UT Breaking In RBs, Coaches As Spring Ball Begins

On the first day of spring training, Texas coach Mack Brown could just as easily have distributed nametags in addition to helmets. <I>Not that there's anything wrong with that! </I>It's just that it's been a while since the Horns have broken in a new RB, but it's the second straight year that Brown is breaking in three new coaches.

When the whistle opened Longhorn spring football at Denius Field Friday, RB Ramonce Taylor began spring drills atop the depth chart. But it remains to be seen where the speedy sophomore will end up. (In fact, Taylor is the fastest guy on the team until WR Quan Cosby arrives this fall. Both have been clocked at 4.2.)

"He needs to be on the field somewhere," Brown said. "Do you put him at wide receiver? Do you put him at running back. Obviously, we'll look at him at tailback first. He's so fast. He's got great hands and he's got really good vision... I feel like he's a gamer and he understands what it means to play football at The University of Texas. What he's got to do is make sure he's strong enough to handle the inside pounding and touch the ball 25 times a game. I think he looks forward to that challenge. He did it in high school. He knows there's another option if (RB) doesn't work, but I really think he wants to make that option work."

Players won't don pads until Tuesday, so we won't know until next week how effectively Taylor carries the mail when the likes of MLB Aaron Harris and LDT Rod Wright are coming at him with their ears pinned back. Coaches at least want to see Taylor carry the ball during the first seven days of practice before seriously considering a position change.

"I have a big opportunity," Taylor said. "And for me to step up, I have to go out there and do what I can do and make things happen," Taylor said.

Backup RB Michael Houston, a true freshman who's been on campus since January, showed some real burst through the middle while Chris Ogbonnaya transitioned from wideout to running back.

"I thought Chris did some good things for a first day as far as catching the ball, making cuts and having good vision," Brown observed. "Michael Houston, for a first day of college practice in the spring -- not counting the bowl where he was in real shock -- we thought he did some good things."

But the newbies in the backfield have elevated QB Vince Young to veteran status. And VY performed like a veteran, displaying remarkable touch and accuracy on his tosses, even though he was surrounded by new backfield mates on just the first day of spring drills

"The guys who are coming in are younger, and I'm 21, and that makes me feel like I'm real old," Young said. "I've got to be a leader, and lead those guys, and help them keep their focus out there."

The entire running back situation is a clean slate, considering that former Georgia RB coach Ken Rucker also stepped onto the practice field for the first time as a Longhorn coach. He is joined by new Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik and new DE Coach Oscar Giles.

"Oscar, Gene and Ken Rucker looked like they'd been here forever," Brown said.

Giles, of course, played for the 1990 Southwest Conference champion Longhorn team while Chizik was named the nation's top assistant coach just days before he announced his decision to leave Auburn and join Brown's staff. His Tigers led the nation in scoring defense on the way to a 13-0 season.

"It was a very exciting day and I thought the players were very enthusiastic," Chizik said. "I thought it was a day where they could run around and have some fun and try to get back into the football swing of things. It was an exciting day for me just to be here at The University of Texas and really just get to be familiar with the players as football players on the field. It's just one of those times where I'm excited to get started and we're going to get back at it tomorrow and see if we can't improve and get better every day."

Added Chizik: "I'm familiar with a lot of the players and I've gotten to know them off the field but today was a very good, eye-opening experience in watching them go to work on the field. So, it's a process where I'm getting familiar with them, day by day. Slowly but surely, we're going to go ahead and get a really good feel for each other."

There also seems to be some Rose Bowl carry-over into Brown's eighth spring training in Austin.

"I thought the players came into practice this spring with a lot more confidence than they did last year," Brown said.

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