Brown Wants 'Best Tackling Team In Country'

The D-I programs that have either won or shared the most recent national championships (USC, Ohio State, LSU) were college football's best at stopping the run last year. Texas' 2003 rush defense, meanwhile, was rated just No. 58 (152.5 ypg). As Longhorns donned pads for the first time this spring, head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> challenged his troops to be the "best tackling team in the country" in 2004.

"We've told them we've got to stop the run better and we've got to force more turnovers," Brown said Friday. "To do that, we've got to be the best tackling team in the country. I think we've made some strides in that area today. We did more individual drills against each other today. We stayed in individual longer today. We're probably going to scrimmage less and do more fundamental and more individual work then we've done in the past."

The emphasis on one-on-one drills (which became particularly intense at the end of practice), as well as on fundamentals in tackling is due in no small part to the contributions of new defensive coaches, Co-Coordinator Greg Robinson and DE Coach Dick Tomey. Robinson's Kansas City Chiefs, while near the bottom of the NFL in total defense, still led the NFL in turnover margin with a +19 advantage. Tomey, of course, directed the renowned 'Desert Swarm' defense that led the nation in scoring defense (8.9 ppg) in 1992 and then led the nation in rush defense by setting a PAC-10 record (30.1 ypg) the following season. The two have brought "a better way to practice" to Texas, Brown said.

"We're demanding more out of them on each play," Brown said. "Greg Robinson has given us a better way to have the guys understand how far and how fast to go. Sometimes there was confusion because a group of was blowing whistles. Right now, Greg is blowing the only whistle so everybody has to go full speed. That doesn't mean you have to knock everybody out every time, but you have to learn what all-out effort means.

Compared to other spring sessions, the first day in pads featured more full speed plays, more scrimmage (or, live tackling plays) with the backs and receivers, and more ones vs. ones. The only receivers that really got popped, it seemed, were the tight ends. CB Aaron Ross, shedding a block from SE Limas Sweed, absolutely leveled TE David Thomas on a down-and-out toss from QB Vince Young. Freshman TE/OT Tony Hills took some licks, getting knocked out of bounds on one play.

"He hopped right back up and did well," Brown observed.

For all the wideouts and tight ends, new WR coach Bobby Kennedy makes them sprint into the end zone following each play (regardless of the yardline where the tackle was made).

Brown also commended RB Cedric Benson for emergence of leadership and work ethic during the off-season leading into spring drills. Benson has decided to quit baseball -- something that did not make the Dodgers' organization very happy, particularly after picking up the tab on Benson's first three years at Texas.

"Giving up baseball sends a message to his teammates and the fans," Brown said walk-on-turned-scholarship athlete. "His work ethic has always been good but there's a little more swagger to him than there's been."

Saturday's practice and scrimmage is set for 2 p.m. at DKR. It will be the last session open to the public until the April 3 Spring Jamboree.

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