Texas Shoring Up Depth At DE, On OL

The injury-riddled Longhorn defensive end spot in 2003, at times, resembled more of a MASH unit than a unit that mashed opposing quarterbacks. That's why head coach <B>Mack Brown </B>is taking no chances by forcing depth among six candidates for playing time at DE this spring. The same holds true for an offensive line that has had a couple of nagging injuries this spring.

As mentioned yesterday, the two-deep chart involves making permanent for the remainder of the spring (and likely for the 2004 season) the move of Tony Hills from TE (recruited as a Parade All-American at the spot) to LT as junior Jonathan Scott's backup. Injured senior LT Lionel Garr is out for the remainder of the spring while junior OG Terrance Young (broken wrist) is being held out of contact.

"We don't have a backup left tackle," Brown said. "And Tony is a 6-6, 270-pounder who's not ready to play tight end because he's still comin' off that (knee) injury (in December 2002). We felt like, as talented as he is and with his inexperience, what we were going to do is to throw him into the fire and turn him loose at tackle and get him every snap here with the (second team) and put himself in a position to be more ready to play in the fall."

Added Brown, "He's behind. He's never been in a left-handed stance. Now he's in a left handed stance. But he shows some good movements and he shows some good plays. He hasn't got the consistency yet that we want but he will be a real good player at some time. We just don't know when it's going to be. That's what spring (football) is about, to press him to see how fast he can come. But he will be on this team and will be able to play, and we didn't know that until three weeks ago. He's a huge plus for the future."

Sophomore Brian Robison moved from MLB to DE this spring to bolster a position thinned by graduation (Kalen Thornton) and injury (Bryan Pickryl, shoulder). Robison is also participating in Longhorn track (discus, shot put) and will compete in both the Texas Relays (morning) and Spring Jamboree football game (night) on April 3 at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

"I don't know that that's ever happened before," Brown said. "It's a very, very unusual situation to have a chance to start in both of them."

Robison will likely miss about five days of spring football (typically on Monday) for track, where he earned all-conference honors in the discus at the 2003 Big 12 Outdoor Championships while posting a career-best 55-11 in the shotput.

"(Robison's) really competing. He's quick," Brown said. "Mike Williams and Tim Crowder have done well. Eric Hall really came on and made a push. Eric Hall has had a real good seven days. Eric had a sore back and missed a couple of days. Chase Pittman had a sore back in the first part (of spring training) and he's stepping up and had a good day today. Kaelen Jakes and Austin Sendlein are really getting a lot of work at both, playing both inside and outside. We've taught them to play all four and what we're finding is that they're really good pass rushers so that gives us some extra quickness in pass rush situations."

Brown specifically singled out Jakes, who appeared in six games as a reserve DE last season.

"He's got a lot of quickness. He's got a lot of leverage. He can make plays because he's quicker than most defensive linemen. We signed him as a 270-pound defensive end but he lost too much weight." (He is now listed at 6-3, 260.)

While coaches are stressing depth, Brown quells any talk of depth-chart projections. Although Pickyrl is expected back this fall, it's a no-brainer to pencil in Crowder (nine starts) and Williams (one start, 11 appearances) at the two DE spots.

"We're not talking about starters. We're trying to get more to the team concept like we did last year because we really liked the fact that we played two-deep in most positions. We're sincerely trying to get two-deep at every position so we can keep experience available. If somebody gets hurt, we don't drop off because that's where most teams get into trouble."

Here, Brown used a timely basketball analogy to reinforce his point.

"At Duke and at Texas right now in basketball, two of the best things about these teams is that they're deep. We can stay fresh. This time of the year, when a pull or a sprained ankle or tired legs beat you up, we're not going to get tired in the Tournament because we've got depth. And when you're talking about winning 13 or 14 football games, it's gotta be the same thing. You've got to be really lucky to make it through a season in this league without injuries, so we're trying not to plan on having to have luck to win. We're trying to have a plan to have depth to win."

"This team won't be as talented overall as some we've had but it's got a lot of really good football players," Brown said. "So we're asking them to be the best they can be individually and then play the best for the team that they can play."

The annual Pro Timing Day for Longhorn NFL aspirants is set for Wednesday, 11 a.m., in the Moncrief-Neuhaus complex. NFL scouts and representatives will be on hand to record times and evaluate the likes of Roy Williams and company. The team will not practice again until Thursday.

"We look for (current Longhorns) to be able to watch the other guys and to see the pressure that the scouts and the coaches put on them and how demanding they are on Pro Day," Brown said. "We also thought it was supportive."

Players will be in shoulder pads and shorts Thursday with emphasis on the kicking game before Friday's scrimmage, Brown said.


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