The annual Orange-White game is Saturday afternoon at DKR Royal Memorial Texas stadium. The scrimmage is a culmination of months of offseason work by the Longhorn football team. From early morning conditioning workouts to full-contact practices, Texas football spent the last 90 days laying the foundation for their 2015 season.

In anticipation of the scrimmage, coordinators Shawn Watson (offense) and Vance Bedford (defense) each spent time talking about spring workouts, competitive practices, and, of course, the upcoming game on Saturday. Both coaches consistently spoke about two things – freshmen and fundamentals.

Bedford launched straight into concerns over the youth of his defense, “Right now, we don't have a lot of depth. We've got some talented freshmen coming in. They're going to come in and they're going to be on the second team. Not because they deserve to be on the second team, but because of the lack of depth. That's just what we are at this time.”

The nucleus of the 2014 defense graduated or will be playing in the NFL this Fall. Malcom Brown, Cedric Reed, Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmond, Quandre Diggs, and Mykkele Thompson were six of the team’s top seven tacklers last year, accounting for 52% of the team’s tackles, 59% of the sacks, and 61% of the tackles for loss.

Essentially Bedford is replacing the heart of the defense, and had to patch a unit together this Spring with injuries to four defensive linemen, a linebacker and two defensive backs – some of whom were out previously, and three players that were hurt during practices.

When Bedford jokes, “We're going to have a lot of freshmen playing out there for us next year, and sometimes you're going to make freshman mistakes,” he’s not saying it for a laugh. It’s his reality.

Even last year’s top-rated high school player in Texas, Malik Jefferson, is nothing more than one of Bedford’s least favorite words – potential. “He has a lot of potential, and you know potential is a bad word that coaches don't like to use, but that's what he is right now. He's a potential football player,” said Bedford.

It’s not that Jefferson lacks talent, athleticism, or instinct, it’s the experience he lacks that makes him a liability. According to Bedford, fans should forget all the accolades heaped on Jefferson last Fall, “Right now, he's a freshman that's running around lost and confused like most freshmen do.”

And the problem he has with Jefferson extends from the defensive line back to the defensive backfield. Holton Hill and Kris Boyd are two of the incoming recruits that will arrive in August and provide much needed depth, but much dreaded inexperience.

Bedford added that freshman inexperience was compounded this Spring by the new offense, “That's because you have a lot of young guys out there and their heads are swimming because our offense is going a thousand miles a minute.”

From the offense’s standpoint, coordinator Shawn Watson isn’t contending with freshmen the way Bedford is. Watson’s focus this Spring was on fundamentals. Specifically, Watson spent a tremendous amount of time working with Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard on basic quarterback technique, which he wanted to refine in both players in advance of installing a new offense.

“There's fundamental training on the field that they've got to have and that's probably the biggest thing I've seen in both of them – the footwork, letting their eyes take their feet to bounce, getting the ball out, being efficient with the football, being a one-piece passer. I see all of that in their work,” Watson said about his signal callers.

What Watson is seeing in the development of Heard’s game, is a big piece of what Bedford is missing with his freshman defenders. On Heard’s progress, Watson said, “I think just the natural process of having been in the program. Different things can happen to him from a defensive standpoint. He's seeing so many different defenses than he saw in high school. He's more comfortable with that. He's more comfortable with what we are doing and the style of play we are running and how to make decisions in that.”

Make no mistake, Bedford didn’t limit himself to only one F-word. When talking about his freshmen, Bedford detailed some of the work they do on fundamentals, “For me as a defensive coach, the game is about fundamentals and technique. To do fundamentals and technique, you slow things down, you teach them the little things, then you pick things up and you go fast. Right now, we've got a lot of young guys that are always in chase mode, they forget the fundamentals real fast.”

Bedford summed up both coaches concerns over freshmen and fundamentals by saying, “The best thing about tomorrow is that we don't have to play. Tomorrow, is just a scrimmage.”
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