, Xavier Worthy, and Jordan Whittington with JT Sanders at TE. Pair that lineup with an aggressive pass-first spread offense and a more developed Quinn Ewers, and you can see why I put my life savings on Quinn to win the Heisman. In all seriousness, this offense should cook, starting this spring. Hopefully we hear reports of just that.
That’s right, there will be a QB competition in Austin, Tx this spring… for the backup spot. Quinn Ewers is QB1 of this team and that is not changing this spring unless he gets injured. That is not an opinion of mine, that’s just how it is. Sorry for the clickbait in the title. Arch Manning will get all of the attention, and rightfully so. Arch is already impressive and it is clear he is legit. To me, it is impressive that he will even push Maalik Murphy for the backup spot. Murphy is a legit prospect in his own right. Any true freshman should have no business passing him up on the depth chart, yet Arch might do just that after being on campus for about 6 weeks. I expect Murphy to leave spring #2 on the depth chart… but it might be by name only to keep him from transferring. If Arch exits the spring already the backup, it will be an early confirmation that he is as good, or better, than advertised.