Starting Spot No Guarantee For Benson

RB <B>Cedric Benson</B> will return to practice Monday following a week&#146;s absence -- but that does not necessarily mean the junior will be in the huddle when Texas&#146; first team offense takes the field on its opening series against Nebraska, head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> said Sunday.

"Cedric will come back to practice and we’ll put him back in the same position and determine in practice whether he’ll start or not," Brown said.

When asked if that meant Benson now has to fight for a starting job, Brown said, "We’ll do what we do with all of them each week."

Reading between the lines: The statement is the carrot that Brown is dangling in front of Benson, indicating that 23 previous starts does not effect a lifetime guarantee of first team status. Benson must now show that the week off to address legal matters concerning his criminal misdemeanor charge will not adversely affect his performance.

A little competition would be good for Benson. His best opportunity to earn the respect of teammates and coaches (which he said before the season-opener that he did not have) presents itself in the form of Texas’ formidable November slate, beginning with Nebraska, 11 a.m. (Central) at DKR.

Senior RB Brett Robin responded with 61 yards on 10 carries in his first collegiate start Saturday vs. Baylor. Sophomore RB Selvin Young, shaking off a groin injury that has sidelined him since the September 20 Rice game, looked quick in hitting the holes while QB Vince Young led all rushers with 101 yards on nine totes.

For now, Texas is one of nine NCAA teams that is averaging 200-plus yards rushing and 200-plus yards passing.

"We’re making progress," Brown said. "We’ve been in transition with our offense. We’re throwing well, and we’re running it better than we did at the first of the year."

The Texas defense, meanwhile, needs to get its identity back. That was the verdict of DT Rodrique Wright earlier last week, who then led all tacklers in Texas’ 56-0 annihilation of Baylor. I asked him what would be the evidence to indicate that this team has regained its defensive identity.

For Wright, it's all about getting to the quarterback — something that the defense failed to do in losses to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas Tech (2002). Playing teams the caliber of Baylor and Iowa State may have had much to do with it, but Brown said during Sunday’s teleconference that Longhorn defenders have made strides in getting to the QB.

No small part of that had to do with the play of sophomore LDE Mike Williams. Brown has said all along that Williams’ strength is his quick release out of his stance and pass-rush ability. With true freshman Tim Crowder subbing for injured RDE Kalen Thornton, Williams started at LDE and forced a fumble on Baylor’s opening possession, returned a fumble 33-yards for a TD in the fourth quarter, and was credited with five QB pressures, two tackles, a sack and a PBU.

"He played great," Brown said. "He just had a dominating performance. We’re really excited about the pressure we’re getting on the quarterback."

Brown was also pleased with the way Texas held Baylor in check after intermission, especially since the Horns had been outscored 34-0 in the third quarter during the first three games of Big 12 play.

"We were excited at how we came out in the third quarter and shut down their running game," Brown said. "We took their offense away from them in second half."

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