What to look for in spring practice

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Head coach Charlie Strong is looking to senior linebacker Dalton Santos to be a leader on defense in 2015. The Longhorns defense has big shoes to fill after losing key players last season.
Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

It’s that time of year when the flowers begin to blossom, the temperature outside  warms up, and spring practice commences for the Longhorns.

Head coach Charlie Strong’s first season didn’t have the traction that was expected, and it ended with a 31–7 defeat at the hands of Arkansas.

Texas enters spring practice with a sense of urgency to get back to national relevance. Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the start of spring practice.

The quarterback situation

“Who will be the starting quarterback?” 

It’s the question everyone wants to know the answer to. Last season, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes lacked consistency in his play, and by the season’s end, fans were ready to move on from the Swoopes era.

Strong made it clear both Swoopes and redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, who hasn’t seen any action yet, will compete for the starting job.

“Going into the spring practice, we’re going to give them equal reps; give them a chance to compete against each other,” Strong said.

Players are often judged by their stats and how they perform on the field; it’s no different for quarterbacks, who are often in the eye of the storm. Swoopes and Heard will not be solely judged on their skill set and ability to execute but also on their ability to lead and unify the team.

“At that position you got to have leadership,” Strong said. “With these two quarterbacks, can we get the team to follow them?”

Defense

It’s an old saying: “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” 

The Longhorns go into this spring season losing key players on the defensive end, including linebacker Jordan Hicks, cornerback Quandre Diggs and defensive tackle Malcom Brown.

Texas has the right personnel for a successful defense, but time will tell whether it will become elite. 

Texas is looking for leaders, especially in the middle linebacker position, which is regarded as the “quarterback” of the defense.

According to Strong, rising senior linebacker Dalton Santos is in place to start as middle linebacker. As the backup to senior linebacker Steve Edmond last season, he saw the field a fair amount, helping him gain the experience to take over. But spring practice will provide important reps for him with the first team.

Fans will also get their first glance at freshman outside linebacker Malik Jefferson, who is considered to be the star member of Strong’s recruiting class.

Team chemistry, leadership and intangibles

The Longhorns’ team chemistry, pride and leadership are all important for success, going hand-in-hand with each other.

“One thing [the coaches and I] talked about — the number one — and it’s very key is to go build us a football team,” Strong said. “A team with team chemistry.”

While pride of being on the team can create leaders that galvanize others on the team, Texas will look for its team chemistry to show.

Beyond the ‘X’s and ‘O’s, Strong and the Longhorns strive for the intangibles that make successful teams. Spring practice begins Wednesday, and fans will see whether Texas can begin to blossom like flowers are doing now.