Brown: Freshmen DBs 'Have To Play' This Season

Defensive backs from Texas&#146; 2003 recruiting class are the most likely of the 18 signees to swap their redshirts for Burnt Orange jerseys this fall, head coach <B>Mack Brown </B>said. In fact, you can count on it.

This, despite the presence of All-American candidate senior CB Nathan Vasher, senior FS Dakarai Pearson (38 career starts), sophomore SS Michael Huff (started all 13 games in 2002), sophomore CB Cedric Griffin (six starts in 2002, led DBs with 73 tackles) and sophomore CB/nickel back Edorian McCullough (whom D-Coordinator Carl Reese said is "the fastest man in the world").

"The secondary is a place where we’ll have to play freshmen when they come in," Brown said. "They’ll be in backup roles."

Why? In part, it has to do with Brown’s recruiting philosophy that begins in the secondary. (Some coaches insist you first recruit a QB; others say offensive linemen are the first among equals.) For the sixth-year Texas head coach, it all starts with those lock-down cornerbacks and fuel-injected safeties. Hey, if they don’t score, Texas doesn’t lose.

Brown began to worry (publicly, at least) early last February about the Texas secondary two seasons from now. The Horns are still striving toward that three-deep level of experienced talent at all positions but, for Brown, you absolutely must (at all times) have that kind of presence in the secondary if you want to be successful.

Leading the contingent of five freshman DBs is 6-0, 180-pound Tarell Brown, a first-team All-American selection by both Parade magazine and USA Today. The North Mesquite product was a three-year starter at cornerback and a two-year starter at running back. But any of the August arrivals that have a DB designation next to their name are strong possibilities as well. Along with Brown, that list includes strong safeties Michael Griffin and Eric Foreman, corners Steve Richardson, Brandon Foster and Erick Jackson (plus former Clearninghouse casualty Aaron Ross) and perhaps even walk-on free safety Marcus Griffin.

Of those already on campus, no DB is more instrumental to Texas’ success this season than Vasher. Despite his nagging ankle injury, Vasher was a consensus second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2002. He is the leading returner in pass breakups (15) and had four picks last season, including a game-saving, goal line INT to preserve the 27-24 win at Nebraska. He added 356 punt return yards as a junior, including a 60-yard return for TD against Texas A&M. Vasher started all 13 games at strong safety in 2001, tying the school record for INTs (7).

"Nathan is now in the position we had in Quentin Jammer (in that) he’ll be a cover guy," Brown said. "Cedric will be guy they’ll pick on, but I feel he’ll do well."

Griffin was UT’s top nickel back last season before moving to CB this spring.

"Cedric had an outstanding spring and Dakarai played like he always has," Brown added.

Pearson led the team in interceptions (6) last season, including two picks apiece against OU and North Carolina.

Huff turned an ankle the first week of spring drills and is expected to be in playing shape next August, as is sophomore FS Kendal Briles (shoulder).


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