Wealth of talent on display in Texas Longhorns spring game

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) warms up ahead of the Longhorn’s Orange and White spring football game in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Saturday, April 15, 2023. Texas Longhorns Orange And White Spring Game Sed 203

Wealth of talent on display in Texas Longhorns spring game

Texas Longhorns football capped off spring practice with Orange topping White 21-10 in the traditional Orange-White Spring Game. Steve Sarkisian’s team has lofty expectations for 2023 and showcased its wealth of talent on Saturday.

Quinn Ewers spent all of last year as the hot newcomer in Austin. All year, Ewers was measured against astronomical expectations, and he predictably struggled to live up to the unrealistic pressure that comes with being the Texas Longhorns’ starting quarterback.

In Texas’ spring game, Ewers looked much more comfortable and threw the ball with accuracy and touch that was often missing last year. In year two under Steve Sarkisian, Ewers’ progress was immediately obvious. He appeared much more aware in the pocket, and several times was able to find check down options when his primary targets were covered. Ewers started the day with several incompletions, but only because his wide receivers dropped what were otherwise accurate passes.

On his second possession under center, Ewers connected with Xavier Worthy for a 46-yard strike that set up a one-yard touchdown plunge. The drive showcased Ewers’ arm talent and his newfound comfort in the offense. His footwork looked more settled and polished, which should translate to greater accuracy than Ewers displayed a year ago.

Ewers threw two or three passes into coverage, reminding fans of his struggles from last season, but overall appeared to be much improved.

Maalik Murphy took snaps as the backup quarterback, but the biggest reaction from the crowd came when all-everything freshman Arch Manning took the field late in the first quarter. Manning’s first pass was complete, though a little behind his intended receiver. Two incompletions followed, but the youngster’s talent is obvious. As the game progressed, Manning made several plays with his legs, displaying deceptive athleticism and keeping his team in positive situations. This season, as he goes through the same process that Ewers has endured, Manning could easily grow into a dynamic player.

Currently, Murphy looks like the better option to back up Ewers. Murphy showed poise and confidence, operating the offense effectively. He found both DeAndre Moore off play-action and Ky Woods out of the backfield. Murphy has a strong arm, and his mastery of Sarkisian’s scheme should keep him ahead of Manning for the time being.

Murphy also showed off the strength of his arm on an 80-yard touchdown pass to Johntay Cook. Murphy put a deep pass right on target the previous play to no avail, but his next throw hit Cook in stride and allowed him walked in for the score. Murphy also displayed great accuracy, throwing passes to a variety of receivers. At one point, Murphy had completed 80% of his passes.

Just as he did last season, Xavier Worthy provided the spark for the Horns’ offense. Worthy’s big catch from Ewers set up the first score of the scrimmage, and Worthy appeared to be a threat to score any time he touched the ball. We learned after the season that Worthy had played a significant amount of time with an injury last year, but he seems to have recovered and could be poised for a monster season in the fall.  

Adonai Mitchell, who transferred from Georgia, made several catches in the early stages of the game and added a touchdown on a spectacular one-handed grab late in the first half. Mitchell looks like a great complement to Worthy and has clearly developed good chemistry with Ewers.

Jordan Whittington’s decision to return for his senior year is evidence that the Longhorns’ believe they are in store for a huge season. Whittington has shown that he is a solid blocker and a devastating weapon with the ball in his hands. He can make enough plays to keep the heat off Worthy on the outside.

Ja’Tavion Sanders picked up where he left off last season. Sanders has emerged as a security blanket for Ewers, and he should have another strong season after breaking the Texas record for receptions by a tight end last season.

One of the biggest concerns facing the Longhorns this offseason has been finding a replacement for running backs Bijan Robinson and Roschonn Johnson, both of whom left the program for the NFL Draft. While it will be impossible to find a one-for-one replacement for the impact that Robinson made, Texas’ stable of backs showed that the cupboard is not bare and there should still be a potent ground attack in Austin.

CJ Baxter scored an early touchdown from close range and made several other runs that showcased his talent.

Not to be outdone, Jayden Blue scored on a 30-yard run that featured a devastating move, stopping on a dime to elude the defensive pursuit.

Ky Woods also had several nice runs from scrimmage and made plays in the receiving game. Pass-catching is an area of Bijan Robinson’s game that can be overlooked, and it seems that there are options on the roster that can pick up the slack in that area.

Savion Redd also made some electric runs, and looked like a player with a diverse skill set that could prove dangerous as a runner or a receiver in the slot or from the backfield.

The defense is always in a bad situation in a spring game, and this was no exception. The rules are usually set up in a way that gives the advantage to the offense. At times, the Longhorns’ front was able to apply pressure, and they came close to making plays on a few errant passes. Anthony Hill, a linebacker from Denton, Texas, recorded a sack late in the third quarter.

Despite flashes of good defense, the Longhorns’ offense got the better of the majority of the afternoon.

The Horns must replace DeMarvion Overshown on defense, but with players like Jaylen Ford, Barryn Sorrell and Ryan Watts returning, Texas still has plenty of talent. Jalen Catalon, safety who transferred to Texas from Arkansas, missed the game as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

Some defensive issues should concern the Longhorns faithful, but there is plenty of talent on hand.

Overall, Texas looks like a program that has drastically improved its roster’s talent level, and the players’ comfort level with the X’s and O’s is obvious. Texas appears to be loaded at almost every position, and the coaching staff has been in place long enough to foster confidence in its schemes. Texas should be a tough team to deal with for any opponent they face.

Texas fans are notorious optimists, but this time those high hopes may be well-founded.

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