First full squad focuses on the upperclassmen

During the early minutes of the Longhorns' first full squad workout Saturday morning at Denius, a rare cloud cover obscured the recently omnipresent sun. The glowing orb in the sky may have been the only 9 a.m. no-show (and a temporary no-show at that -- by 9:30 the sun appeared and kept a constant watch over the remainder of the workout). Literally hundreds (and possibly 1,000-plus) Orangebloods lined the Longhorn practice fields to catch their first glimpse of the full '01 Texas team.

That first glimpse included a lot of work from the veterans and an equal amount of watching and learning from the newcomers. In other words, to dispatch immediately with what is surely your No. 1 question, Cedric Benson did not blow past Brett Robin and then Victor Ike on the depth chart like he blew by defenders in his Midland Lee days. Not yet, at least. Benson and Derrick Johnson and Kaelen Jakes and several other freshmen will get an opportunity to impress, but it may be early next week before it happens.

"The freshmen mostly stood around and watched and learned today," Mack Brown said after practice. "They did a lot of individual stuff against the other freshmen. A few of them took some snaps with the older guys but we told them we wanted to make sure they got comfortable with the things around them before they got too much. They'll probably get more involved around Monday or Tuesday."

The Texas head coach, though, said the coaches plan to give Benson reps as the third-team tailback, behind Ike and Robin, "to see if we can learn a little bit more about (his) progress and where he is right now as far as helping us early in the season." Brown, just as he noted many times during spring, said that the coaches need to see separation at the tailback position during two-a-days. With Benson taking snaps with the third backfield unit (along with fullback Will Matthews), the pressure to perform has increased on the threesome of backs now at least temporarily below the true freshman on the depth chart. ". . . we've got Kenny Hayter and Ivan Williams and Sneezy Beltran that we're expecting to jump out and show us something if they want to get into the mix," Brown said.

Will Benson be in the mix? Almost certainly, but it's too early to tell whether he'll simply be an ingredient or the whole running game recipe. Regardless, watching the freshman tailback today, the word "strider" stuck in my mind when contemplating how to describe his running style. Benson's long, fluid strides -- hence "strider" -- make him deceptively fast. Not track star fast, but perhaps faster than he appears. Whether he appears in the line-up this fall will depend on his separation ability, both from defenders and from his tailback teammates.

Saturday morning practice notes: Reed Boyd and Marcus Wilkins are getting some work at defensive end because of the Horns' depth problems at the position. Both will also continue to play some LB. ". . . we're looking at them to get their quickness and their speed and gain some more depth because we've got five senior linebackers and we're a little bit more thin at defensive end," Brown said. Texas has just three healthy veteran DEs -- starting LDE Cory Redding, starting RDE Kalen Thornton and back-up RDE Jermain Anderson. Maurice Gordon, who played DE last season but switched to DT during spring, remained with the DTs today. Gordon and Stevie Lee took snaps with the second-team D, while Adam Doiron and Marcus Tubbs joined Redding and Thornton on the first-team D-line. Stevie Lee returned to the practice field healthy for the first time since last fall. Both Lee and Tubbs may not yet have the credentials of their DT predecessors Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers, but both have imposing physiques. If the technique is there, the expected drop-off at DT this fall may not be as great as once feared, particularly if Gordon, who looks like he has bulked up substantially (he's now listed at 265, up from 246 in the spring) and Doiron also contribute as expected. . . . If Boyd and Wilkins stay at end (or get the majority of their snaps at that spot), the door for early PT is flung wide open for true freshman Derrick Johnson, one of the most impressive newcomers over the four freshman workouts. D.D. Lewis at MLB, Tyrone Jones at SAM and Everick Rawls at WILL occupied the first-team linebacker spots. Although Lee Jackson worked with the second unit this morning, Jones and Jackson are essentially co-starters at the SAM/rover spot. Austin Sendlein and Aurmon Satchell backed up D.D. and Rawls, respectively. . . . In the defensive backfield, secondary coach Duane Akina started Quentin Jammer at left corner, Rod Babers at right corner and Ahmad Brooks at free safety. The only surprise in the secondary came with Nathan Vasher taking the starting snaps at strong safety ahead of Dakarai Pearson. The Media Guide depth chart lists Vasher and Pearson as co-starters (and lists Vasher as the first back-up to Babers at RCB). The second team secondary consisted of Monti Collier (LCB), Ervis Hill (RCB), Phillip Geiggar (SS) and Pearson (FS). As we've mentioned before, the safety spots in Akina's system are somewhat interchangeable, and the former Arizona D-coordinator spent spring ball double- or triple-training just about every member of his secondary unit, basically allowing him to get his four best DBs on the field as well as provide depth throughout the secondary. Of the freshmen DBs, I briefly saw Kendal Briles at safety and Michael Huff and Aaron Ross at corner. . . . Speaking of Ross, he and fellow freshman Cedric Griffin joined vets Vasher, Geiggar and Pearson in the punt return line. Brian Bradford (the leader for the punter spot), Justin Smith and new walk-on David Pino sent the punts (mostly) spiraling toward the return men. Pino also continued his assault on the kicking game two-deep by nailing a long (35-plus), into-the-wind field goal to end practice. Matt McFadden (the only scholarship player vying for the place kicker job) missed his attempt from the same distance shortly before Pino's successful boot. . . . In 11-on-11 work, Bo Scaife made two nice catches, one a 20-yard fingertip grab from Chris Simms, the other a shorter underneath route where Major Applewhite delivered. "Bo's a valuable player for this football team and I thought he looked in the best condition I've seen him since he's been in school here," the Texas head coach said. "He made some cuts after the catch and he got knocked around a little bit but it'll take Bo some time to get comfortable because two knee operations is a tough thing. But he's a tough young man, he's smart. . . . he knows he's well now. We'll have to work with him through two-a-days to make sure he's OK." . . . B.J. Johnson hauled in the long pass of the day, catching a Simms offering at the right pylon for a 40-yard TD. Back-up LCB Collier provided solid coverage on the play (as he seemed to do all day), but Simms laid it in perfectly and Johnson clutched it for six. . . . Juco transfer Alfio Randall, who is expected to compete for the starting left tackle job with Robbie Doane, worked with the second team OL.

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