Questions Remain Headin' Into Spring Game

Over a month ago, when the Horns teed it up for their first spring practice, resolving several positional battles stood out as a key to a successful spring. Aside from the high profile QB battle, the most intrigue figured to come at linebacker, offensive line and defensive end.

Although interesting and exciting to watch with two talented multi-threat athletes behind center, QB didn't turn out to be a battle at all, except for the back-up role, which Vince Young quickly but not surprisingly wrestled away from Matt Nordgren. And at linebacker, the issue is not one of who will start -- it will certainly be Derrick Johnson, Reed Boyd and Garnet Smith -- but where they'll all play.

But heading into Saturday's Spring Game, the 15th and final off-season practice for the Horns, the answers elsewhere aren't necessarily as clear cut as at signal caller and, in one sense, linebacker.

Mack Brown said the coaches will use the DKR intrasquad to try to make some decisions at "two or three positions", not only depth chart decisions but positional decisions as well.

"We're trying to figure out what our best combinations are at linebacker, who the best four to six players are and where would be the best place to play them," the head coach said Thursday. "We're looking at some linemen, especially center and tackle, trying to see who's the starter going into the fall."

For answers to the O-line questions (which still may not come until August), watch both the rotation patterns employed by the coaches and the performances of the kids on Saturday, particularly at center (Jason Glynn and Will Allen) and right tackle (William Winston and Justin Blalock). The early bet here is that Allen and Blalock will own the jobs by August, but we may get a glimpse into the coaches' current thinking Saturday.

Brown also pointed to "back-up" defensive end as an area that will be closely evaluated Saturday in the stadium. Carl Reese told IT Thursday that his main worry at this point is the end position.

"We moved Mike Williams to end and we did this and that to try to get that position strong and it's still a question mark," the defensive coordinator said. "I think Bryan Pickryl's gotta come back strong and get through a good summer and Kalen Thornton's gotta continue to improve. Mike Williams has got to continue to improve. I think our end situation is still a concern and we've just got to get through it and see what happens."

Mike Williams wore a red jersey Thursday during the team's non-contact workout and did not practice (his status for Saturday is unknown), but he has shown the most promise so far from among back-up competitors Kaelen Jakes and Chase Pittman.

The coaches will train their gaze Saturday to other spots as well, according to Brown, including fullback (where Eric Hall thrust himself into contention for PT after Will Matthews and Albert Hardy missed a couple of mid-spring workouts due to injury), kicker (where returning starter Dusty Mangum and David Pino, both walk-ons, are the prime candidates) and punter (where walk-on Taylor Landin has so far bested scholarship athlete Justin Smith).

Reese's D will also get to show off its new-found DT depth, the area that the DC says has seen the "biggest gain." (That is largely due to the play of Tully Janszen and the very large but baby faced Marco Martin, both of whom should contribute in the middle this fall along with Marcus Tubbs, Rodrique Wright and Larry Dibbles)

Although the team has practiced almost exclusively ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos during spring, Brown said he has yet to decide how the coaches will match up the teams on Saturday. The scrimmage will include full work on the special teams and will last anywhere from 60-90 plays, the head coach said.

The Texas defensive coordinator says not to expect too much Saturday.

"The Spring Game is a little bit of a dress rehearsal of what we've been doing," Reese said. "We call it a spring game but really what we're trying to do is put different guys in a game situation and let 'em see what they can do, so we're not going to be doing a whole lot. You play base defenses and see if they line up right and basically get after it, play with good effort."

Horns Digest Top Stories