Vasher electrifying in Spring Game

Two great things happened on the opening kickoff of Saturday's Spring Game. First, walk-on kicker <B>Richmond McGee</B> boomed his into-the-wind kick almost five yards deep into the endzone, reason for celebration after a year of short-of-the-goalline kickoffs. Second, <B>Nathan Vasher</B> took that kick from halfway back in DKR's south endzone and sailed untouched 105 yards (100 yards on the stat sheet) up the middle of the field to the stadium's north endzone for a game-opening TD.

With Victor Ike headed to Southern, Vasher and Ivan Williams project as the starting kick returners, and the junior DB turned in a near flawless rendition Saturday of a role he hopes to reprise often this fall. Later in the scrimmage, Vasher reeled in a 32-yard Brian Bradford punt and slipped one defender on his way to the right sideline where he turned on the jets and raced to the endzone for his second TD return of the day. Both of Vasher's scores came against down-the-depth-chart coverage teams, but the returns highlighted his acceleration, speed and vision nonetheless.

"Nathan is one of the exciting kick and punt returners in the country," Mack Brown said after watching Vasher's two-TD performance. "Now the decision we'll have to make, we'll let him return some kickoffs but we've got to be careful because he's a smaller guy and we don't want to keep him out there too much, but every time he touches it exciting things happen."

Aside from Vasher returns, Texas found the endzone only once, with Cedric Benson capping off the first-team offense's first drive with a 13-yard TD run. On the drive vs. the second-team D, Benson rushed four times for 22 yards and Chris Simms completed all three of his pass attempts for 31 yards. Bo Scaife, as he has been for much of the spring, was the senior QB's receiver of choice on the possession, catching all three of Simms' offerings, including a 22-yard deep toss down the middle of the field. Simms QBed on one other series, leading the first offense on a 37-yard field goal drive vs. the second defense. Simms finished the day four-of-five for 49 yards while Benson totaled 34 yards on six carries.

"I thought the first offense looked great," the head coach said. "Chris has had by far his best spring. . . . He knows more about the offense than at any time in his three years."

Back-up QB Chance Mock has also come a long way in his knowledge of the UT O, although the stat sheet didn't necessarily show it Saturday. Mock QBed four drives, facing the first-team defense for a good part of the first two drives that advanced just six yards each. He completed two of his four attempts on those drives for 19 yards but he was sacked twice, once by Cory Redding around back-up RT Will Winston and another time by SLB Lee Jackson and CB Cedric Griffin coming off each edge. Following a three-and-out series vs. the second D, Mock did engineer a 12-play, 62-yard field goal drive vs. the defensive back-ups. The sophomore QB demonstrated his multi-threat ability on the drive, scrambling for nine yards on one play (with the benefit of a brutal block by Brock Edwards on Chase Pittman) and then rolling and rolling and rolling right on another play later in the drive, drawing the defense to the right sideline because of the threat of a run before rifling the ball downfield to Tony Jeffery for 25 yards. Overall, Mock finished five-of-10 for 51 yards and added two rushes for 11 yards.

Third-teamer Matt Nordgren struggled, completing just two of his six attempts for six yards. Back-up tailback Anthony Johnson, whose recent scrimmage work drew the praise of the coaching staff, also had a tough spring-ending scrimmage, rushing seven times for minus-six yards. O.J. McClintock stopped Johnson for no gain on his first attempt of the day and Miguel McKay caught Johnson in the backfield for a three-yard loss on his final carry, with everything in between ending up much the same way. All but two of the redshirt freshman's totes came against the first D.

On defense, Cory Redding didn't see much action, but when on the field he terrorized the O, sacking Mock for an 11-yard loss, pressuring Nordgren and recording a TFL. Starting tackles McKay and Marcus Tubbs, starting right DE Austin Sendlein and CB/S Michael Huff also disrupted the offense. McKay, Tubbs and Sendlein all finished with two TFLs and a QB pressure and Huff led all defenders with six tackles, including a TFL.

With spring ball wrapped up, Brown said he sees a bit different football team than his first four on the Forty Acres. "We have better athletes than we've had as a group," the coach said. "I don't know that we have as many superstars as we've had but we've got a lot more really good players. There aren't many guys on this team that can't play right now and help us. We can put more guys on the field and rest more people."

"We feel like we're further along as a football team right now than we've been since we've been here," Brown added.

The ultimate test of that statement won't come for many months, but the 15 workouts of spring, culminating with Saturday's Spring Game, provided evidence that this group of Horns should carry on at about the level that the last bunch left off: near the top of college football.

[Editor's note: More on the Spring Game in our next report.]

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