Huff Has The 'Knack', But His Spot Is TBD

Versatile junior <B>Michael Huff </B>is having the best pre-season of any of the defensive backs, head coach <B>Mack Brown </B>said Monday. So will Huff end up starting at strong safety or left CB? It depends entirely on what the other DBs do, Brown said.

"We'll find out what the other guys' strengths are and he'll play opposite that," Brown said. "So if a safety gets better than one of the corners, then we'd move him out."

If the season started today, Huff would start at SS and senior Phillip Geiggar (as expected) would hold down the FS spot, Brown said. Junior Cedric Griffin would be the starting RCB while sophomores Tarell Brown and Aaron Ross are fighting for the starting nod at LCB (although Ross has missed most of camp with a hamstring injury). Huff took some snaps at LCB during Sunday's 11-on-11 drills but is still waiting to see which backfield mates nail down starting spots -- and where.

Huff made 10 starts at SS and three at CB as a RS-freshman in 2002. He also has four career INT and each one has been returned for a touchdown (a school record). One more INT return for TD and Huff ties the NCAA mark.

"We accused him of batting a few down that he couldn't run back for touchdowns because that's all he's done," Brown said.

Part of the reason that he has taken all four of his picks to the house has to do with the fact that balls are tossed into the flat, or curl areas, where there is wide open space between the defender and the goal line. But the biggest reason is that Huff has the "knack", according to his head coach.

"He's got a great knack for breaking on the ball," Brown said. "He's got a knack that very few people have."

It's a knack that can't be coached, Brown admits.

"What you try to do is get him into disguises where they throw into his coverage and that's coaching," Brown said. "You try to get him the technique to get into the right places to work on his break on the ball. But, if we could teach that, then all of them would be intercepting them like that. He's got a special knack."

Both Huff and Geiggar are much improved in coming up and providing run support, Brown added.

"That's something that's critical for us, improving against the run," Brown said.

Texas' run defense sank to its lowest statistical rating of the Brown era last season (151.5 ypg, NCAA No. 58).


RB Cedric Benson returned to practice Monday after sitting out Sunday night's session with a sore elbow. "Cedric did practice today and he did okay," Brown said. "He was limited but he did fine."... QB Chance Mock worked a bit during 11-on-11 drills. Mock missed the scrimmage work of six sessions after aggravating an ankle injury suffered during summer 7-on-7 work. "You'll always have injuries in two-a-days," Brown said. "What you hope is that you don't lose a guy for the year. You've got to be very fortunate. The guys are going to be sore and they've got to fight through pain. If a guy is injured, he won't practice. But this time of year, if he's out here, he's going to have some pain."... Brown also said SLB Garnet Smith is "in a battle" with fifth-year walk-on Stevie Stigall and journeyman Eric Hall for the start now. Friends, if this is a legitimate battle (instead of coach-speak) then the Horns are in big trouble at SAM linebacker. Unless we have seriously overestimated Smith, this one should be no contest. (Brown told reporters earlier in the week that those chasing down stories on Stigall were following the "wrong subject." He also said last year that Smith's season-ending injury in the home opener was the biggest personnel loss of 2003.) Regardless, this is a position with a serious lack of depth since sophomore Eric Foreman opted to become the fourth-team QB instead of the No. 2 SAM linebacker... By the end of Tuesday's morning practice, the Horns will have reached the halfway point of August camp. "We're excited about the way they're hustling, we're excited about the way they're handling their conditioning and their contact," Brown said. "We're where we need to be. We're about halfway through our preseason work and have to come back tomorrow ready to practice." Tuesday is another two-a-day with the morning session (closed to the public) set to begin at 7:30 a.m. at Denius Field. Evening drills, slated for 7:05 p.m., are open to fans. Fan Appreciation Day, beginning with the first scrimmage of the preseason, is scheduled to begin 9 a.m., Saturday, at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

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