"I thought they stood around and were soft (in 2003)," Brown said. "I was really concerned about it then, and thats the way we played early in the year. We played well against New Mexico State and we didnt play as well against Arkansas. We kind of grew up but, after OU, we woke up. Were trying to push them to get them to that point in pre-season. Were separating them in the fourth quarter of ballgames."
On Saturday, Brown saw a spirited, swarming defensive effort (relative to last year) that kept the first- and second-team offenses out of the end zone during the first possessions. The defense has a better chance of reaching that post-OU wake-up call by going full-speed and being allowed to tackle, something coaches have not permitted in Browns tenure until now.
"Youre tackling three backs (Cedric Benson, Selvin Young, Erik Hardeman) that are all over 215 pounds and can run a 4.5 or better," Brown said. "It should help us with full-speed tackling and in goal line situations. We should be more prepared to tackle when the season starts."
Otherwise, the film revealed that LDT Rodrique Wright "played super", WLB Derrick Johnson played like the Butkus Award favorite and the secondary "was improved and did a good job because those guys took some hits early last year."
MLB Aaron Harris "played well" while the DEs only "played okay", Brown added.
"It was RDE Brian Robisons first scrimmage as an end but we think he can make great progress," Brown said.
Upon further review, this is Browns assessment of where his team is at it enters the final week of camp:
As expected, the first freshman Brown lauded was Parade All-American DT Frank Okam who has consistently worked with the second team all camp. Expect him to lose his shirt in the home-opener against North Texas.
"Frank Okam did a good job on defense," Brown said. "Hes very athletic. He got a little high some but hell play in the first game based on what weve seen so far."
Coaches are also looking to Parade All-American SS Drew Kelson as a true freshman who could play early, despite the fact that Texas boasts more depth at DB than at any time in Browns seven-year tenure.
The biggest improvement in the offense is the improvement coaches have seen in QB Vince Young, Brown said.
"He played flawless," Brown said. "Hes learning the offense and, even if he makes a mistake, he knows why. This time last year it was overwhelming to him because we didnt know how much hed play at this point. By mid-season, he was starting."
Young was 6-of-8 passing for 107 yards with one drop (from sixth-year TE Bo Scaife who, otherwise, has had an outstanding camp).
"Bo tried to make a third down catch on first down in which he fought to catch the ball and still make the first," Brown said. "All he needed to do was catch the ball and fall. It was a learning experience for him."
The young receivers didnt get as many opportunities as Brown would have liked but that should change during Wednesdays scrimmage, 6 p.m., at DKR.
"We need to put them in a position where we ask more of them," Brown said. "We know our tight ends can play. We know our backs can play. So weve got to get the ball deep, a lot, to the receivers."
"The young receivers still have got a lot of things that they still have to learn but we see them learning," Brown said.
With the inexperience at WR (not one returning starter), Brown expects defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage to try and shut down the ground game.
"If people are going to crowd the line, weve got to throw it over their heads," Brown said. "You cant do that with hitches and slants."
This has been one of the bigger emphases of the pre-season in that Brown wants only his best players on special teams, rather than guys who had neither the talent nor the experience to make the two-deep chart.
There was little doubt that senior Dusty Mangum would return as starting FG kicker despite missing the last two games of the regular season due to a hip flexor. The same goes for junior Richmond McGee who bested sophomore All-American Vanderbilt transfer Greg Johnson for the starting assignment for kick-offs and punts. The strong-legged McGee will likely kick FGs from outside the 40, where Mangum is about 50-50 in his career. Meanwhile, Johnson has shown a knack for pinning an opponent deep inside its 20 based on the height he can get on the ball while operating from a shortened field.
"Greg Johnson would be our punter from the 50 in, on what we call a rocket situation," Brown said.
Brown also lauded junior RB/PR Selvin Young for his 73-yard punt return for TD Saturday, noting that his third-down back has regained all of the explosiveness he lost last season following a groin injury suffered Sept. 21 against Rice.
Brown was pleased with the first team O-line, a unit that returns four and has added a real catalyst in sophomore Kasey Studdard at LG. Studdard has run ahead of junior Mike Garcia, who many penciled in last spring as the heir apparent for Tillman Holloways old spot. Garcia was whistled twice Saturday on false start penalties.
"We were sporadic with our second team," Brown said. "Two or three of the guys played well but, as a unit, they didnt."
The final two sessions open to the public are set for Monday night, 7:05 p.m. at Denius Field as well as Wednesdays scrimmage. Wednesdays affair will be a game-type scrimmage to prepare for North Texas.