Friday Practice Observations

Observations from the Horns' Friday afternoon practice.

In Brief

On a 95 degree day in Austin, the Longhorns held an intense, hard-hitting and precise two-hour practice in full pads.

Today’s physical practice comes on the heels of last night’s particularly fierce session, which was highlighted by a series of big hits and near brawls. While today’s workout was slightly less contentious, it too was punctuated by several hard hits, hot tempers and quality play.

Freshman linebacker Robert Killebrew, whose attitude is quickly rubbing off on the defense, mixed it up with tight end Bo Scaife and several other offensive players.

Overall, the defense is still clearly the strength of the team, though it’s hard to be certain of that when the offense is focusing so heavily on only a few aspects during each practice. The offensive lines — both first team and second team — had perhaps their best day yet, providing excellent pass protection and doing a better job of opening holes on the few running plays called.

The first team offense was extremely sharp this afternoon and seems to get better every day. The first team defense, particularly the pass defense, was once again tremendous. The offense made a more concerted effort running the ball in the last quarter of practice, often with good results. Cedric Benson and Erik Hardeman ran with speed and power and had good lanes on several occasions.

The practice concluded when Dusty Mangum’s 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Phillip Geiggar and returned for a "touchdown" by Nathan Vasher. The play was whistled dead after Vasher was 30 yards up field.

The Longhorns hit the field again tomorrow, for a 9:00 a.m. scrimmage and Fan Appreciation Day, at DKR-Memorial Stadium.

Offensive Lines Have Strong Day

Today was by far the best day yet for the first and second team offensive lines, particularly in pass protection. Eleven-on-eleven drills began with the first team defense matched up against the first team specialty players — quarterbacks, running backs and receivers — playing behind the second team offensive line. The line gave Chance Mock an excellent pocket, and he completed 3-4 passes on the drive, one to Roy Williams, one to Selvin Young and one to B.J. Johnson to move the chains. His only miss came when he missed walk-on Eric Enard high after Bryan Pickryl got good pressure from his right side.

Later, the first team offensive line squared off against the first team defense in red zone drills. Piloted by third string quarterback Matt Nordgren, the offensive line provided good pass protection, twice picking up the blitz to give Nordgren time to hit Albert Hardy out of the backfield for a touchdown and Sloan Thomas on the goal line. Nordgren was sacked once on the drive, but it was more of a coverage sack.

As a unit, both the first and second team offensive lines were strong. Individually, much-maligned center Jason Glynn and very much-maligned left tackle Lionel Garr had very good days. Garr stopped Kalen Thornton on successive speed rushes, then stoned freshman Tim Crowder and, finally, mauled Austin Sendlein. Glynn, often without help, provided solid protection up front (he drilled DT Tully Janszen on one play) and did a nice job picking up a blitz by MLB Garnet Smith. Even Trey Bates got into the action, taking snaps with the first team at center and playing well.

Mock Red Hot

Mock and the first team offense sizzled throughout the afternoon. Mock completed 8 of 11 passes on the day, including several perfect strikes on intermediate routes to Williams and B.J. Johnson and over-the-middle to Scaife.

Vince Young, playing some with the first team offense, had one of those days where he was more of an athlete than a polished quarterback. He completed just 3 of 7 passes and one fumble, with two passes that were dropped interceptions by Vasher and Derrick Johnson. The drop by Johnson came after Young rolled left and fired into triple coverage. He did, however, make several plays with his feet.

Nordgren continued his steady, solid play. He hit on 5 of 7 of his passes, including a nice play action fake and toss to Hardy in the flat for a touchdown.

All three quarterbacks are looking more and more comfortable and accurate in individual passing drills.

Kicking Game

Last night was Justin Smith’s night as first string punter, and today was Taylor Landin’s shot. Landin performed pretty well, hitting three solid punts, including a 45-yard effort into the wind that led to a fair catch.

Justin Smith, after a pretty solid night last night, shanked his only effort in live action.

Richmond McGee needs to bottle what he had today and save it for game day. McGee effortlessly drilled all five of his kick-off attempts deep into the end zone. Between drills, he nailed four consecutive kicks out of the end zone.

Play/Hit of the Day

In a match-up of the first team offense vs. the second team defense, Benson got a couple of great blocks on the left side and sprinted wide for a big pick up. At the end of the run, however, Benson was drilled by backup safety Matt Melton, electrifying his defensive teammates. Benson delivered a bit of a blow himself on the play, but definitely took more punishment than he gave.

Quick Hits

Wide receiver Robert Timmons was again absent from practice (see Hot News).

Brandon Foster’s nickname should be "flypaper." Even when he is beaten, as he was today by Roy Williams, he is always in position to make a play.

Michael Huff was cleared for full contact and played well at strong safety in both the first team and second team defenses.

Linebacker Brian Robison’s parents took in the practice and watched their son lay a couple of wicked hits on running plays.

Will Matthews is really coming on at fullback. He is splitting time with Brock Edwards as the starting fullback.

Freshman wide receiver Billy Pittman again missed practice.

Cedric Griffin is quietly having an excellent fall.

Linebacker Aaron Harris, playing in shorts and pads, played several snaps with the second team defense, lining up at both SLB and WLB.

Benson looked very, very good today running behind the first team offensive line. He made a couple of nice cutbacks to find seams and hit the hole hard.

B.J. Johnson is all business. He has been extremely focused during every single drill and is looking more and more like he did when he dominated as a freshman.

Selvin Young had a hit-or-miss day in blitz pick-up. He made a nice read of a blitz by Scott Derry and delivered a crunching block to give Mock time to throw. Later, he either missed his block or made the wrong read on a blitzing Killebrew that would have been a clear sack on Mock.

William Winston is playing really well. He appears to be in better shape and is looking like a very solid third tackle.

Aaron Ross was outstanding in coverage for most of the afternoon. He also continues to work as a kick off returner.

The offense continues to focus on motion, movement, play action and roll-outs. The defense continues to shift, and threw in more zone throughout the afternoon.

Will Allen was, once again, working on snapping with his left hand during non-contact drills.

Tim Crowder made a sensational play in run defense, shedding his blocker and wrapping up Hardeman at the line of scrimmage for no gain.

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