Thomas and Scaife were the focal point of the new offensive wrinkles that coaches tinkered with during the double-secret, behind-closed-doors practice sessions last spring. The two have cross-trained at a variety of positions, allowing not only multiple formations to keep defenses on their heels but also to compensate for all those untested pass catchers dotting the Longhorn roster.
The tight end position was emphasized during spring drills as well as August two-a-days one year ago. Yet, both Thomas and Scaife were conspicuously absent as receivers in early season losses to Arkansas and Oklahoma. (Thomas had zero receptions in both games.) Yet both are Texas' leading returning receivers and should (repeat: should) be more involved in the offense this fall.
"We had the three experienced receivers last year so (tight ends) didn't need to be as big of a focus," head coach Mack Brown told Inside Texas. "There weren't enough balls to go around to all the guys who needed to get it into their hands. But we feel like we need to do a good job of making those guys (Thomas and Scaife) useful within the offense this year because they're so talented."
Typically, Thomas has been the motion man on goal line and in short-yardage situations. Scaife, a Parade All-American signed with Chris Simms and Cory Redding's top-rated recruiting class, has battled back from injuries to both knees. Last December, he received a medical hardship granting him a sixth year of eligibility. Now, both Thomas and Scaife are taking snaps at fullback, H-back and in the slot. As such, Brown named Thomas the unofficial Offensive MVP of spring drills. Brown also said Scaife has regained the confidence that he may have lacked last season as he learned to trust that his knees would hold up under a season's worth of pounding.
Thomas accounted for 219 yards on 14 catches last year, trailing only the likes of Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas in receiving yards. His 60-yard touchdown grab on the opening series at Texas A&M represented a career best. He followed that with a career-high five receptions in the Holiday Bowl against Washington State. He averaged 15.6 yards per grab and was named Honorable Mention All-Big 12.
Scaife contributed 205 yards on 16 receptions last year, including a pair of touchdowns. He posted a career-long 39-yard reception in the 2003 home opener against New Mexico State and was the Associated Press' choice as Honorable Mention All-Big 12. Scaife set career highs for receptions (7) and receiving yards (84) in that thrilling comeback win over Washington in the 2001 Holiday Bowl. He now has 649 career yards on 49 receptions.
But Thomas and Scaife are not the only TEs who will see action this fall. At 6-5, 265-pounds, Neale Tweedie is Texas' biggest target at TE. Versatile and intelligent, Tweedie has good hands for a guy who was the primary backup at left tackle for much of 2003 but who worked at tight end during the past two spring seasons. RS-freshman Steven Hogan (6-5. 240) rounds out Texas' stable of returning TEs. Hogan is expected to compete for playing time at tight end and on special teams this season. True freshman Peter Ullman will also be on campus but is expected to redshirt.
Players report Monday, while the first practice of the 2004 season is slated for 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, at Denius Field. The practice is open to the public.