Reese Talks About His Young 'Backers

A month of spring workouts seemingly set the Longhorns' fall starting line-up at LB. <B>Derrick Johnson</B>, of course, owned the start at WILL, while <B>Reed Boyd</B> and <B>Garnet Smith</B> earned the other two starting spots. Heading into August, the only question among the starting three was whether Boyd, last season's starter in the middle, or Smith, the spring sensation at the spot, would get the nod at MIKE.

The real intrigue figured to come at the back-up spots, where the Horns desperately needed depth. And for the most part, that's been the case (although there is a surprising battle going on for one starting spot according to Carl Reese; more on that later).

As the coaches typically do in August, they've sat down several vets that didn't make a spring depth chart move and have instead thrown many of the true freshmen straight into the live-action fire over the first week of two-a-days to see if any of them are capable of contributing immediately at a need position. At linebacker, Reese told IT Thursday evening, they've found not one, not two, but three(!) true freshmen that could strip the 'shirt. That three freshmen would even line up at LB this August, much less push for true frosh PT, is a surprise given that the class of newcomers only included two 'backers!

Robert Killebrew (who actually played DE in high school) and Scott Derry arrived on the Forty Acres with an LB next to their name on the roster, but high school QB Eric Foreman came in listed as an athlete, with safety being his most likely destination. That changed after about four days, Reese said, when the defensive coaches moved Foreman from SS to the SAM linebacker spot because of his speed.

"That's our MO," the Texas DC said. "If we've got a big safety that can run, when you move him to the next level down he becomes fast and quicker and can cover tight ends and that's certainly what Foreman does. He's a good quality football player and with some time I can see him playing this year and helping us win football games with his athletic ability. I'm real excited about him."

The 6-4, 215-pound Foreman and the 6-2, 210-pound Killebrew have been sharing second-team snaps at SAM since Foreman's move to the spot (with Killebrew typically the first on the field).

"Killebrew is a wild man," Reese said. "He's a little bit like (Garnet) Smith. He flies around and likes to play."

Derry is also seeing the field often with the second team over the last few days, playing both the MIKE and WILL spots.

"Scott Derry's done a good job," Reese said. "He's ahead of schedule I think. He's a physical guy. I knew he was a good athlete and a good football player but I didn't expect him to be as physical as he is so he's going to have a chance to help us some this year. All three of those kids have great attitudes and all three of them will play before it's over with. I think we're going to get some work out of those kids. "

In Reese-speak, those last couple of sentences could mean the kids play in the opener or it could mean they play as redshirt sophomores, but some of his other comments, as well as the kids' performances on the practice field to this point, suggest that all three have an excellent chance of seeing the field this fall.

Another young linebacker to note in the playing time derby is Brian Robison. Robison emerged from spring as the solid No. 2 at SAM, but the absence of Aaron Harris over the first week of August practices forced the coaches to give the redshirt freshman another look in the middle behind spring standout Garnet Smith. And they like what they see.

"He and Garnet are battling it out to see which one is the best right now," said Reese. "And Garnet had a good day yesterday and did alright today so it's back and forth. After a few days, we could kick (Robison) back out to SAM because he's a pretty good blitzer."

Wherever Robison ends up, the Horns' linebacker depth looks less like a concern with each passing practice.

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