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August 14, 2009

Action heats up for freshmen

After getting their first taste of the freshmen class, the Longhorn faithful feasted its eyes on the newcomers in full pads for the first time on the 40 Acres. Skill players like Greg Timmons and Marcus Davis are able to stand out a little more in shorts and helmets, so tonight the full pads gave Texas fans an opportunity to see players like Mason Walters and Alex Okafor mix it up in the trenches. Orangebloods.com has you covered with a report on each member of the freshmen class.

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert - His first practice yesterday was a very solid one, but Thursday night the highly touted freshman had more ups and downs. Gilbert seems to have a tendency to over stride at times which makes his throwing motion longer. The two-time state champion did spin some nice balls, but his accuracy wasn't as sharp as it was on Wednesday. Later in the practice, it looked like the freshman was pressing some, and overthrowing the football instead of letting his talent and mechanics do the work. However, his decision making was once again impressive, and he showed the ability to feel the blitz coming.

Running back Chris Whaley - Once again, Whaley was essentially a non-factor throughout practice. He received maybe two reps the entire night, and that was during offensive team periods.

Wide receivers Greg Timmons and Marquise Goodwin - Timmons definitely looks the part, and he's got some game to go along with his impressive frame. During seven-on-seven work, the Aldine Eisenhower product made a nice catch on a well thrown fly route deep down the sideline. It seems like Timmons is a natural pass catcher that doesn't really fight the football that often. It's still unclear how many reps he'll receive behind a talented receiver group, but Timmons could contribute if needed.

Nobody created more of a buzz yesterday than Goodwin, who was excellent during Wednesday's session. Thursday's showing wasn't quite as strong, but Goodwin still had his moments. The 5-foot-9 speedster continued to receive some reps with the second group, and also worked on punt returns. Surprisingly, the track star is a natural receiver of the football, flashing soft hands and the ability to reach out and snag the football. He was jammed at the line of scrimmage once, and he'll need to work on escaping physical defensive backs, but he's oozing with big play ability.

Tight ends Barrett Matthews and Trey Graham - Matthews is one of those players that loves the contact with the pads on. Without a doubt, the talented tight end passes the eyeball test, and he put that frame to use by demonstrating the ability to more than hold his own blocking. In fact, during a three-on-three inside run drill, the former North Shore star pancaked Kheeston Randall with ease. Couple that with some solid route running and good pass catching ability and you've got the recipe for some contribution as a freshman - especially with the injury to D.J. Grant.

As for Graham, he was a bit underwhelming for the second straight practice. He needs to add a good amount of muscle and weight to a thin frame, or blocking is going to be a real issue. Reps were limited again for Graham, and when the ball was thrown his way the tight end didn't look comfortable catching it.

Offensive linemen Thomas Ashcraft, Paden Kelley, Garrett Porter and Mason Walters - Most of the reps this group received were with the third team offense, and to be honest the offensive line in general got whipped for most of the practice. During the three-on-three inside run period, Walters more than held his own, winning multiple battles against the defensive line. In fact, he was one of the more impressive offensive linemen wearing a Longhorn uniform. Also, Porter had his moments with his big, physical style. Kelley appears to be easily the lightest of the bunch, but he has a good frame for adding weight at the tackle position.

Defensive ends Kyle Kriegel, Tevin Mims and Alex Okafor - It's fairly safe to say that Okafor is going to receive an opportunity to make a splash early, and often. The former five-star pass rusher was extremely active all night, and received as many reps as any defensive end regardless of classification. Throughout team scrimmage periods, Okafor rotated on each side of the defensive line and created problems off the edge. In fact, I counted four straight times when defensive coordinator Will Muschamp used a package that allowed Okafor to rush without his hand on the turf. Also, the Austin-area product dropped to cover the flats multiple times, and even got his hands on a screen pass to his side of the field. It was a very strong showing for the 6-foot-5 lineman.

Mims looked like a high motor guy throughout his work Thursday night, and he moves well for a defensive end. Early reps indicate that he'll stick at end for the time being, and I think that's a good fit.

Again, Kriegel had a quiet practice. He has a tendency to be too high at the point of attack and he was driven backwards by the offensive line.

Defensive tackles Calvin Howell and Derek Johnson - Howell received a good amount of second-team reps, and he had his moments during team scrimmage periods. There weren't any sacks or tackles for a loss, but Howell proved to be tough to handle for interior linemen. His combination of quickness and power allowed him to clog lanes and cause some pressure on passing plays.

Johnson is definitely a huge guy in pads with an extremely thick lower half. In limited reps he really couldn't make an impact because of his lack of burst. By the time he was making his first move the lineman already locked on, and the Arkansas native wanted to get upright. His conditioning and body will improve with consistent workouts in Austin after some time away from campus.

Linebackers Tariq Allen and Patrick Nkwopara - The duo received limited reps, but Allen definitely looked the part. He looked like he shed some pounds, and moved well in coverage. With the pads, on some fans could have confused Allen with Jared Norton because of the similar build.

Defensive backs Eryon Barnett, Marcus Davis and Kenny Vaccaro - Out of the trio, I felt like Davis had the strongest practice. He had more good than bad moments in coverage, and held his own during one-on-one drills. With all the gear strapped on, Davis was able to show some of his physical side, and caused some problems at the line of scrimmage.

Barnett showed the ability to turn and run well in coverage. The 6-foot-2 corner isn't able to cause havoc at the line of scrimmage yet, but he looked fluid. Vaccaro got beat for a touchdown once, and at times he hesitated to make a decision at full speed.


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