Sustained Pass Rush Finally Emerging

It was DT <B>Rodrique Wright </B>who blocked <B>David Pino</B>&#146;s FG attempt during Tuesday&#146;s spring practice, although head coach <B>Mack Brown </B>said there was so much penetration from the defensive front that it was hard to tell. It may have been DT <B>Marcus Tubbs</B>, Brown thought. More important, it&#146;s the improved defensive line surge this spring that really has Brown&#146;s attention.

Tubbs and Wright are anchors of a D-Line that is now making a beeline to the backfield.

"They’ve been a fit this spring to block," Brown said of his tackles. "They are really good."

The consensus around Frank Denius Field these days is that Wright and Tubbs will provide this fall the kind of one-two punch that Shaun Rogers and Casey Hampton once inflicted on offensive linemen. And running backs. And quarterbacks.

Wright became Texas’ third Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year recipient in past four seasons (Cory Redding, Derrick Johnson). The youngster started eight games, beginning with Houston and totaled 59 tackles (26 solo). A USA Today and Parade first-team All-American selection while at Alief Hastings, Wright registered the most Tackles For Losses (13) among returning starters. He went nuts against Nebraska, posting a career-best 11 tackles.

And if it was, indeed, Wright who got a hand on Pino’s attempt, it would be déjà vu all over again. His blocked PAT against Oklahoma State last October proved pivotal in Texas’ 17-15 win.

Unless, of course, it was Tubbs picking up where he left off. The DT blocked two field goals last season, including the crucial block on the last play of the Kansas State game to preserve a 17-14 gut-check decision in what later proved to be Texas’ biggest win of the 11-2 season.

Brown’s need for speed, and his insistence that defenders get to the QB more, has been augmented by former LB Mike Williams move to DE.

"Mike is playing good at end, so it gives us more speed out there like we needed," Brown said. "(DE) Kalen (Thornton) looks well."

Just as speedy is DE Bryan Pickryl, the first freshman to play last season but held out this spring to recovery from shoulder surgery.

"God, they’re so quick," Brown said. "They can chase the ball and they can rush the passer. I think we can now wad enough of them up to stop the run and get a pass rush. Finally. I’m getting old. Six years, and we’re finally going to have some pass rush."

Redshirt freshman Marco Martin saw considerable snaps at DT but, listed at 6-4, 310 pounds, the Mesquite product looks about as wide as he is tall. (Don’t tell him I said that. Just tell him what his head coach said.)

"He can definitely play goal line and short-yardage right now," Brown said, "but I don’t know how many plays he can play in the heat next fall. But he’s a really good kid and he’s worked really hard. But these big kids blow up too much, and he’s got to get that (weight) down."

And as for 6-4 DT Larry Dibbles (now weighing in at a svelte 280 pounds):

"I think he’ll be really good at some point," Brown said

(That’s what’s known in the business as a mixed compliment. You be the one to tell Dibbles, too).

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