Tuesday Morning Practice Report

In between the upper and lower practice fields at UT's Denius Fields, a relatively small, nondescript sign greeted the Longhorn freshmen as they arrived for their first practice as University of Texas football players: 25 Days Till New Mexico State. All the orientations and the meetings and the picnics melted away in the morning sun from the new Longhorns' minds, probably replaced by the excitement (and probably a bit of fear) of working out in the Orange and White for the very first time.

And as the NMSU countdown clock shows, some of these guys' first game experience could be just over three weeks away.

But first things first. Like a crash course with Instructor Maddog in pre-practice stretching. Like learning the proper chant during calisthenics ("Beat New Mexico State" for one). Like taking the trainer's test to measure speed and agility and provide a baseline for measuring future improvement. All that under the watchful eyes of the UT coaches as they zigzagged through the 25 assembled players (walk-on K David Pino is still in summer and school and missed the workout) offering a stretching tip or simply a pat on the back.

After completing the necessary preliminaries, the freshmen finally spent time with their position coaches. Which leads us to the first news of the day: Eric Hall wore the White jersey of a defensive player and worked with coach McCrary and coach Tolleson as a defensive lineman (rather than at fullback). "Eric Hall is 250 pounds and he looks like he's in great shape," Mack Brown said today after the morning practice. Brian Carter, on the other hand, donned the Orange jersey and worked with Darryl Drake as a wide receiver and "caught the ball well," the head coach said.

"What we've done in the first practice is we told them to go where they want to go," the Texas head coach said. "We think Brian can be a corner or safety." This afternoon, some of the other DBs may work at receiver. Both Michael Huff and Aaron Ross played in the secondary and at wide receiver in high school, and both ran a few routes today despite wearing the D's White. Brown said the coaches plan to have secondary coach Akina's group and coach Drake's wideout group work together during the freshmen practices so the coaches can see the guys on both sides of the ball.

Projected safety Braden Johnson, who looks a bit bigger than his listed 6-1, 190, went through the LB drills, led by D-coordinator Carl Reese, along with Derrick Johnson, while another projected safety Rufus Harris, sat out the morning practice. Harris did not practice because of a quad bruise suffered in his recent high school all-star game appearance. He also has some swelling in his knee, according to Brown, who then added, "(The trainers) think he'll be fine. Hopefully he can get back out for Saturday with the varsity."

OL Alfio Randall left practice early after it was discovered that, according to Brown, "something didn't come out on his test (physical)" so his blood work will be redone. As a precautionary measure, Randall will not be cleared to practice until the results from the retest are in. "He's an older guy and he really doesn't need (the practice) as much as the younger guys do," the Longhorn coach said.

Even with Alfio and Harris missing a bit of time, Brown said the coaches always say "a young man can't hurt himself in freshman camp but he can help himself." So unless their absence stretches into next week or beyond, both guys (but particularly Randall at LT) should compete for fall PT. And as the head coach pointed out, immediate playing time isn't solely determined by a player's ability. "The truth is, you have to be careful talking about an immediate impact because some of these guys may not play for two years and may be great players for their last three," Brown said. "So it may take some longer to play because of position needs or he's more in condition right now and might play more than another guy that becomes a great player in the long run."

After just one limited freshmen practice, it's too early for predictions of who will become the great players out of this class. I'm quite confident, though, in predicting that today we got our first glimpse of several players who will eventually earn that label.

Practice notes: Brown said Lance McFarland weighed in at 234 pounds and Kaelen Jakes is around 260, down from his listed weight of 270 during recruiting. Brown said today that the California DL wanted to lose some body fat and gain some quickness, which he apparently did if his one-on-one battles with the freshmen OLs (overall the most spirited work of the day) are any indication. Along with Hall, all three freshman DLs will get a look for possible early playing time. "With those guys, we feel like we may have to use their depth this year," Brown said. The head coach also said some of the Horns' veteran LBs may get a spin-down look because of the depth glut at linebacker and the depth problems at end. . . . 6-3, 305 OL Mike Garcia had an impressive morning in the weight room, Brown said, benching 250 pounds 25 times. "We don't have the guys lift massive amounts of weight because we are worried about pulls or tears of muscles because we don't know how strong they are," Brown said, "so we put what we would think would be heavy weight (but what they think is lighter weight) and let them do numbers to check their strength." Garcia worked out today with a stabilizing brace on his right knee. The Galena Park product tore his ACL in the third game of his senior high school season. . . . OLs Terrance Young, 6-6, 340, and William Winston, 6-7, 350, look every bit as big as advertised, perhaps bigger. Jonathan Scott, the 6-7, 285-pound OL from Dallas Carter looks downright skinny next to those two. "I think some of the linemen are too big and we're gonna have to work to make sure they drop some weight," Brown said, "but that's pretty typical of big freshmen linemen." . . . During kicking game work at the end of practice, RB Anthony Johnson, DB Michael Huff, DB Aaron Ross, DB Cedric Griffin and WR/DB Brian Carter, DB Kendal Briles (who, by the way, demonstrated some awfully quick feet in the testing period) and even RB Cedric Benson shagged punts from the punting machine. At least one true freshman should compete for the fall punt return job. Which one of the guys listed above will it be? Too early to tell, but we'll definitely be watching that battle closely starting Saturday. . . . The three walk-on kickers in attendance -- No. 7 Dusty Mangum, No. 13 Brady Noto and No. 43 James Baker -- all looked solid. Brown said the staff is "obviously concerned" about the kicking situation given that they've brought in four walk-ons. The coach, though, said, he didn't watch the kickers until the very end of practice this morning so the guys wouldn't get nervous. He plans to take a closer look tonight. In the time he watched, he said, he was "pleased with the way the ball jumped off their feet." . . . Darrell Royal attended practice and individually greeted the freshmen after the workout. David McWilliams also attended, as did veteran players Ahmad Brooks and Jermain Anderson.

Horns Digest Top Stories