March 27, 2010

Mack Brown assess spring progress with one week to go

Mack Brown gave his assessment Saturday of how the team has looked so far in the spring.

1. The team had "a really strong scrimmage last Thursday" with 100 plays that featured a lot of the young players trying to cement their place in a position rotation.

On Saturday, a bunch of signees and commitments for 2011 and other players still being recruited watched practice.

2. The punting game may include a combination of John Gold using a "normal" punt and Justin Tucker using the rugby punt.

"I don't see peple doing that across the country, so we're working hard in that area."

3. This could be the most exciting news of the day - Aaron Williams has been "really good" returning punts (Moving closer to my prediction that Williams will be the next Charles Woodson. Just sayin.).

"He's done a good job. He had a great return on Thursday so we feel like we've made some progress in that area."

4. Barrett Matthews and Greg Smith are doing well cross-training at the TE and H-back positions, and Dominique Jones is starting to show up at TE.

"Dominique Jones had a very good scrimmage on Thursday, and it's really the first time he stepped up at tight end. We feel good about his progress in that area."

5. The offensive line is making "a lot of progress in becoming a physical, downhill running attack."

"We feel like it was a good to move Michael Huey to left guard because he and Kyle Hix have worked together so long (on the right side). They're familiar with exactly what each one is going to do with their calls.

"We're trying to get Tray Allen and Britt Mitchell to have that same chemistry on the right side. They're making progress.

"It's obvious to us that David Snow is a lot better center than he was guard. It just seems like his position. He played well at center as a freshman. He was up and down at guard as a sophomore. And it just seems like he's back at home."

6. Sherrod Harris is still holding onto the No. 2 quarterback job.

"Right now, Sherrod Harris would be the second-team quarterback. He's made progress. He's doing well. The two freshmen have not separated yet. A lot of that is just learning.

"So we feel like that competition will be extended to the fall because the two freshmen still have a lot to learn. Being a freshman quarterback in the spring is really tough because so much is thrown at you so quickly."

7. Mack sounds like he wants Sherrod to win the No. 2 job so he can redshirt both Connor Wood and Case McCoy.

"Sherrod seems to have gotten hurt every time he had a chance to make a push. And now he's working hard and completing a lot of passes and is confident.

"We'd like to see him do well. If he does, we could redshirt both the freshmen and let them separate for next year. Right now, they are not separating. They both have some bright spots, but neither one has taken over. We're really pulling for Sherrod and hoping he can finish right."

8. No change in the RB situation: Tre' Newton and Foswhitt Whittaker are still the lead dogs.

But Cody Johnson pulled a hamstring over spring break and missed work most all of this past week. He did get some work on Saturday.

"Every time Cody is in that mix, he seems to take a step back. He did some things today for the first time."

9. Mack is in no hurry to move Chris Whaley from RB.

"He ran maybe 16 times in the scrimmage (Thursday). So we are really trying to see who he is. The problem is when you have 5 or 6 backs, where do you get the reps?

"So Fozzy and Tre' did very little in the scrimmage. Jeremy Hills, Vondrell McGee and Chris (Whaley) took most of the reps. We're not ready to move him yet, but we just want to see him do it on a consistent basis.

"We really want to look at (Whaley). Fozzy (Whittaker) is (is a junior) who will graduate in June. He's going to graduate 2 years early, which is unbelievable how smart he is.

"Vondrell is a senior. So you still haven't gotten the answers you want. So we're going to work Chris really hard before we consider moving him. And I've been really stubborn. I want to see him run the ball, because we're going to need a lot of running backs who can run it."

10. D.J. Monroe is back from his hamstring injury and LB Emmanel Acho is back from his sports hernia.

11. The offensive line is "making progress."

"It's better. We've helped them by scheme. We've helped them that we're running it more. We've helped them by having more of the runs downhill.

"We were not running an offense that was conducive to a physical running game. If we had to do it over again, we'd probably do the same thing because it gave us a chance to win all the games for two years.

"But right now we'd like to get back to where we started, where you can win with more balance. Last year, we could not have won the game trying to run the ball."

12. The young offensive linemen (Garrett Porter, Thomas Ashcraft and Paden Kelley) are not pushing the starters yet, but they are improving.

"We miss Mason Walters, but they think he'll be 100 percent for the fall and can start working out in the summer.

"Those guys are all better and all improving, but none of them have pushed the guy in front of him. And we'd like for them to do that.

"But we're still going to have to look at playing them all in the fall. We can not go through two years in a row with four seniors graduating and not have some experience behind them. So we have to push ourselves to get some experience in the backup offensive line next season."

13. The top four receivers on the team are Malcolm Williams, John Chiles, James Kirkendoll and Marquise Goodwin.

"John Chiles has moved inside and is making a lot of progress. He is playing very well.

"The next two who have stepped up after the first four would be DeSean Hales and Greg Timmons."

14. Without a doubt, Mack says Texas is moving away from the zone read, which may make that play more lethal going forward.

"We will not feature the zone read, but we ran it once during team period today and Garrett ran it for 20 yards and a touchdown. We think it will probably be better for us than it has been in the past because it won't be a feature.

"It's hurt us some when we don't pay attention to it. Nebraska ran it against us and hadn't showed it, and ran for 11 yards on us.

"Garrett may not be as quick as Colt but he's big and strong and can run. We can still run with him. He can still run quarterback draw and some of the things we've run in the past."

