Time to bring back the Wishbone?

OK, that's a bit of a stretch, particularly given that the Longhorn roster includes proven receivers <B>Roy</B> <B>Williams</B>, <B>B.J. Johnson</B> and <B>Sloan</B> <B>Thomas</B> plus pass catching tight ends <B>Bo</B> <B>Scaife</B> and <B>Brock</B> <B>Edwards </B>and the guy tossing them all the ball <B>Chris</B> <B>Simms</B>, most of whom would be relegated to the bench in the 'Bone.

But watching the Horns Thursday afternoon in DKR and then glancing over the final stats, it would be understandable to mistake this Texas team for a ground-bound bunch.

Horn running backs Victor Ike (four rushes for 28 yards), Ivan Williams (10 totes for 78 yards) and Cedric Benson (five carries for 37 yards) -- a group that, of course, never saw action in the same backfield, although that certainly would have been an entertaining sight -- provided the bulk of the offensive highlights during the meat of the scrimmage, overshadowing their more heralded offensive teammates. Matter of fact, the terrestrial tone for this one was set early.

On the scrimmage's first offensive play, Ike, UT's first-teamer at tailback, scampered 14 yards around right end. On the run, Ike looked quick but credit fullback Matt Trissel with the sealing block (on second-team SAM 'backer Tyrone Jones) that sprang him to the outside. Ike followed that one with a five-yarder up the middle before true freshman Derrick Johnson finally slowed the junior from Austin Bowie, plugging the middle on Ike's thrid straight attempt and planting him on his back for a gain of just one. That would be the only time all day that the defense (or kick coverage teams, for that matter) stopped Ike. On his only other rushing attempt, Ike ran over right tackle for eight yards. Not his longest run of the day, but perhaps his most impressive because of the vision he showed in picking his hole and the decision he made cutting back inside to avoid a possible tackle after just a couple of yards. Ike, by taking the opening kickoff and taking it back 46 yards, also reminded us that he's the Horns' best kick returner in two decades.

In two full pad workouts, Ike has solidified his hold on the starting tailback spot.

In those same two practices, two guys have emerged as the challengers to Ike's RB throne, one unexpected, the other anything but a surprise.

First the unexpected. Williams, who has languished near the bottom of the depth chart list at tailback since a spectacular spring of '00, again stepped up his play to that level Thursday and in the process elevated himself strongly into the running for fall PT. Ivan ripped off runs of eight, 17, seven, 18, two, six and 17 yards to go along with his three one-yard TD plunges. Four of those carries (for 26 yards and one TD) came against the first-team D as he ran behind the second-team line.

Asked what Ivan has shown him over the last two practices, offensive coordinator Greg Davis laughed and said, "He's made yards when we've handed it to him. Ivan has periodically shown the same things (that he showed today) in spring. For whatever reason it's never showed up in August. I don't know the reason -- youth, immaturity -- but he has really come on. He's a fast guy that is big and he made some real good decisions today on cuts and subtle moves, so I feel much better after this scrimmage than I did coming into camp about that position."

Another reason for Davis to feel better about the position is the 6-0, 200-pound package the Texas offense received via Midland Lee High School. All Cedric did today was take his first carry and turn it into a 25-yard gainer up the left side. Benson followed that successful draw with a five-yard counter play. Like I pointed out with Ike above, Benson's shorter run may have been the more impressive one. On the play, Cedric evaded charging second-team tackle Stevie Lee in the backfield and slipped through the left side of the line for the (relatively) short gain. Afterwards, Mack Brown praised his true freshman RB's "quickness and vision," two attributes on display on at least three of Benson's five carries.

Now, as I must do in the interest of putting into context the accomplishments listed above, the vast majority of the yards gained by all three backs came against the Horns' second-team defense, a unit that is woefully short on run-stoppers. Ends Marcus Wilkins, Reed Boyd and Jermain Anderson and the rotating bunch at tackle -- Lee, Maurice Gordon, Miguel McKay, Austin Sendlein and Kaelen Jakes -- aren't exactly gonna strike fear in the hearts of offensive coordinators (maybe some day, but not yet, at least, and certainly not as a run-stop unit).

So pray for a healthy season for the starting DLs.

Having said that, the reasons Ike, Williams and Benson have impressed over the two full pad workouts aren't limited simply to yards gained. As both Brown and Davis pointed out in their post-practice comments, the backs are displaying vision and making good decisions, two traits that seemed in short supply among the RBs this past spring. If that trend continues, all of the off-season fretting about the Longhorn running game may prove to be wasted worry.

[Editor's note: I'll have more analysis and scrimmage notes in my next report early Friday morning.]

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