Offense Ahead Of Defense As Texas Goes 1-On-1

Typically, defensive progress runs just a few steps ahead of the offense during spring training and August two-a-days in D-I college football. This year is the exception, however, for the Longhorns. As spring drills near the halfway point, the entire Texas defense is spending extra time acquiring the basics, head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> said Tuesday.

"Our defense is being really simple and working hard on fundamentals," Brown said. "The offense has got all of the guys back from last year except the receivers, so the offense is ahead of where the defense is just because the defense is working on getting the base stuff in and the offense is working on who they are. That's expected for a while."

The first-team offense is squaring exclusively against the first-team defense, a pattern begun last spring but seldom used last fall.

"We felt like we needed to see a Nathan Vasher with a Roy Williams and we needed to get those guys to compete against each other," Brown said. "At some point, you need to go twos-on-ones because the guys need to compete to see if the two (second-teamer) is ready to compete with the ones. We're trying to get two groups ready to play, so you change it up some as you go, but right now we've done every bit of it ones-against-ones and twos-against-twos."

A team strength (that was an area of concern this time last year) is the kicking game. Senior PK/P Richmond McGee was really booming his punts last Friday (I mean, really getting some air beneath the ball) while RS-sophomore Greg Johnson (the All-American transfer from Vanderbilt) is eligible after sitting out the 2003 season. Johnson is the only UT special teams player on athletic scholarship, which Brown does not extend unless he thinks the kid is the total package (punts, field goals, place kicking).

"Richmond's really good; he's done well," Brown said. "Both David (Pino) and Dusty (Mangum) are in a good fight (starting FG kicker job). Greg Johnson and Taylor Landin are competing with Richmond, but we've got to get the return game straightened out now. We're working hard with punt, punt blocking and punt return before the break (March 11) and we'll work on kickoff and kickoff coverage after the break."

Although junior Selvin Young is the heir apparent to Vasher at punt returner (he backed up the departed senior for the last two seasons), sophomore Aaron Ross is just one of several others getting an audition this spring. Ross is also working as a gunner on the punt coverage team along with senior Tony Jeffery and soph Michael Griffin.

Tuesday's session at Denius Field was relatively brief, lasting approximately 75 minutes.

"Today was a day that's hard to practice because they hit a lot on Friday and a lot on Saturday and hit on Monday and then come Tuesday with a scrimmage on Wednesday," Brown said. "This is a tough day and I thought they responded really well. We're sure not where we need to be."

Former Texas A&M coach R. C. Slocum was at practice Tuesday. The current Fox Sports Southwest commentator was scoping out the 2004 Longhorns in preparation for Big 12 spring football telecasts.

OG Mike Garcia (sprained ankle) will be held out of practice at least until after spring break (March 22). Kasey Studdard has been working with the first-team OL, Brown said.

Texas will practice Wednesday, 4 p.m., at Denius Field.


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