Benson improving daily, says UT trainer

<B>Cedric Benson</B>, who along with RT <B>Mike Williams</B> missed the entire second half of the Big 12 Championship Game after the two collided on a second quarter Colorado INT return, did not practice Thursday evening in the Horns' first Holiday Bowl workout but the freshman running back is improving every day, according to head football trainer <B>Tom McVan</B>.

Texas is scheduled to practice in Austin through next Wednesday before taking a short Christmas break and then heading out to San Diego to resume workouts, and head coach Mack Brown said he thinks "there's a chance" Benson will be cleared for contact work before the break. He wore the red no-contact jersey today and spent his practice time on conditioning work, including running.

Brown said it's too early to set a deadline on when the running back needs to return to practice to be able to play in the game, but, the coach added, "if he couldn't practice out there it would be a concern."

Mike Williams, the other party to the Texas Stadium train wreck, worked out with the team Thursday, as did right DE Kalen Thornton, who played just 14 title game snaps before injuring his ankle and giving way to Jermain Anderson. Antwan Kirk-Hughes, who has been limited for several weeks because of a sore ankle, is "a lot better than he was for the game" after the week-and-a-half off, according to Brown, and should finally be close to 100-percent.

Brown was glad to get (almost) the entire team back on the practice field.

"I was really glad to see them upbeat tonight," he said. "They had a great attitude and we had a great practice. A lot of the guys are still in finals tonight so they weren't out here so we had a limited practice but it was good to see them bounce back. I know the guys are excited about having the chance to win 11 games . . ."

The coach said he isn't concerned about a lack of motivation for the Holiday Bowl despite the fact that the Rose Bowl was within the team's grasp.

"This has been a mature team and a good team and they want to end up in the top 10," Brown said. "They want to end up in the top five really of the BCS and the AP and the coaches' poll and I also know they want to win 11 games for the fifth time in school history so there are a lot of goals still out there. The seniors can still leave their legacy. It will be one of the best senior classes in the history of football at Texas and I think they're all excited about that."

"This is one of the best teams in Texas history so this is really exciting," he added about the team's return trip to San Diego. "The circumstances are really much better than they were last year. We were maybe a field goal and a few computer ratings away from playing for a national championship which means we're getting a lot better and we're making a tremendous amount of progress and there are six other teams that were in the same spot we were in so we can't lay around and feel sorry for ourselves. We can play harder. We can play better and make the plays we need to to help us win, but the truth is we weren't as good a football team going out there last year as we are this year so hopefully that'll give us a better chance to win."

The Horns practice again on Saturday morning at Denius Fields following tomorrow night's Football Banquet. Texas will host many of its committed prospects, and is scheduled to welcome several outstanding players who are still undecided, including Galena Park RB Albert Hardy, 5-11, 220, 4.55, Plano East OL Justin Blalock, 6-4, 340, 5.00, Jersey Village RB Selvin Young, 5-11, 190, 4.41, Alief Hastings DT Rodrique Wright, 6-4, 327, 5.1, DE The Woodlands Travis Leitko , 6.5, 245, 4.8, and Lancaster DE Larry Dibbles, 6-2, 281, 4.58.

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