AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns ended its spring practice session in style, giving fans a first look at the 2023 squad in the Orange and White game Saturday at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
The White team, quarterbacked by returning starter Quinn Ewers, controlled the game and won 21-10, capping the 15 spring practices the Longhorns get until they officially reconvene for fall camp in August.
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Redshirt freshman quarterback Maalik Murphy had a tremendous game for the Orange team. He finished the day 9-for-13 with 166 yards and a touchdown. He hit freshman wide receiver Johntay Cook II with a 79-yard scoring pass in the third quarter for the longest play of the day.
“When he really started to settle in, he has a natural ability to pass the football,” Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said of Murphy. “He brings a lot of positive energy every time he takes the field. If we get him completely healthy going into training camp, the sky is the limit for that guy.”
The highlight of the day came from Georgia transfer wide receiver Adonai Mitchell. He hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Ewers with a tremendous leaping, one-handed catch to secure the White squad’s third touchdown just before the end of the first half. Mitchell missed nine games for the national champion Bulldogs last season, and the Missouri City native looked like a potential top target for Ewers once the season begins. He had six catches for 58 yards to go with the highlight-reel touchdown catch.
Ewers connected with Xavier Worthy for a 46-yard pass in the first quarter to set the White team up inside the 5-yard line, and on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, freshman CJ Baxter plowed into the end zone for the game’s opening score with 3:54 left in the first quarter. Worthy ended the game with four catches for 83 yards.
“We saw some playmaking ability from a variety of people today,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve created a lot more versatility from an offensive perspective.”
Sarkisian said the deep passing game looked good at times, saying the coaches have emphasized it during the spring.
“We’ve put a lot of work into it, and we’re going to continue to work it,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s fixed, but yet we saw some positive things with it today.”
Sophomore Jaydon Blue is starting to emerge as a mainstay in the backfield for the Longhorns, and he provided a nifty 31-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. After a JT Sanders block sprung him loose at the point of attack, Blue showed off a burst and then nice balance to break a couple of tackles and spin into the end zone with 4:24 left in the second quarter. Blue finished the game with 52 rushing yards on 10 carries with the touchdown.
Will Stone added a 27-yard field goal for the Orange team in the second quarter.
“It was a positive experience from a spring game perspective, and it was a positive spring, and when we get our full roster after Memorial Day, that’s when it’s time to go.”
For the White team, Jordan Whittington caught five passes for 59 yards and Baxter finished with 28 yards on 11 carries. Defensively, David Gbenda had eight tackles.
Savion Red looked good for the Orange team in his new position as running back. He had nine carries for 45 yards after making the move from wide receiver. Ky Woods had five carries for 21 yards. Cook II had three catches for 87 yards with the long touchdown and DeAndre Moore Jr. hauled in five catches for 44 yards. Freshman quarterback Arch Manning was 5-for-13 for 30 yards.
Sarkisian said the team’s depth right now is a strength, saying there’s a “very solid” 2-deep depth chart and some positions have three viable options.
“I feel like if someone goes down at a position, we feel very comfortable with the next guy,” Sarkisian said. “We haven’t been in that space here in my first couple of years.”