Slimmed Down Horns Report For Preseason

A leaner (presumably meaner) Longhorn team -- including letterman and incoming freshmen -- reported Wednesday for what will be an abbreviated preseason relative to recent years as a result of a new NCAA statute barring successive two-a-day sessions. In fact, the first two-a-day is not slated until Tuesday. But when No. 4 Texas (coaches poll) practices for the first time, 3:30 p.m., Thursday at Denius Field, it means that football season (at last!) is here.

Freshman have typically reported four days before the varsity arrives. The new ruling left coaches scrambling to acclimate newbies while also tending to incoming varsity athletes.

"We‘ve got to incorporate freshman orientation into the varsity practice schedule," head coach Mack Brown said. "We’ve got to try and spend as much personal time with the freshman as we have in the past and not take away from the practice of the varsity."

Part of the process included a late-afternoon "Freshman Picnic" with their families in the Longhorn Dining Hall before meeting with the entire team Wednesday evening.

"We’ll go a little slower tomorrow to make sure the freshmen have enough time to get accustomed to the speed of practice in college," Brown added.

Colleges are still allowed 29 practice sessions prior to the opening game but not with consecutive two-a-day practices. Alternating single sessions with two-a-days would have had the effect of pushing the preseason back into July (not that fans would have minded), so the four extra days allotted for freshmen orientation was eliminated.

"It’s not that someone felt like freshmen didn’t need the extra four days," Brown said. "It’s just that they (NCAA) didn’t want to back us up any further."

Most of the key players embraced the off-season training emphasis on slimming down to a championship level of playing shape, Brown believes.

"Just looking at the weights today, guys are leaner," Brown said. "The big guys are leaner than I’ve seen in a long time. (DT) Marcus Tubbs has got his weight down. (Senior LG) Tillman Holloway is one of the guys that has dropped a lot of weight and he’s worked really hard."

While coaches have directed much of the off-season conditioning on what was considered a soft offensive and defensive line (by Texas’ standards), junior RB Cedric Benson has added approximately 15 pounds of lean muscle since last fall. He also quit minor league baseball earlier this year to be more fully rested and focused on football. The second-team All-Big 12 performer has made no secret of his disappointment that he only rushed for 1,293 yards less year (understandable since Benson started 13 games and since bowl game stats are now counted in the final figures).

"What I’m hearing from Roy (Williams) and Nathan (Vasher), he weighs about 220," Brown said. "I know he came home early from baseball, and they say he looks like he’s in great shape. It will be fun to watch him tomorrow. I asked if it was 220 in the right place, and they assured me that it was."

Players will work out in shorts Thursday and Friday before adding shoulder pads Saturday and Sunday. The pads come on Monday. Each practice is slated for 3:30 p.m., while Tuesday’s two-a-day is set for 7:45 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.

Missing opening day due to injuries will be senior FB Ivan Williams, sophomore DE Mike Williams, junior LB Aurmon Satchell and RS-sophomore DB Clint Haney.

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