Less than two weeks. That's how long it took the latest rash of roster changes to happen. At Big 12 Media Days, Texas coach Mack Brown said that he was excited to see what Malcolm Williams could do at his new position of H-back. Meanwhile, the players talked about the gains made by Chet Moss at linebacker.
But Thursday, both of those changed, with Brown announcing that Williams, receiver Brock Fitzhenery and linebacker Patrick Nwokopara would be leaving the football team and graduating. Tight end Trey Graham will miss the 2011 season with medical issues and Moss, a true freshman, will move to fullback.
The decision must have come suddenly: linebacker Emmanuel Acho was taken by surprise when one of the reporters asked him about Williams' decision to leave the team, for what Brown called "family issues."
Williams and Fitzhenery leaving means that the Longhorns are down four wide receivers in the past few months, counting Greg Timmons and Marquise Goodwin, the latter of whom is expected to return next year. Brown said those absences would open up potential playing time for true freshmen Jaxon Shipley and Miles Onyegbule, while the coaching staff will evaluate other positions to see if anyone (Mykkele Thompson, perhaps?) could also move to the position.
Moss moved to buoy a thin fullback position, with Brown stating that linebacker was much better off in terms of depth.
Brown reiterated that the Longhorns were still a ways away from putting together a two-deep, though he added that ideally, the coaching staff would be able to form one two weeks before the Rice game to give ideal repetitions.
Brown said that in the past, the Longhorns typically released a two-deep the Monday before the first game, and added that Texas would do the same this year. He said the starting lineup might still be in a state of flux at that point, but said it would be more important to have a working two-deep than to know who would be starting off the game.
Unlike last season, the fans won't be able to see any of the process up-close, with Texas closing all of the team's practices this fall.
Brown said he felt like the Longhorns could be strong on the interior of the offensive line with a group that included center David Snow, left guard Trey Hopkins and right guard Mason Walters. Tackle is less certain, though Tray Allen and Paden Kelley appeared to have a leg up in the spring.
Brown said offensive line coach Stacy Searels was excited to get to see a healthy David Snow (he had mono in the spring, but didn't miss a single practice) and Luke Poehlmann, who Brown said should compete for the open tackle spot.
With five true freshmen, Brown said that the two-deep would be open to new players.
Brown said that he expected defensive end to be one of the Longhorns' best positions, citing Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat as likely standouts. He also singled out Reggie Wilson, who reportedly had a big summer, and Dravannti Johnson, who started games at the position last year.
Acho said that he wouldn't want to have to block Okafor, and added that he didn't see how an offensive lineman would be able to, either. Okafor took things a step further, saying that the goal was for the defensive end group to finish as the top group in the country.
Okafor said that those top four, along with converted H-back Chris Whaley and freshman Cedric Reed, gave the Longhorns outstanding depth. Okafor mentioned that Whaley demonstrated outstanding talent in the spring, and called him "a natural" at the position.
Things aren't quite as rosy on the interior of the defensive line, which Brown cited as a concern. Brown said that while Randall was an excellent player, he might actually have had a better year as a sophomore, when he played alongside Lamarr Houston. Brown went on to say that Randall had improved his talent every season, and that there were gains that he could make to place himself as a top tackle in the country. For his part, Randall said that he fit Diaz's attacking scheme a little better, stating that he wouldn't be required to hold up blocks as much as attack and bring the fight to the offensive line.
But the real question will come at the spot opposite Randall. Brown said that the Longhorns had adequate numbers and "names" at the position, but said that somebody needed to step up. The Longhorns need four strong tackles to hold up on running and medium downs, he said, while Texas could rotate through some smaller players in passing situations.
Ashton Dorsey and Calvin Howell appear to be two likely candidates, while Taylor Bible was brought up by one player as somebody who has had strong summer workouts. Desmond Jackson again earned rave reviews as a likely early contributor. He's one of the strongest players on the team.