Rover Lee Jackson returned to practice today for the first time since he injured his toe mid-way through two-a-days. WR Kyle Shanahan also returned to Denius this week, taking his first practice snaps since his freak off-season leg injury. Both could play this Saturday vs. UNC, but neither is expected to see much action. Both Mack Brown and Carl Reese praised the play of Tyrone Jones, who started in place of Jackson at SAM 'backer/rover against NMSU. The senior from Texas City played almost every defensive snap Saturday (Reed Boyd, who spent most of camp at DE, backed up Jones at SLB, while true freshman Braden Johnson, the Horns' only other strongside 'backer, did not suit out and probably would not have played even if he had) and Reese said Jones, from training camp through the opener, "is playing the best he's played." Jones has always been the most-physically impressive specimen of the starting three LBs, but his play hasn't always measured up to his physique. Against the Aggies, it did. With Jones solid at SAM and Jackson back in the mix, Boyd will probably end up back at middle linebacker spelling D.D. Lewis, the role he played last fall. Aurmon Satchell, D.D.'s back-up in the middle in game one, played just three snaps vs. New Mexico State. . . .
Jones will probably get an opportunity vs. the Tar Heels to again showcase his newfound physical play. "The key to stopping the North Carolina offense is being real physical," the Texas defensive coordinator said Tuesday post-practice. "Both Oklahoma and Maryland were real physical and crowded the line of scrimmage, which led to pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run." Reese said he wants his D to be aggressive, firm in the running game, forcing the Heels to throw and then pressuring the QB, whichever UNC QB happens to be in the game. The Texas D-coordinator said he expects to see "(Ronald) Curry as the starter, and if we do our job (read: stuff the Tar Heel offensive attack), we'll see No. 11 (back-up Darian Durant)." UNC also has some speed at running back and at wideout, according to Reese. "They have enough skill on the outside and at quarterback that if we don't contain, it's a nightmare waiting to happen." [Editor's note: We'll have more on the Heels as the week progresses.] . . .
Reese said Marcus Tubbs and Maurice Gordon will likely start again in the middle of the DL. Tubbs tired towards the end of the game Saturday despite the small number of NMSU snaps (50) the Texas D faced, so his conditioning (hampered in the summer because of a groin injury) must improve if he is to remain effective in the later stages of longer games. The coordinator tabbed Gordon's play as just "OK" because he "played high some and got knocked out of some plays." He also made some plays, though, Reese added. Adam Doiron, who played "better than expected" on his 12 snaps, is still not ready to start, Reese said. Stevie Lee got in on eight snaps vs. the Aggies of the west, but he's facing a stamina problem far worse than that of Tubbs. Reese said the coaches want to get Austin Sendlein in as well as soon as his learning curve at the position allows it. . . .
Not surprisingly, Reese praised the play of true freshman Derrick Johnson, who played WILL 'backer on 14 plays Saturday night. The D-coordinator also singled out CB Rod Babers and back-up strong safety Phillip Geiggar. "He really played great," Reese said of Babers. "We left the corners on islands, they challenged Rod and he answered it." Now, the coach said, his junior corner needs to start picking off some of the passes that come his way when he's stride for stride with the receiver. As for Geiggar, he's likely to play a larger role this week as a dime back. Reese really likes his safety line-up, particularly because Nathan Vasher, Dakarai Pearson (the Horns' nickel back) and Geiggar all have cover ability. . . .
The Texas D mixed in a lot of zone coverage in the early part of the NMSU game, Reese said. On the first five Aggie drives, four of which went three-and-out, the Longhorn secondary played zone about one-third of the snaps. By the end of the game, that zone percentage had fallen to about one-in-five. Reese said he's pleased with the results and said his D will continue to use zone and disguise in the defensive backfield. . . .
None of the true freshman DBs look destined for playing time any time soon but Reese said by mid-season he'd like to start getting some of the young guys game experience. Michael Huff and Cedric Griffin are the most likely candidates because they get "gameplan work" during practice at left corner (behind starter Quentin Jammer) while the safeties (Rufus Harris and Kendal Briles) "don't get much gameplan work." . . .
Sneezy Beltran remains sidelined with a sore shoulder. . . .
Brown said Monday that the Horns stuck to a limited offensive gameplan vs. New Mexico State, instead stressing to the players the need to be physical in the running game. "We'll add to the offense each week," Brown said. "When you can win a game convincingly and not use much, it's good for your football team." The coach said he handcuffed his own coaches a bit, particularly in the running game, by forcing them to focus on about three running plays. "We got to run those plays enough that we know what we messed up, if we messed up at all," Brown said. "We want to run those plays really good, and then we'll install our play action and misdirection off of those plays." . . .
Robbie Doane is likely to get the starting call again at left tackle vs. UNC, but with Julius Peppers lining up across from the Horns' left tackle, might we see more substitution at the spot Saturday? Yes, but it probably won't include Alfio Randall. Brown said the juco transfer is "not ready" to take on that role. Derrick Dockery is the more likely candidate. The head coach lamented Monday that the staff didn't get Dockery more preparatory snaps at tackle against the Peppers-less Aggies.
I asked Cory Redding Monday about his lack of statistical success against the Aggies. The junior DE said he "had to watch the option and for trick plays" and he "couldn't attack the quarterback" like he wanted to. Despite the fact that the UNC QBs are "agile and mobile," Redding sees far "more chances to get around the quarterback" against the Heels than he had against New Mexico State.
Roy Williams said Monday that on the ball that went through his hands in the third quarter against the Aggies, he tried to jump to catch the over the middle pass, but his foot gave way. Williams limped off the field but returned and played some over the final 20 minutes of the game.
More NMSU game notes: Five true freshman -- RB Cedric Benson, LB Derrick Johnson, WR Brian Carter, MLB Aurmon Satchell and K Dusty Mangum -- played in Saturday's opener. Last season, Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson, Sloan Thomas, Nathan Vasher, Phillip Geiggar, Brock Edwards, Kalen Thornton and Stevie Lee played in '00's game one as true freshmen. Of the five freshmen that stripped the redshirt against New Mexico State, only Carter came as a bit of a surprise. "We thought we were so thin at wide receiver two years ago (when Ryan Nunez and Jeremy Jones missed time late in the season because of injury) and with running so many four- and five-wide formations, we want to play enough guys that if we get three guys hurt, we don't have to shut (the passing game) down," Brown said today. Aside from the five who played Saturday night and possibly a couple of secondary newcomers (probably from among Cedric Griffin, Michael Huff and Rufus Harris) the coaches hope to redshirt the remainder of the true freshman class. . . . Several Horns did not suit out for the NMSU game, including MLB Rashad Thomas, RB Sneezy Beltran, DT Kaelen Jakes, K David Pino, OL Roman Reeves, SLB Braden Johnson, RB Anthony Johnson, OL Mike Garcia, rover Lee Jackson, WR Kyle Shanahan and DE O.J. McClintock.