Younger Players Starting To Open Eyes At Denius

As Longhorn spring training nears the midway point, Texas coaches are looking for younger players to step up and show some separation from teammates for playing time. Head coach Mack Brown singled out a few of the former backups Tuesday who are starting to make their moves on the depth chart.

Day Six of the Ramonce Taylor watch continued at Denius Field, as coaches have designated the first seven or eight days of spring ball to determining whether the 5-11, 196-pounder has the stature to become Texas' featured back next fall. Running back is THE biggest concern this year, and so I asked Brown if he's seen enough of RT (thus far) to get a sense of whether the speedster will play RB or be moved to WR.

"So far, Ramonce has been a positive and he's really done well," Brown said. "It's been a good move (from WR to RB) for Chris Ogbonnaya. He can help us there. Marcus Myers has done some good things at fullback, so that will give him a chance to contribute."

If Saturday's scrimmage was an indicator, Taylor has the zip to collect the real restate between the tackles. At 5-11, 196, he's not going to move the pile but he can pick and choose his spots in ways that should remind Orangebloods of Eric Metcalf. The biggest question mark surrounding Taylor, Brown said, is what he's able to do away from the ball (namely, pass protection).

"We haven't blitzed much," Brown said, "and I think we'll see more of that during the second half (of spring drills). We've just been so basic in the first part. They blitzed some today, but we'll know tomorrow."

Backup SLB Jeremy Campbell and third-team MLB Rashad Bobino, a pair of RS-freshmen, "have shown some splash," Brown said. "We need to get them some more scrimmage plays because they've been with the younger bunch. They haven't played as much. We need to get them more (snaps). (WLB Robert) Killebrew has done a good job and (SLB Eric) Foreman has done a good job. Both of those guys are coming on. They haven't played very much. They've both been a plus so far, in my mind."

As mentioned, senior RCB Cedric Griffin and junior FS Michael Griffin brought the wood during Saturday's spirited scrimmage, laying some wicked hits heard round the stadium. Michael is the heir apparent to Phillip Geiggar's former spot. Although he has just one career start, he saw meaningful snaps in all 12 games and has earned a solid reputation as one of Texas' most aggressive defenders.

Meanwhile, my perception was that Cedric was more natural as either a safety or a nickel back. He started six contests at either of those spots as a RS-freshman in 2002 but has started 25 games the past two seasons at RCB. We've seen him give a WR a little too much cushion, and his tackling skills have been suspect. But former Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson said Cedric was the most improved defensive player at the end of last season. Last Saturday, I don't think I've ever seen anyone hit TE David Thomas as hard as Cedric did on a number of occasions. Coaches haven't given up on the idea of SS Michael Huff sliding over to the corner. Cedric may not be the lockdown corner that Texas needed last season, but neither of the Griffins (no relationship) should be a weak link in what could be the best secondary Brown has put on the field.

"Both of them are doing really well and those two guys are the leaders back there because they're older and they've been playing for a long time," Brown told me. "They're going on four years now."

LCB Tarell Brown (sore knee) did not practice Tuesday, Brown added.

"That helps Aaron Ross get more playing time, and Aaron's well," Brown said. "He pulled his hamstring early in the fall and that set him back. We know Tarell can play. But it's great to see those other two (Griffin and Griffin) coming."

Coaches continue to tinker with Drew Kelson at both FS and SS.

"Drew is so smart that he can play all of the spots back there," Brown continued. "And so (FS) Matt Melton, Drew, (FS) Marcus Griffin, and (SS) Bobby Tatum are the four guys trying to get that next spot behind Michael (Griffin) and (Michael) Huff."

Texas will scrimmage at the stadium Thursday. The session is closed to the public.

"Tomorrow's scrimmage will be just basic stuff," Brown said. "We'll look at the guys, and that will give us time (over spring break) to look at possible changes when we get back."


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