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Defensive Observations: Saturday

While the return of Mike Davis was the only change on offense from Friday to Saturday, there were quite a few things to note from Saturday's practice on the defensive side of the ball.

Bryce Cottrell got first team reps at defensive end on Saturday.

It started at defensive end where Bryce Cottrell got starter's reps ahead of Shiro Davis and Reggie Wilson during live periods. Davis and Wilson were clearly running second team behind the redshirt freshman from Plano West on this day.

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With Jordan Hicks out with hamstring injury and Tevin Jackson nursing a sore foot the Longhorns mixed things up during live periods. We saw more of a 4-2-5 look from the Texas defense with Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens on the field, Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner at safety with Adrian Phillips rolled up in the box as a nickel rover.

I'd been told about the Longhorns experimenting with this look in closed practices and we saw it for about a half dozen snaps on Saturday.

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There were a few big plays made on defense today during the live periods.

- Bryce Cottrell got loose off of the edge and would have had a blind-side sack on Tyrone Swoopes had the quarterbacks been live.

- Sheroid Evans had a great pass breakup against Mike Davis. He did a great job of using the sideline to help him make the window smaller for David Ash.

Adrian Phillips spent some time rolled up in the box on certain looks.

- Adrian Phillips had a huge stick on Kendall Sanders defending a bubble screen. On the very next play, Peter Jinkens blasted Johnathan Gray on a screen pass to the left side of the field.

- Adrian Colbert made two really nice plays in run support. Twice he took a great angle at Daje Johnson and cut him off on the jet sweep.

- Steve Edmond also made arguably the play of the day defensively when he met Joe Bergeron in the hole and drove him back during a goal line period to deny him a touchdown.

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I mentioned Bryce Cottrell getting starter's reps at defensive end, and I think at this point he's earned them. He appears to be more instinctive than Shiro Davis at the position and is ahead of Caleb Bluiett simply because Bluiett spent the fall working at tight end.

It seems clear that Cottrell, along with the other ends, is getting a push and Reggie Wilson will really need to put it together over the final 11 practices to avoid being relegated to mop-up duty when the fall arrives.

Cedric Reed was clearly the best member of the front four on the field. It wasn't close in my opinion.

We didn't see much of Caleb Bluiett as he took a back seat to Wilson and Davis when the second defense was on the field.

Malcolm Brown and the tackles didn't seem as sharp as they did on Friday.

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The tackles didn't have as good of a day on Saturday as they did on Friday. Desmond Jackson probably had the best day among the tackles and he appeared to have a little more bounce in his step that he did on Friday.

Malcom Brown seemed off compared to the presence he displayed on Friday. He'd dominate one rep and then just kind of be there the next play.

Chris Whaley missed a chance to stop Johnathan Gray, but he couldn't get a handle on him and Gray broke a big run during 11-on-11. Like on Friday, I can't remember a significant play Ashton Dorsey made.

Paul Boyette had trouble keeping his feet in position drills. Alex Norman made enough good plays to make think he's got a chance to be a contributor, but he had enough teaching moments to make me think he might be a year away from being that guy.

It was a quiet day for Hassan Ridgeway. I still think in terms of upside he's a guy who could be playing a significant role by the time the Oklahoma game rolls around.

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I mentioned Edmond's hit on Bergeron, but he's still behind Dalton Santos. Santos moves a little better laterally than I anticipated.

Steve Edmond is in a battle with Dalton Santos for the starting middle linebacker job.

I thought Kendall Thompson did a couple of nice things in pass coverage. However, Peter Jinkens and Tevin Jackson both play the run better than he does.

Aaron Benson was on the practice field today. His being on the field is about all I noticed from the former four-star linebacker.

I want to see what this group looks like with a healthy Jordan Hicks. And, yes, feel free to stop me if you've heard that one before.

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The secondary worked a lot of tackling drills early, and the performance left something to be desired. I saw Quandre Diggs, Adrian Phillips and Mykkele Thompson all swing and miss trying to make tackles in space.

If it's any consolation all three showed much better technique when attempting to make tackles during the live periods.

We did see Diggs in as the nickel corner on Saturday, and when he moved over to cover the slot Sheroid Evans was the first defensive back off of the bench. Evans was the best tackling cornerback during drills and he put together the best practice of anyone in the secondary from what I observed.

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At safety the first team safeties and linebackers combined to do a great job by not giving David Ash clear windows to deliver the football. Again, Thompson looked much more sure of himself and he and Josh Turner continued to platoon at the spot next to Phillips.

Adrian Colbert was really good coming up in run support. His ability in coverage showed that he's still got some work to do before he can crack the lineup in this deep defensive backfield.

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