Spring '05: Young On Target, Shipley Full-Throttle

Notes and observations from the Horns' first spring workout.

Most of the questions preceding the start of Texas football spring training had to do with depth at RB. But how did QB Vince Young's passing game look? And how did FL Jordan Shipley fare on his first day back from his season-ending knee injury? Glad you asked!

First of all, you wouldn't know that FL Jordan Shipley tore his ACL last August if it wasn't for the brace on his right knee. The RS-freshman went at it full speed during the first half of practice Friday before coaches rested him during 11-on-11 drills. The hardest working kid wearing Burnt Orange collected his first reception of the spring season on a post pattern from backup QB Matt Nordgren. He honestly didn't drop a single toss during his abbreviated stint. His combination of Velcro hands, deceptive speed, resiliency and heart makes Shipley a sudden-impact player and should give Texas the consistent deep-ball threat it missed last season.

"It's amazing to me that he's as healthy as he is after six months," head coach Mack Brown noted. "That's just unheard of. We'll watch him in the morning to see if there's any swelling, but he'll sure be well for the fall. We just have to be smart with him this spring."

Shipley lines up behind sophomore Nate Jones but the two will be in a real battle next August. Jones drew the praises of WR Bobby Kennedy for the manner in which he is now adjusting to the ball...

Remember the erratic Vince Young that threw behind receivers on intermediate routes and lobbed moon balls on deep patterns that we saw all last spring and for nearly half of the 2004 season? It just wasn't there Friday. Maybe it's the confidence born of a Rose Bowl MVP performance, or maybe he's just another year older and wiser (or maybe it was just a good day at the office), but everything looks light-years improved. His release (which displayed more of a follow through Friday than his former half-cocked delivery that resembled a dart thrower rather than a QB), the trajectory of the tosses, the tight spirals, it all suggested that VY is on the verge of adding a passing attack to complement his catch-me-if-you-can running game.

His head coach noticed.

"He had a great practice today, and not just a good one," Brown said. "He was throwing completions all over the place. Vince is really special. He is the leader of this team."

VY is also a coach on the field. Case-in-point: shortly after SE Limas Sweed pulled down a toss (good for 40 yards or so), Young yelled at him: "Where's the stiff-arm? I didn't see a stiff-arm. Get him (DB) off of you."

Young's mid-field toss to WR Brian Carter was a thing of beauty. In fact, the crowd lining Denius Field (who followed VY as if he were the Pied Piper) broke into applause as Carter crossed the goal line. Young hit his receivers in stride most of the afternoon, despite throwing into a steady northern breeze on nearly half of his passes. It's almost unfair to compare VY to Matt Nordgren or walk-on QB Matt McCoy. Pass catchers would typically have to alter routes or have to wait on the ball, but that was relative to the authoritative way Vince got the ball down field on the first day out of the chutes.

"Matt Nordgren was much better today because he knows it's his turn," Brown said. "If Vince comes out, for any reason, Matt has to help win the game. He's not the guy behind Chance (Mock) any more."...

Following stretches, the first part of spring ball was devoted to FGs and punting (special teams will almost be as big of an emphasis this spring as is establishing depth at RB and FB). Ramonce Taylor and Aaron Ross fielded punts while OT Jonathan Scott tried his hand as deep snapper....

Spent some time watching the O-Line (which Brown says will be the best he's fielded in eight seasons) if only because it's so entertaining to observe OL coach Mac McWhorter. He started the kids on the blocking sleds before teaching fundamentals of footwork, leverage and blocking angles. I don't think McWhorter even stopped barking at his troops just to catch a breath during the early going ("Go! Go! Go!; Dig! Dig! Dig!; C'mon! C'mon! C'mon!; Dig! Dig! Dig!; Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!"). RS-freshman Adam Ulatoski practiced for the first time on the Forty Acres in his career after rehabbing his back last season....

The team preceded, without a break, into non-contact, 11-on-11 drills. Offensively, coaches primarily called for inside running plays to get the new RBs and FBs lathered up. Nordgren also had a couple of carries on draw plays, as coaches want the backup to run much of the same offense if he is pressed into duty. Senior LB Braden Johnson came up with the loose ball on the tipped pass from backup QB McCoy.

Toward the end of practice (and indicative that former Co-DC Greg Robinson's whistle-to-whistle intensity is still with these guys), LDT Frank Okam chased FB Ahmard Hall all the way to the goal line before stripping the ball. The two scrapped and fought on the carpet for the loose pigskin as if they were hungry dogs tearing at the last piece of red meat. New RB coach Ken Rucker ripped Hall a new one as he trotted back to the huddle.

RB Selvin Young, the heir apparent to Cedric Benson's spot, is not enrolled in UT this spring but attended practice....

Had a chance to visit with five-star DT recruit Roy Miller who attended practice... on crutches. The Killeen Shoemaker product recently suffered a right foot injury while running track. He wants to assure Longhorn fans that he expects to be 100 percent in less than four weeks and that he can't wait for the 2005 season....

The Horns are scheduled to practice 9:30 a.m., Saturday, at DKR.

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