15. On defense, the secondary is looking very strong.

"We feel really good about our secondary. We feel like we have three starting corners. Chykie Brown has been as good as he's ever been. Curtis Brown is playing really well, and A.J. Williams is a really good football player.

"You've got those guys. With Nolan Brewster out for the spring, Blake Gideon is full speed and doing really well. Christian Scott has stepped up and would be the other safety if we started today. We're excited about Kenny Vaccaro. He's learning to play the position and not just knock people out. We're excited about Nolan when he comes back."

16. The most pressing concern on defense is the search for depth on the interior of the defensive line.

"Still looking for depth on the interior of the defensive line. Tevin Mims is improving. Calvin Howell is doing a better job.

"Still today, we would start Sam Acho inside with Kheeston Randall and Eddie Jones and Alex Okafor outside. But we do need to have guys come on and play inside, especially in the run game. That's important."

17. Even though Sam Acho is working a lot at DT, that's not where Mack and Will Muschamp want to play him all the time.

"He's still a defensive end and a dominating pass rusher. We're hoping to find someone inside who can come on. When we get to second and third and long, we're OK. But we're still not where we should be at defensive tackle. That's our problem.

"We'd rather not have him line up against Ohio State or Alabama in the running game for 75 plays."

18. More praise for LB/DE Dravannti Johnson.

"Dravannti Johnson continues to improve. He's playing an outside linebacker position. He can rush the passer if we need a pass rush group with four rushers. We think he's made a lot of progress."

19. Young corners Eryon Barnett and Adrian White have made a lot of progress in the spring. Mack says they will have to play in the fall to prepare for the 2011 season.

"Eryon Barnett has been turned loose (after his shoulder injury) and is playing, and playing really well. We're getting a better evaluation than we thought. I think he'll get to play in the spring game.

"A.J. White has done really well. It's good that he's here because we don't have the young corners with experience. He'll be ahead in the fall because he's gone up against the best receivers every day, and he has competed and not backed down at all.

20. Christian Scott and Kenny Vaccaro are head-hunters who are learning to cover.

"Christian and Kenny Vaccaro always want to hit you. I joke that if you threw a piece of raw meat at a dog, it would be like Kenny and Christian at a running back.

"They just want to hit you. They don't want to wait. But Duane is a good teacher, and both Kenny and Christian are covering better now. We really feel good that both those guys are not just hitters. They are becoming really good football players.

"Kenny is behind, obviously. But we are really excited about Christian. He's lost some weight because you get a little heavy when you don't play, and we're really excited about him."

21. Justin Tucker has stepped up well kicking field goals.

"Justin Tucker has maybe missed one kick. We haven't dropped off there. Hunter Lawrence was so good for us last year, but we're really pleased with Justin. He's getting it up high and getting up fast. We feel like he can do the things we need there, and that's why we need to keep having John Gold come on and help us in the punting game."

22. Mack is making a commitment to trick plays.

"We have run a trick play every day in practice. We have faked something in the kicking game every day. We do want to be more innovative like we said we wanted to be. Kids are liking it on offense and are defending it on defense."

23. The areas of youth on the team are going to force the coaches to play some young guys in 2010.

"We're cross-training a lot of guys, especially on the interior of the defensive line because we are thin on depth.

"We need to force the younger offensive linemen to come on and play. Garrett Porter has been impressive at center. So he's done a good job.

"But we're going to have to play those guys and play some guys in the secondary to be able to be ready to step up in the next year."

24. Mack said 220 sophomores will be at the spring game next weekend.

"The spring game came up on Easter this year, which is unfortunate for some people. But it's really about our kids. This is the day that's best for them to have our scrimmage. We moved it back to 4 p.m. from 1:30 so people in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston can get here.

"We hope we'll have our best crowd. We have a lot of young guys who will have an hour and a half scrimmage.

"This won't come up very often, but we didn't feel we could do it Friday or Saturday because of the Texas Relays. The traffic would be horrible. We felt like this was the best option."

25. The team has four spring practices left, including the spring game.

The team will practice on Wednesday, the same day as UT's Pro Day, so that pro scouts can take a look at some of the current Longhorns and how they practice.

BONUS NUGGET: The guys who will take part in Pro Day - Colt McCoy, Sergio Kindle, Earl Thomas, Jordan Shipley, Roddrick Muckelroy, Ben Alexander and others - are all in town working out on campus in preparation for their big day Wednesday.

Mack said Colt McCoy has thrown for some teams in individual workouts and is ready to throw during the Pro Day.

BONUS NUGGET 2: Mack said he's seeing things he likes about this team already.

"The 2008 team is similar to where I think this year's team is starting at. We weren't supposed to be good, and they all really tried and didn't have the celebrity of some of our other teams. They fought and became more blue collar.

"I saw that with last year's team as well. And I'm feeling that with this team even moreso than last year's because the offense has become more blue collar and not just dependent on Colt, Jordan and Quan to make big plays.

"The offense has become more blue collar without Colt."

BONUS NUGGET 3: Mack said the team knows the bar is set very high.

"We have the second-most 10-win seasons in the history of college football. And that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on our guys. For 10 years, not one player has won less than 10 games. They know they have to win 10 games. Period.

"I think this group understands nothing is going to be given to them and they are going to have to work for it.

"Leadership is something we preach every day. I think we're going to like this team."

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