Texas Practice Notes 3/23

Texas is now more than halfway through its spring practices, and Longhorn coach Mack Brown said the team was still taking time to adjust to its new surroundings.

"The first seven days we were trying to get to know everybody," Brown said before Wednesday's practice session. "Coaches getting opinions of the players, trying at least to establish some fundamental work-like tempo of practice."

Brown said that the tempo was quicker than the players were used to, and added that the faster pace was instilled in the players by strength coach Bennie Wylie.

"They're really trying," Brown said of the players. "We told them we've got to compete and got to compete hard every play, and we didn't all the time last year. We've got to get that culture out of here and get back like we had it."

The Longhorns also have to install a new offense and defense, though two familiar coaches will be handling the special teams. Wednesday, Brown announced that Major Applewhite added another co-title to his resume, this time receiving the co-special teams coordinator position. He'll share the duties with defensive backs coach Duane Akina. The Longhorns will spend more time on special teams in the next eight practices, Brown said.

He added that the first practice after spring break — on Monday — was just OK, and said the Longhorns needed to pick things up. Texas won't have a working depth chart until the fall, possibly even until the first game, he said.

* Banged up at linebacker

Brown expressed disappointment that sophomore linebacker Jordan Hicks would miss the rest of spring practice with a stress fracture in his foot.

"Jordan Hicks had a great seven days," Brown said. "He looked super. Hated that he cracked his foot, but he's going to be a really good player for us."

Brown said Hicks was a cerebral player, and wouldn't lose much by missing the practice time. He said Hicks would be able to start work in the summer, and would be fully ready by fall camp.

Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson is also ailing, as he's been limited by a pulled groin. That hasn't stopped him from making an impression on the coaches, however, and he's been getting repetitions both at inside and outside linebacker. Brown said he weighed more than 240 pounds, and was a physical player in the middle.

The absence of Hicks and Robinson has allowed some young players — most notably Demarco Cobbs and Chet Moss — to step in. Brown said Cobbs had been impressive as a nickel/SAM linebacker hybrid.

* Malcolm Williams back

Williams, who missed the first half of the spring for "personal issues," practiced on Monday and was in full gear Wednesday. Brown said that Williams put on some weight, and was receiving work at H-back, as well as wide receiver, and Brown said he looked good at both positions.

But was the weight good? Williams was 230 pounds before the gain, and Brown conceded that he was "heavier than that" now. At practice, he looked like a tight end.

At whatever weight, he'll have to track down and lock up defensive backs to play wide receiver under new coach Darrell Wyatt.

"Darrell is really a stickler for blocking," Brown said.

Brown said that Williams also gave the Longhorns one of the best special teams players in the country.

* Chris Whaley moving … again

But this time, Whaley is moving to defense. Brown said that Whaley, who played the first eight practices at H-back, was moving to defensive end for the final seven practices of the spring.

It would seem to be a great fit. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Whaley has great length and outstanding athleticism for a player of that size. Whaley wore No. 96 at Wednesday's practice.

* Quarterbacks even

Brown lauded new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin for his ability to get all of the quarterbacks equal work, with Harsin giving two quarterbacks the most reps at one practice and the other two the most at the next.

"There's not an edge right now," Brown said.

* Offensive line struggles

When asked the toughest part of the spring for the offense, Brown replied, "It's always the offensive line."

"We haven't run the ball consistently well for four years, maybe even five," Brown admitted. With only eight healthy scholarship linemen, Brown said that it was difficult to simulate things for the quarterbacks playing with the second team as well.

* Recovering tight ends

Brown said he was pleased with the progress of both Blaine Irby and D.J. Grant. Irby has yet to practice in live situations, only participating in "thud" periods. And he's been sore with that work. Brown said that it would be a transitional process with Irby, and added that he wasn't sure if Irby would play in the spring game.

Grant has participated in everything and has been blocking well, Brown said.

* Defensive tackle battle

Looking for the player emerging next to Kheeston Randall at defensive tackle? Look no further than Greg Daniels, who earned kudos from Brown for his athleticism at 275-280 pounds.

While Daniels is the most disruptive threat, Brown also said that Ashton Dorsey and Calvin Howell were "doing fine."

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