Tuesday Practice Notes and Observations

Notes and observations from the Horns' Tuesday afternoon practice at Denius.

Incoming: Sophomore Ramonce Taylor (of course), plus redshirt freshman FL Jordan Shipley and redshirt freshman CB Ryan Palmer, shagged punts during early practice special teams work. (Of note on special teams: new DE coach Oscar Giles is in charge of the kick coverage unit.)

Incoming, part two: Redshirt freshman Brian Orakpo, working at weakside DE with the No. 1 D-line vs. the No. 1 O-line, put a great outside speed rush on LT Tony Hills (filling in with the starting line due to Jonathan Scott's absence) and probably sacks QB Vince Young if not for a hold by Hills. Regardless, Orakpo's pressure may have been the reason for VY's tipped throw that Eric Foreman picked off. Word during bowl practice and the off-season was that the Texas coaches were really impressed with Orakpo, and making plays like the one described above (something too often in short supply from UT's weakside edge rusher), it's easy to see why. It's also quite obvious that Orakpo has bulked up pretty substantially. He came in as a true freshman listed at 220 (which may have been generous because he and 210-pound safety Andrew Kelson were darn near the same size) but is now listed at 238, and he looks every bit of it. (An aside: watching Orakpo today, something that Texarkana Texas coach Barry Norton told me in an interview for our Inside the Class of '05 feature on Chris Brown popped into my head. It was Greg Robinson's comment, relayed by Norton about Brown but something I think might equally apply to Orakpo: "...we couldn't block him in pass protection because he is so quick and he'd get around the corner off the edge so fast, and Greg told me that's what the NFL is looking for, a kid that is long and linear and with that great explosion that can run like that." Orakpo has a long, long way to go to that level of football, but let's just say he fits the prototype that former Longhorn DC Robinson described.)

What comes around...: During seven-on-seven work, Vince Young targeted Myron Hardy, who had cut in front of defender Brandon Foster, on a intermediate post route. The diminutive but quick Foster darted back in front of Hardy as Young's pass sailed downfield, putting himself in perfect position for an INT. The ball slipped through his hands, though, and into the hands of Hardy for the score. Later in seven-on-seven, though, Aaron Ross held on for a pick of the junior QB after stepping in front of Tyrell Gatewood on a deep cross. And during 11-on-11, Vince's tipped pass ended up in the hands of a white-jerseyed Eric Foreman for an interception.

No big surprise: Robert Killebrew, in both drills and 11-on-11 action Tuesday, worked ahead of Eric Hall at the WILL linebacker spot. Hall, though, turned in a defensive highlight play of the day with his leveling of RB Chris Ogbonnaya in the backfield during 11-on-11. Hall is one of the team's more vocal members, chatting up those on the other side of the ball as well as consistently, boisterously firing up his defensive teammates. (Note: Scott Derry took the first-team reps at middle linebacker as Aaron Harris missed a good portion of the workout. Eric Foreman remains the depth chart and practice No. 1 at SAM.)

Dive, slide, stretch: For a while during Tuesday's workout, receiver after receiver turned in highlight reels grabs. Walk-on wideout Mark McCoy got it started at the end of QB-WR drills by laying out, and snagging, a deep post from second-team QB Matt Nordgren 40 yards downfield. Later, in seven-on-seven, Billy Pittman telescoped his arms to make a fingertip catch of a Young throw on an out route. Then, Nate Jones atoned for an earlier drop with a diving left sideline grab of a Young throw. And shortly thereafter, Shipley, not to be outdone by his recruiting class-mate Jones, made a sliding right sideline grab of another VY toss. Interestingly, Shipley and Myron Hardy took front-of-the-line reps at flanker and split end, respectively. Billy Pittman and Nate Jones followed the green-jerseyed Shipley while Tyrell Gatewood (and then walk-ons McCoy and Coy Aune) lined up behind Hardy. (SEs Limas Sweed, Brian Carter and George Walker did not participate. Several other Horns, including Jonathan Scott, Aaron Ross, Bobby Tatum and Aaron Harris, missed some or all of practice due to academic obligations.)

Practice makes perfect: One new drill that I haven't seen run in the past specifically with the linebackers is a version of the tip drill that is often practiced by defensive backs (often tipping the ball to themselves). In Gene Chizik's version for his LBs, a ball is thrown high at one linebacker in coverage, who tips the ball fairly high into the air, allowing the other linebacker in coverage to slide underneath for the INT. After drilling it, Chizik saw the fruits of his labor later in Tuesday's practice when, during 11-on-11, Aaron Harris got his hands up and on a Matt Nordgren pass, batting it into the air where his teammates could swarm to it. After the play, a smiling Chizik ran to Harris and patted his senior middle linebacker on the helmet. Lesson learned.

Pile driver: On the final play of 11-on-11, true freshman running back Michael Houston demonstrated the power that his churning legs and 5-11, 227-pound frame can produce when he pushed a pile of defenders several yards downfield after initial contact. Shortly before, he showed a bit of nimbleness by slipping through the grasp of DT Derek Lokey at the line of scrimmage for a nice gain.

Faces in the crowd: Former head coach Darrell Royal, former DE coach Hardee McCrary and once and hopefully future DT Larry Dibbles.

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