Marcus Hutchins

Freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will both get reps with the first team.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Four months after the Longhorns’ 31–7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, head coach Charlie Strong still has a bitter taste in his mouth.

“[The loss] burns; it will continue to burn,” Strong said in February. “I guess what burns you more than anything is that when you go and compete, and you feel like we didn’t compete at the level that we should.”

Strong’s first chance this season to get the team competing at his desired level arose in late March when the members of the spring 2015 roster took the field for four weeks of spring practices, all leading up to this weekend’s Orange-White game. The practices yielded several changes for the team, including a revamped up-tempo spread offense that will be put on display Saturday for the first time.

While the offense is a work in progress, Strong expressed satisfaction with what he has seen so far.

“Just with us installing the new offense and trying to tweak it, I think that we’re looking at each day trying to get better, and we’re accomplishing that,” Strong said.

The Longhorns hope their new offense will be a better fit for the team, allowing for a faster-paced offense.

“It allows us to go out there and play aggressively,” senior lineman Marcus Hutchins said. “I think this year, with this offense and tempo, our speed will fit us even better, and I’m excited to play in it.”

In addition to scheme changes, Strong hopes that competition will generate improvement. The Longhorns have already had several key position battles this spring, including a quarterback duel between junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard.

Swoopes took most of the first-team reps in spring practices, but Heard is not far behind. Most recently, Strong said Heard’s play was better, but lacked Swoopes’ consistency.

Senior running back Johnathan Gray praised both quarterbacks and said he expects them to be ready come Saturday.

“You’re going to see a smarter Jerrod [Heard] and a smarter Swoopes — guys who can operate the offense and bring us to where we need to be,” Gray said.

On the other side of the ball, senior Peter Jinkens, junior Timothy Cole and redshirt freshman Edwin Freeman will be competing for the vacancies at the linebacker position left by injured players and departing seniors.

Other notable position battles include the wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line — positions that gave the Longhorns trouble last year.

While Strong said he’s satisfied with the team’s progress, they will have their first chance to demonstrate that progress Saturday.  

“On Saturday, it’s going to be different,” Hutchins said. “It’s going to be a different era — a different team. You just got to tune in and watch.”

Taylor Doyle

Prior to the Red River Showdown, redshirt junior Taylor Doyle had made three starts at guard this season. But last Saturday, Doyle lined up at center against Oklahoma for the first time in his collegiate career.

Doyle made a couple of errors but played well given the hostile environment. It was especially impressive as Doyle didn’t play center in high school and didn’t start to snap the ball for Texas until the new coaching staff arrived.

“[Doyle] did a really nice job,” said Shawn Watson, quarterbacks coach and play caller. “He was a hard spot for us that we needed, especially against the nose guard that we were playing. I thought he battled and held his own and did a really nice job for us. Center is like quarterback; it’s a hard transition because now you’re captain for the entire offense — the entire offensive line’s blocking patterns.”

After a solid performance against the Sooners, it will be Doyle’s responsibility to continue to play at a high level. The offensive line has been a liability for Texas this season, and Doyle could be the answer at center. He needs to step up and prove he can anchor the offensive line.

Marcus Hutchins

Hutchins, a redshirt junior, had a rough day at the Cotton Bowl against the Sooners. Oklahoma threw all sorts of looks at the left tackle from DeSoto, Texas. Whether it was linebacker blitz or defensive line stunt, Hutchins struggled to protect sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.

The Longhorn offensive line has continued to improve throughout the season, but Hutchins appeared to regress against Oklahoma. He needs to needs to step up at the tackle position and protect Swoopes.

Adrian Colbert

Redshirt sophomore safety Adrian Colbert made some costly mistakes on special teams against Oklahoma. His first mistake was failing to contain his gap after slipping on a kickoff return, which resulted in a touchdown. Colbert followed up that mistake by running into Oklahoma’s punt returner before he was able to field the ball, costing Texas penalty yards that resulted in the defense yielding a field goal.

Head coach Charlie Strong said Colbert and the special teams can’t afford to take plays off.

“You don’t take a play off with special teams,” Strong said. “You have offense, you have defense and you have special teams, and that’s not the time to take a play off.”  

Colbert’s mistakes were big and cost the Longhorns 10 points. He needs to step up on special teams and help prevent the big play.