Mack Brown said after UT's Tuesday afternoon practice that the Horns will work in shorts and pads again in the morning in a lighter than usual a.m. practice before finally graduating to the full pad, full contact stuff Wednesday evening.
The head coach said the practices won't change much, but the coaches will look for several fundamental things (aside from the positional depth chart battles): wrapping up on defense, being good tacklers in the open field and, for the running back's and wide receivers, making yards after contact. With the defensive line-up virtually set, the wrapping and tackling work on that side of the ball, although extremely important, won't be quite as intriguing as the yards after contact work on offense. For obvious reasons, the focus there will be at running back.
During spring, the staff in its internal evaluations didn't count a running backs yards until after the first defender made contact. Overall, Victor Ike and Brett Robin performed the best in that category and emerged from spring as the top two tailbacks. Cedric Benson's first real opportunity to impress the coaches in that area will come tomorrow.
The offensive and defensive lines will also finally square off and give us a glimpse of the progress in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Brown said recently that the coaches wouldn't tinker with the depth chart much until the pads were put on. Let the tinkering begin.
Tuesday practice notes:
After spending the beginning of the last several practices working on punt protection and punt block, the Horns worked on the full kickoff and kick return teams for the first time Tuesday. Returning kickers Matt McFadden and Dylan Becker did all the kicking while the walk-ons watched. During spring, Becker demonstrated a consistently stronger leg on kickoffs than McFadden, but I didn't see enough today to determine if that is still the case. Along with returners Ike and Ivan Williams, Phillip Geiggar, Marcus Wilkins, Chad Stevens, Reed Boyd, Beau Trahan, Cullen Leoffler, Brock Edwards, Brett Robin and Matt Trissel make up the first-team kick return squad. The Horns broke into position work before spending much time on kick coverage. . . .
Jumping now to the second half of the practice and the daily wrap-up of the field goal kicking results, a seldom seen Texas kicker -- lone scholarship kicker McFadden -- actually attempted some live action field goals. The redshirt freshman didn't make the most of the opportunity, though, missing both his 40 yard attempts (FYI for those of you at practice, the goalposts were about four yards behind the back line of the end zone, hence the slightly longer distance than the yard markers would suggest). Walk-on Dusty Mangum continued today to knock 'em through, hitting both of his 40-yard attempts (although he glanced his second attempt off the right upright but through). David Pino, the other walk-on fighting for fall PT, showed the most leg strength again Tuesday, blasting both of his 40-yard attempts well past the crossbar, but he made only one, sending his first attempt wide left. In what could be a slight concern, Pino's kicks travel on a very low trajectory (not surprising given his distance) and he has already gotten one blocked during two-a-days. First-team punter Brian Bradford punted three times during 11-on-11 work, sending a low line drive 37 yards on his first punt that true freshman return man Aaron Ross couldn't handle. Bradford finished up with a towering 40-yard effort and 33-yarder. Justin Smith's lone attempt traveled 35 yards with a strong four-plus second hang time. . . .
On the first play of 11-on-11 work, Ike scampered 70 yards virtually untouched to the end zone against the second-team D. Chris Simms and several linemen made the trek to the far end zone to congratulate the junior tailback. Other highlights of 11-on-11 included Simms' toss to a leaping Sloan Thomas (over Aaron Ross) on the right sideline for a gain of 16 and another Simms throw, this one perfectly placed to Roy Williams who cut from left to right across the center of the field and split three defenders before racing another 50 yards for a 72-yard TD. Major also laid in a few nice ones, on one play hitting Montrell Flowers for 10-plus after stepping up to avoid the rush, and on another placing a perfect ball just out of the reach of defender Rod Babers and into the hands of Tony Jeffery on the left sideline (OK, the official ruled T.J. out of bounds, but I was a lot closer to the play than the zebra, and I say he got a foot in!). Major also put two into the hands of the guys in the wrong colored jerseys, but neither Dakarai Pearson nor Everick Rawls could hold on for the INTs. Cedric Benson and Ivan Williams were the only multi-carry backs of the 11-on-11 session (Ike's session-opening TD gallop and Brett Robin's three-yard gainer were the only other carries), with Benson totaling three yards on two carries and Williams gaining four yards on his two totes. . . .
We saw this some during spring, but the Longhorn offense continues to work on four- and five-wide (empty backfield) sets. Tight ends Bo Scaife and Brock Edwards will not be limited to tight formation sets, but will also split out wide. . . .
Injury update: Kendal Briles (strained groin), Kenny Hayter ("shook up," according to UT's injury report -- "bell rung" may be a better description), and Maurice Gordon (right ankle sprain) are newcomers to the red jersey section of the practice field sideline. Anthony Johnson, who has been out since the first day of freshmen practice, underwent successful surgery yesterday on the stress fracture in his foot and is doing well. His return time is unknown, but the injury almost certainly ensures a redshirt season for the true freshman.