Brown Talks Spring Practice

From the shift to up-tempo to dealing with injuries and tackling woes, here are five quick hits from Mack Brown's spring-opening press conference Thursday.

1) Texas will have two practices open to the public

The first will be on March 1, with the second coming a day later on March 2. Those practices represent the fifth and sixth sessions in the spring, and both will be in full pads, as they coincide with the high school coaches' clinic.

Both will depend on the weather. If there is inclement weather, the practices will be moved indoors, where fans cannot attend.

Texas coach Mack Brown also announced that the spring game would take place at 6:30 p.m. on March 30, right after the Texas Relays. He said there would be increased traffic in the area because of the relays, but he hoped that more fans would stay and watch the practice afterward. He also pointed to the fact that it's just the second night "game" in 16 years.

2) The Longhorns are entering the spring with increased momentum

"We feel like we are taking a lot of momentum and excitement into spring practice after the comeback win at Oregon State," Brown said. "Guys came back really pumped up in January for the offseason program, and I do feel like it's been the best offseason program we've had in the last four."

Part of that, Brown said, had to do with Jeff Madden and Bennie Wylie getting more on the same page as they worked together longer. And that relationship has paid off in the weight room.

"We have got an older team, a faster team, a stronger team than we have had the last two years, for sure," Brown said. "And this team has shown more leadership, toughness, confidence and discipline because of all those things. They feel like we can be really good, but they understand where we have got to get to be good, and all of those things that made the offseason better."

3) Texas brings a pretty healthy team into spring practice

Linebackers Demarco Cobbs and Deoundrei Davis will miss the spring with knee injuries, while offensive lineman Trey Hopkins (leg) and punter William Russ (back) are also out. Offensive lineman Camrhon Hughes and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will both be limited, though Brown said Jeffcoat "looks very good."

"I think he will be limited, but he will be able to do a lot of drills," Brown said. "We'll just keep him out of contact throughout the spring."

The Longhorns don't have any major position changes that weren't already discussed. John Harris will be a combination wide receiver and occasional flexed-out tight end. Daje Johnson is still playing both running back and wide receiver. Hassan Ridgeway is 306 pounds and will move inside to defensive tackle. Caleb Bluiett will move from tight end to defensive end. And early enrollee Jake Raulerson started his Texas career at center on Thursday.

4) Longhorns shift to up-tempo

Brown talked more about the "philosophy moving forward," particularly as that relates to tempo on offense.

"We have talked long and hard about who we want to be for this year," Brown said. "We want to be attacking on both sides of the ball and be aggressive like we were the second half of Oregon State. That's who we want to be."

Texas entered the Alamo Bowl with a strategy to go up-tempo after big running plays, but had to become even more aggressive when they failed to run the ball well early. Brown continued to clarify what he wanted out of the offense.

"We'll still run the same plays," Brown said. "We will still want to be very balanced. There will be similarities to what we did with Vince [Young] and Colt [McCoy]. As I've said many times, I thought we got a way from the running game with Colt in the end, and we got so we couldn't run the ball and we're in a better place right now running the ball than we were the last two years. So we will continue running the ball a lot and be balanced. We will have fewer formations, and we will substitute less, because one of the real advantages right now for defenses is that when you substitute, the defense gets to substitute.

"I think that's one of the big changes that's occurred the last couple years in college football — that with up-tempo offenses and especially in this league, and we have the best offenses in the country in this league — people got so they could not call defenses and you got so you couldn't substitute, and you were wearing people out much like happened to Oregon State in the end of our ballgame and it changes everything," Brown said. "And that's why we feel that this is definitely the way to go. Use what we have done for the last two years to move forward, but keep your best players in the game. Try to develop, create a two-deep as such that when you change, you change everybody. You're not running people in and out and allowing defenses to rest. Then you're wearing out defenses who are less than two-deep."

5) Texas continues to work on tackling

"I think it's probably the most talked about thing for the teams that didn't tackle well and when they did tackle well, you say you have a good defense," Brown said. "I've done both. And you have done the same drills, basically, when you do both. I thought we tackled better the last of half of the season, and you just continue to work on the fundamentals of tackling. I did think, and you're in a position in modern day that when you say anything to help a kid you get overanalyzed and criticized for it."

Brown pointed at Adrian Phillips, who missed spring practice and then wasn't able to tackle in practice because of his shoulder injury. Phillips struggled to tackle early on, and Brown said that the staff should have considered easing him onto the field more.

"But I think that being in better shape, being older, being more confident, playing more football, being more prepared for tempo, all of those things will help our tackling," Brown said.

Brown took issue with anybody who insisted that Texas wasn't as physical as other teams.

"I've had coaches come from everywhere in the country and they say we are just as physical as everybody they have ever worked with, so that's a farce," Brown said. "That's a myth. It's a fun one. People have enjoyed it, but it's a myth."

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