Football 2003: What To Look For (Offensively)

The endless summer ritual of counting down the weeks until football season has now mercifully dwindled to hours. Under the new NCAA statute, both freshmen and upperclassmen are scheduled to begin reporting to the Forty Acres at 10 a.m., Wednesday. Although most starting spots were nailed down during spring ball, expect a number of fiercely fought battles for playing time after preseason practices begin 3 p.m., Thursday, at Denius Field. Here are a few things to look for offensively:

While the eyes of Texas fans will likely be upon QBs Chance Mock and Vince Young when the offense is on the field (not to mention one phenomenal wideout), the most important battles are being waged by the big uglies up front. Members of the oft-criticized offensive line were absolutely stoked at the end of the spring about how good they were going to be this fall (an indication of attitude makeover courtesy of OL coach Mac McWhorter, who inherited the spot last January after head coach Mack Brown canned Tim Nunez).

Fair or not, center Jason Glynn (6-2, 275) became the poster child for last year’s much-maligned front. The junior will be in a heated battle with sophomore Will Allen for the top spot. Although Brown said the two were "bracketed together" by the end of spring drills, it was the 6-6, 297-pound Allen who handled the snaps during the first three offensive series of the annual Orange-White game instead of the incumbent.

The competition is just as fierce at right tackle, where RS-freshman Justin Blalock (6-4, 340) nudged RS-junior William Winston (6-7, 350) for the spot that Jonathan Scott and Derrick Dockery held last year. Winston played in all 13 games last season on the field goal and PAT units and saw action in six outings as a backup tackle.

Many project LT Scott, who moved from right to left tackle for the spring, as the next big thing, but I believe the next great Texas OL is Blalock. He was a USA Today All-American at Plano East and was The Sporting News choice as the nation’s 15th-best high school prospect overall. Either way, it's awfully refreshing to again talk about the OL in terms of its competitive talent.

Coaches want Blalock to be able to play both the guard and tackle spots (much like dearly departed All-American Dockery did last season).

Keep your eyes on the fullback spot. We understand that, as of Monday, senior Ivan Williams has not been cleared to practice. Williams suffered a knee injury late last February in a pick-up basketball game and did not participate in spring drills. That leaves sophomore Eric Hall, junior Will Matthews and RS-sophomore Albert Hardy as Cedric Benson’s designated blocker (and there is no replacing Williams as a receiving threat out of the backfield).

Make no mistake, Mock is the starting signal caller. It’s been that way since day one of spring ball. But keep an eye out on Young’s rapid development. Just before spring break, the all-everything RS-freshman stayed long after practice for encouragement and consolation from Brown. It seems that even Superman gets the blues, as Young was upset with the slow and difficult transition to D-I football. But several coaches have said Young ended the spring as the team’s most improved player. Young is expected to play early and often each game this season, but as the No. 2 QB.

Texas is as loaded at TE as it was depleted at that spot last year. Consider this: seniors Brock Edwards and Bo Scaife (remember him?) have been named to the 2003 John Mackey Award watch list, presented to the nation’s best collegiate TE -- and they’re not starting. Sophomore TE David Thomas will be the starter when preseason workouts begin.

At least, that’s what Brown said after the youngster led all receivers in the Orange-White game, including a 60-yard TD off of a Mock throwback screen pass. We understand Thomas has added about seven pounds of lean muscle since then. If fully recovered from a pair of season ending knee injuries, there may be no finer TE in the country than Scaife. Edwards could start on any other team in the Big 12. We expect freshman All-American Tony Hills to be redshirted this year. Either way, the competition is over-the-top fierce at TE this season. An early prognosis: TE will come up big against OU.


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