Horns (with Benson!) open practice in San Diego

<B>Cedric Benson</B> returned to live action Sunday for the first time since suffering a neck injury in the Dec. 1 Big 12 Championship Game. UT's starting tailback was cleared for non-contact drills and participated in the Horns' first practice in San Diego. Head football trainer <B>Tom McVan</B> said the true freshman's availability for Friday's game is listed as day-to-day.

"We let Cedric get involved some in practice and he'll be day-to-day," Mack Brown said Sunday after the Horns two-hour workout at Mesa College. ". . . there's a chance he can play but we've also told Victor (Ike) and Ivan (Williams) and Brett (Robin) they need to step it up too and if (Benson) can't play, we need to move on. That's what a team is all about and that's what depth is all about so that's really important to us."

The Texas players arrived in San Diego separately before getting together as a team Saturday evening. "We had a great welcome dinner last night and had a great meeting," the head coach said. "All of them understood that we had a great season and a tough game in the Championship Game and we came here to right it and make sure we win 11 games and finish in the top 10. There's a whole lot of things to fight for."

Brown said his Longhorns practiced with "great spirit" and had a "tremendous" workout Sunday morning.

"Washington was a team that many thought would beat Miami and screw up the BCS and they got started off wrong in that game but they also beat top-ranked Washington State, Stanford and Michigan, so we're not talking about a team here that ours doesn't respect," the coach added. "Matter of fact, this may be one of the best bowl match-ups of the year like the Oregon game was for us last year."

Holiday Bowl notes: The Horns will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and have a Qualcomm Stadium walk-through on Thursday before Friday's game. . . . ESPN.com reported Sunday that Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel has emerged as a leading candidate for the Notre Dame job.

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