LDE Still Needed; Punting Battle Heats Up

Longhorn coaches are still looking for a defensive end to emerge at (or near) the level of play as senior RDE <B>Kalen Thornton</B>, who missed Monday evening's practice for a final exam. With just four days left in the preseason, the heir apparent to <B>Cory Redding's</B> former spot is still being done by committee.

"We've got a group of guys, but somebody needs to step out," head coach Mack Brown said. "Kalen is the guy who's got the spot, and then Austin (Sendlein) and Bryan Pickryl are guys who will have played more. But we're also looking at Chase (Pittman), Kaelen (Jakes) and Tim Crowder at that other spot until Mike Williams gets back. We're still unsure when he'll return."

Thornton, however, worked double-duty in the morning session by seeing action at both LDE and RDE. I asked Brown if the flip-flopping was strictly situational or if it was something we could expect in the fall. The answer, of course, is yes.

"Kalen is really bright and he's played a lot of football for us," Brown said. "He's a guy that can get in both a left-handed and right-handed stance, so he gives us more flexibility with the young guys that haven't played as much. If somebody can play the right side better, then Kalen can move to left rather than ask one of them to move over. So, it's a security blanket for us if we need to leave a guy on the right side and keep him in the game."

Meanwhile, PK Richmond McGee continues to raise eyebrows with his solid punting. Following his 43-yarder in Saturday's scrimmage, the 6-4 sophomore launched a 50-yarder and a 40-yarder into the wind during Monday's session. Scholarship P Justin Smith fumbled the deep snap during his only attempt.

"He's come on like gangbusters," Brown said of McGee. "He's really improved a lot, so we're excited about what we've seen in him."

How close is he, then, to starting P Taylor Landin?

"He's real close," Brown confirmed. "In fact, tonight he had some real boomers and those guys (at punter) are like (FG kickers) Dusty (Mangum) and David (Pino) right now. We've got great competition at that spot, but Richmond has definitely moved into the mix."

Kick return specialists for the August 31 home opener against New Mexico State will be sophomore RB Selvin Young and the surprisingly effective junior SS Phillip Geiggar, subbing for injured FB Ivan Williams. Coaches are also so thrilled with Geiggar's contributions when starting SS Michael Huff missed the first week of practice with an injury that he could hold on to his spot in the secondary while Huff could play either safety or at corner.

Further proof that SE Roy Williams is doing everything these days but run for governor of California: the Heisman candidate blocked a Landin punt late in practice. Williams relishes his punt-blocking role on the return team, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Williams get his hand on one late in the season to solidify his December date with the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan.

Starting MLB Garnet Smith got banged up when he ran into FB Will Matthews and was helped to the training room. It just means he'll be sore for Tuesday's session (set for 3 p.m. at Denius), but it gave RS-freshman Brian Robison additional snaps alongside WLB Derrick Johnson and SLB Reed Boyd.

"We've got some young linebackers that are fighting for spots right now," Brown said. "Garnet, Reed and Derrick have secured the top three. We've been pleased with what we've seen from Aaron Harris since he's been back. He and Brian Robison and Marcus Myers are all three in that mix for playing time. But we also like some of what we're seeing from some of the freshmen. We won't know enough about the freshmen until after Wednesday or Thursday to see how they respond, and it might be two or three games into the season, but we're pleased with the freshmen class as well."

Sophomore Will Allen returned to full pads for the first time in just more than a week and practiced at guard. The 6-6, 305-pounder had nudged incumbent Jason Glynn as starting center before fracturing a bone in his right hand.

"He practiced really well," Brown said. "We're going to look at him at guard, center and tackle because he's so versatile. From what I could tell, he played really well."

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