Young RBs, Return Men Get Crash Course

The MIA status of Texas&#146; primary back-up running backs (<B>Selvin Young</B>, <B>Erik Hardeman</B>) continue to send ripples down the two-deep chart, including special teams. That&#146;s why much of the focus at Wednesday&#146;s practice was shoring up depth at RB and finding fresh legs on return teams.

Junior Selvin Young fractured a bone in his right ankle in the first quarter during Texas’ 22-20 win at Arkansas Saturday and is out "indefinitely." RS-freshman Erik Hardeman is out for academic reasons. While RB Cedric Benson has looked like a bonafide Heisman candidate, coaches devoted Wednesday to taking a harder look at his new back-ups.

We know freshman RB Ramonce Taylor is fast (you can still smell the scorched earth from his 74-yard sprint in the home opener against North Texas). But can he, and converted freshmen DBs Bobby Tatum and Drew Kelson, run between the tackles? That’s what coaches want to know before No. 6 Texas returns to action September 26 against former SWC foe Rice.

"We wanted to look at some of those younger running backs and we had some inside drills with them," Brown said. "This will be a good film to look at. And hopefully we can look at them again tomorrow under the same type setting."

Coaches are looking just as hard at who can return punts and kickoffs. Young had been first-team PR and KO return. Brown had stated previously that he ordinarily did not like to have the same player holding down two starting spots on special teams, due to the fatigue factor and the fact that a single injury (such as this one) can, in effect, wipe out two starting spots.

CB Aaron Ross filled in for Young at PR Saturday and FS Phillip Geiggar subbed, alongside CB Tarell Brown on KO returns. But coaches are hoping a couple of the second-team skill players will emerge between now and the Rice game.

"They play so much on defense that we need somebody with some fresh legs to have a chance to return kicks for us," Brown said. "(RB and return men) are the two biggest issues we’re looking at right now."

Ross and Geiggar will continue to return punts while leading candidates for KO return are Tatum and Ryan Palmer, Brown said.

Ross may begin to see more snaps at CB, Brown noted. The sophomore suffered a hamstring pull during the early days of August camp.

"Aaron is still not 100 percent following his hamstring," Brown said. "We think he’s doing a lot better, but that (injury) was also a concern with his punt returns. We didn’t want to do too much with him the other night. I think we’ll see him more and more."

Texas starts preparing Thursday. The 6 p.m. (CDT) kickoff is slated for a Fox Sports Southwest telecast. Rice coach Ken Hatfield was one of the Arkansas players honored at halftime Saturday along with members of the undefeated 1964 Hog team (the squad handed Texas its only loss that season when a two-point conversion failed late in the game).

"Ken Hatfield’s teams play like he played," Brown said. "He’s tough. He’s really competitive. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame as a coach. He really knows what he’s doing, especially with the option and the wishbone. And Rice won the last three games last year when they got healthy and they won against Houston. If they beat Hawaii this weekend, they’ll be coming in with a five game winning streak. We understand that Rice will play us like Arkansas did. It’ll be really important to them."

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