Okafor, McCoy Shine In 2011 Orange & White Scrimmage (Slideshow)

The Longhorns held their annual Orange & White spring scrimmage before 45,000 fans Sunday afternoon, and although the Texas squad beat the Horns 27-7, the outcome mattered less than getting an early look at a renewed team.

Both sides played their cards close to their chest, opting for simple packages and base defenses. Junior safety Blake Gideon said that the defense only used 5 percent of its system, and new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said they stuck to a base defense for the two-hour scrimmage.

Head coach Mack Brown stressed the need for intrasquad competition after last year’s wrenching 5-7 record. The Longhorns missed a bowl for the first time since Brown became head coach in 1998.

The coaches have not released a depth chart, particularly with quarterback, in order to spark a fire that Brown said last year’s team lacked in the offseason. A starting quarterback is still yet to be named and likely won’t be until the fall.

Junior defensive end Alex Okafor and junior safety Nolan Brewster were forces on the defensive side of the ball. Brewster totaled 10 tackles on the day, with four of the solo variety, and Okafor was explosive off the line with five sacks.

Diaz said that Okafor was the key to this season’s defense. “He has to be that guy on D,” Diaz said. “For us to be great, he’ll have to be great.”

For the offense it was a day of inconsistencies with a glimmer of hope. Connor Wood, Case McCoy, and Garrett Gilbert all took around 12 to 15 attempts, with McCoy having the most success. He finished the day 9-11 with 124 yards and one touchdown.

Gilbert threw an interception on his third pass attempt but then settled down and finished 8-15 for 76 yards. Junior Patrick McNamara led all receivers with 55 yards and a touchdown.

Fozzy Whittaker had several impressive runs, gaining 38 yards on five carries, and a streamlined Cody Johnson had 25 yards and a touchdown on five carries. “Fozzy has really improved. He just has to stay healthy,” Brown said. “And CJ has had a tremendous spring.”

Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said that they would “ask a lot out of Johnson” next season. Meanwhile, All-American recruit Malcolm Brown is on his way also and figures to battle for playing time right away.

One recruit who did play Sunday was early-enrollee cornerback Quandre Digg, who only recorded one tackle but also had a pass break-up on a monster hit. His 5-foot 10-inch, 192-lb frame and field awareness suggest a college veteran, not someone who should be figuring out whom to ask to prom.

Of course, both the offense and defense have only been working under their new systems for a month now and still have growing pains over the next four months before the team meets in August for fall practice.

Brown was eager to get to the tape and work on fixing the mistakes that scrimmages tend to expose, but he was also pleased with the players’ grasp of the new systems. “It’s great to be undefeated,” he joked.

Read all of Coach Brown’s post-game statement here. See the San Antonio Express-News‘ slideshow here. Here’s Mike Finger in the Houston Chronicle. The Austin American-Statesman here. The Daily Texan piece here. ESPN here. And here’s Fox Sports Southwest’s article.

Photo: Fozzy Whittaker goes down with a fight. Courtesy UT Athletics.




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