Hall, Lee With Ones, Key Freshmen To See Action

Journeyman junior <B>Eric Hall</B> has edged starter <B>Garnet Smith</B> for the starting SLB spot while junior <B>Stevie Lee</B> now holds first-team honors at RDT instead of heir apparent <B>Larry</B> <B>Dibbles</B>, head coach <B>Mack Brown </B>announced when the 2004 Texas football depth chart was released for the first time Monday. Nine true freshmen and redshirt freshmen are also listed on the two-deep.

Arguably, the biggest surprise was Smith's demotion to second team status (now listed even as a co-backup with fifth-year senior Stevie Stigall, who was a walk-on until handed a scholarship just last Wednesday). The fiery Smith not only held down the starting MLB job before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the 2003 home opener, but Brown also said last spring that Smith's injury was the most significant personnel loss of all last season. The former Golden Gloves boxer entered August camp with the starting nod, but Brown talked early and often about the battle for playing time at SAM linebacker. One thing I noted last week was that Smith was getting beat in pass coverage during red zone drills but who woulda thunk that he would drop to second-team status?

"(Hall) is doing a great job right now of covering the tight end in pass protection," Brown said, "and he's played enough linebacker. He understands the scheme. He brings speed off the corner in blitz. We're excited about his preseason camp but he's never played in a game so, who knows?"

Brown said the two-deep chart could change between now and the home opener against North Texas, 6 p.m. (CDT), Saturday, so I suspect coaches are issuing Smith some sort of a wake-up call.

"They're really close (on the chart) and they'll both play," Brown said of Smith and Hall. "I could have said either-or and it wouldn't have made any difference, so it's not a huge story."

Well, in the grand scheme of things, it's not. But when an injury to a former starter is labeled the worst of the season, and then the former starter enters the fall atop the depth chart only to get bumped by a scrappy kid who's good enough to play anywhere (FB, DE, LB) but has never been good enough to stay there, it became Monday's huge story following the first media luncheon of the season.

What's more, Lee has been given the starting nod at RDT over Dibbles, due to Dibbles' unspecified stomach illness. Dibbles is expected back early this week, Brown said.

"Everybody is playing their part in the defense, especially on the D-Line," Lee said, before conceding that D-line depth "was shaky" at first. "The media was asking, when we first came in to camp, about all the people that weren't coming back. They were asking about the depth on the defense. I knew then we were going to be good. Now, it just assures you that we're going to be fine. The way (Defensive) Coach (Greg) Robinson plays it is that we're all going to roll in, rotating, and keep everybody fresh."

Sophomore Tarell Brown edged sophomore Aaron Ross for the starting job at LCB primarily because Ross missed nearly half of the pre-season due to a hamstring pull. Brown will also return kick-offs along side RB Selvin Young.

Converted TE Neale Tweedie is tentatively listed as RDE Brian Robison's primary backup since converted linebacker Aurmon Satchell missed all last week due to injury but has now been cleared to practice.

"We'll have to wait and see how (Satchell) does this week," Brown said.

Freshman Parade All-American Frank Okam is the clear backup to junior LDT Rodrique Wright. True freshman Derek Lokey is expected to see action at RDT, Brown added. But Brown was quick to list his litany of woes: "You're playing Frank Okam for the first-time ever, Dibbles has been sick, Aurmon Satchell hasn't practiced, Neale Tweedie's been at end for a week, so there's some real question marks for our front seven that we'll have to answer Saturday night."

True freshman Nathan Jones, following a solid August camp, is listed as co-backup with sophomore Eric Enard to senior FL Tony Jeffery.

"He will play," Brown said of Jones. "We're planning on playing him Saturday."

Junior Brian Carter will step into Roy Williams' enormous shoes at SE, backed up by a pair of RS-freshmen in Limas Sweed and Tyrell Gatewood. In a three-wide set, Sweed would be on the field as the X receiver, allowing Carter to slide over. The third receiver in a three-wide set could also be speedy and versatile TE David Thomas, Brown added.

"David can go from tight end, to an H-back in motion, to a wide receiver to a fullback," Brown said. "We've even progressed to a point now where (FB) Will Matthews could play tight end. We would go from two-tights to three-wides or to an I-formation."

Oh, and sophomore Vince Young is clearly the starting QB. Senior Chance Mock, meanwhile, has yet to fully recover from a right ankle sprain and may not see action Saturday. If so, junior Matt Nordgren would be first off the bench.

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