August 18, 2007

A starter emerges?

Mack's youngest team ever?

Although the Texas Longhorns return more than 15 starters from last year's team and at least that many junior and seniors project as opening day starters next month, UT head football coach Mack Brown commented on Friday that this year's team could be the youngest team he's fielded since his arrival in 1998.

"It's going to be a bunch of young guys the way it looks," Brown said when asked about the projected two deep. "This may be the youngest team we've had since we've been here with guys that are going to play, with the way it looks. A bunch of young guys are competing for jobs."

While the numbers among the projected starters is heavy with upper-classmen, it's the rest of the two-deep where the youth is expected to play a part, as freshmen and sophomores make up the primary depth at quarterback, running back, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, cornerback, safety and almost every special teams position.

John Chiles update

One of the young players that Brown knows the staff needs to get caught up with the veterans as much as possible is true freshman quarterback John Chiles.

With redshirt freshman Sherrod Harris out indefinitely with a knee injury, Chiles is getting the reps with the second-team offense and his development will be one of the major storylines in the final two weeks leading up to the season-opener.

"With Sherrod being out, John Chiles needs to continue to grow as a quarterback and get ready to play," Brown said. "He is now one step away from playing as the starter, so you have to get him ready. There are a lot of those offensive linemen that are competing for playing time."

When asked to talk about Chiles skill set, Brown mentioned that most of the work needs to come in the passing game

"He's such a great runner," Brown said. He's never been involved in an extensive passing game like we have. The guys did a great job with him at Mansfield (Summit), but he's only been a quarterback for a year and a half. This is a lot of new stuff for him, but he also has a great arm. There's a lot of potential there."

Is a starter emerging at left guard?

One of the major personnel issues for the staff this fall is on the offensive line, where both starting guard jobs were open heading into training camp.

With the Cedric Dockery's apparent successful return from a knee injury, it would appear that only one spot remains open and the smart money might be on third-year sophomore Chris Hall.

"Chris is going to play and he's in the group that is going to play a whole lot," Brown said. "I would say we're probably more pleased with his progress as about anybody on the football team. He is really doing well. He can play center or guard, and will be out there a whole bunch. We thought he was good, but he is ahead of what we anticipated heading into camp."

As for the overall state of the offensive line, Brown sounds pleased with the progress being made and thinks that filling out an entire two-deep is the lone remaining issue.

"We think (Cedric Dockery) will be well. He continues to get better because he's practice every day. He hasn't missed anything and he won't pull himself out. Tony Hills looks great. Adam Ulatoski looks great. Chris Hall has really helped us in that he's playing both. Buck Burnette has worked himself back into practice, so that helps us. We need three or four other guys in the offensive line to really help us.

Muckelroy continues to earn praise

Although none of the defensive coaches have hinted that third-year sophomore Roddrick Muckelroy is close to earning a starting job at linebacker, there's no question that he has a huge fan in the Texas head coach.

After raving about Muckelroy throughout last season after he went down with an injury, Brown continued his praise of the former East Texas prep star on Friday.

"He's so physical and he's playing all three spots," Brown said. "He's really a smart player and he's the same guy every day. He's not up and down. He practices the same every day and he makes very few mental mistakes. He was one of the real losses last year that probably didn't get talked about enough because he was playing as well as any linebacker we had when he got hurt over at Rice."

When asked about the depth at linebacker, Brown said that the day-to-day competition is as strong at the position as it has ever been since he's been at Texas.

Roddrick Muckelroy looks good. He's played really well. He looks good. Jared Norton is doing a really good job. Dustin Earnest and Keenan Robinson are fighting for that other spot," Brown said.

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