Wednesday evening's workout in front of a good crowd of Longhorn fans provided the burnt orange faithful a chance to see the stars of the Texas team, guys like Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and Sergio Kindle.
But it was also the first opportunity to get an up close look at the new faces to the program. Guys like Garrett Gilbert, Greg Timmons and Calvin Howell were among the true freshmen that received several reps, and Orangebloods.com was there to get an early impression on the UT class of 2009.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert - More than any other freshman, people were anxious to see what the home-grown signal caller brought to the table. For his first practice in front of the eyes of the Texas crowd, Gilbert actually performed very well, throwing several nice balls in the individual drills and managing the offense well in team drills. Going against second- and third-team defenders, Gilbert didn't force the issue, instead showing a nice ability to check down and dump the ball to receivers underneath the coverage. The Lake Travis product didn't really take any shots downfield, but he showed in the early passing drills that he has plenty of arm strength when the opportunity does present itself.
Running back Chris Whaley - Surprisingly, Whaley was a non-factor in Wednesday's workout. He didn't receive an reps in the 7-on-7 or scrimmage work, as the staff worked in several of the older backs.
Wide receiver Greg Timmons and Marquise Goodwin - As he showed at the THSCA All-Star Game practices, Timmons' body looks college ready. The Aldine Eisenhower product received plenty of reps, and he looks the part when he's in the mix. In the early portion of the practice, going through the passing drills, Timmons showed a good ability to snag the ball with his hands and keep it away from his body. His reception attempts in the scrimmage portion of the practice were limited, but he did fight through a couple press coverage attempts with relative ease.
Goodwin hasn't received a lot of press clippings for his work on the football field, but the Rowlett speedster sure looked the part on Wednesday. He's really well put together on his 5-foot-9 frame, and it's easy to see the explosiveness that makes him such a star in track and field. Goodwin's ability to stop and go, jab his foot and make sharp cuts really jumps off the page, and he received quite a bit of work on Wednesday. He was also fielding punts, alongside Jordan Shipley.
Tight ends Barrett Matthews and Trey Graham - Matthews, the Galena Park North Shore standout, was one of the night's most pleasant surprises. Matthews has a mean streak as a blocker (he didn't really get to showcase that on Wednesday), and he looked fluid and natural as a receiver. Matthews caught a couple balls on the night, including a catch and run in the flat for solid yardage late in the workout. He also worked on the punt protection drills early in practice. The barrel-chested Matthews has the skill set and swagger to play as a freshman, and he's off to a fast start.
Graham got some work with the third-team offense, but he was pretty quiet overall. Listed at 235 pounds, Graham didn't appear much bigger than Timmons. He's either lighter than the listed weight or he just carries it well on his 6-5 frame. Probably a little bit of both.
Offensive linemen Thomas Ashcraft, Paden Kelley, Garrett Porter and Mason Walters - The young linemen got some work late in the practice with the third-team offense, but it's hard to get much of a gauge on their performance until the team puts on the full pads. Walters, who worked at guard, certainly looks the part. Ashcraft lined up at left guard and he's got a good looking frame, very solid in his trunk and legs. Porter actually looks right up there with Walters from a physical standpoint. Kelley is a bit lighter than the others in the way his frame is built.
Defensive ends Kyle Kriegel, Tevin Mims and Alex Okafor - There are some lofty expectations for this group, particularly Okafor. The Pflugerville High product sure looks the part, and he's actually pretty well filled out for a freshman with his height. On a couple plays, Okafor got hung up in traffic and he was stonewalled when double teamed, but he was able to slide off blockers on a couple other plays, including one where he was position to make a nice stop on a run play.
Mims was another pleasant surprise. He was strong at the point of attack and ran plays down laterally on a couple other instances. There's been some talk of Mims eventually sliding into tackle, but he lined up on the outside on Wednesday and his body doesn't quite look ready to move to the interior.
Kriegel had a fairly quiet night and there were a couple occasions where he had trouble holding his ground at the line of scrimmage. Another guy that's been talked about playing at both tackle and end, Kriegel was lining up outside.
Defensive tackles Calvin Howell and Derek Johnson - Both players got quite a bit of work, with Howell running some snaps with the veterans on the second team. Howell appears to be in great shape and he was really firing off the ball, although he wasn't able to fight his way through to make any stops. But he held his ground and it's clear that he's got the early edge among the freshmen tackles.
Johnson is a lot thicker than Howell, but he didn't have the burst that Howell did in firing out of his stance. Johnson got hung up in traffic a couple times and he didn't display the type of quickness that some of the other young players had. That could very well be fro him being away from campus for the last month and him still working himself back into top playing shape.
Linebackers Tariq Allen and Patrick Nkwopara - If either of the freshmen linebackers found their way onto the field, they didn't make much of an impact because I don't remember seeing them out there at all.
Defensive backs Eryon Barnett, Marcus Davis and Kenny Vaccaro - Barnett's every bit of 6-2, but he's a very lean 180 pounds. He'll be an interesting player to follow as his frame fills out because he can certainly carry more weight easily. Barnett has the skills, but he looked a bit tentative in his cuts at times (remember he's less than a year removed from an ACL injury). On one quick hitch to Malcolm Williams, Barnett was unable to get in position to make the tackle and Williams was able to race upfield for a score. But that will happen to plenty of upper-classmen DBs when matched up with Williams no need for concern.
Davis has solid height, although he looks short compared to guys like Barnett. But he's really well put together and he looks like he'll be able to press receivers at the line of scrimmage. Davis didn't get many balls thrown his way, but he did have a nice break-up late in the practice on a ball thrown to a tight end.