"Weve got a lot of experimenting to do," head coach Mack Brown said Sunday.
Fortunately, Brown can anticipate more experience than experimentation when August camp begins Monday at the Forty Acres. Brown has the services of 17 returning starters from an 11-1 Rose Bowl champion that is rated No. 2 nationally in the preseason Coaches Poll. Now that Brown is entering his eighth season in Austin, the issue is not a dearth of blue-chip incumbents but whether there is sufficient depth at key positions.
"At Texas, you cant take a year off and blame it on injuries," Brown noted.
Thats why Brown wants the Horns to be three deep at every spot and has a proclivity for recruiting versatile athletes who can basically serve as interchangeable parts from year to year.
"One of the reasons we feel like weve been as successful as we have been is weve been able to play two- and three-deep," Brown said. "We have not lost games because of lack of depth, or because we were tired at the end of ball games."
Kelson could finish his collegiate career at SS but, for now at least, coaches want to see how easily the 2004 Parade All-American can transition to SAM linebacker (especially since the secondary boasts 11 returning lettermen).
"We feel like we have a chance to be really, really good in our secondary," Brown said. "Were experienced and were deep (in the secondary) and we see Drew as a young man whos really smart. He was injured last year but, when he was playing, he got there really fast. He plays sudden and hes very physical. We feel like hes a guy that needs to be on the field somewhere if we can help him get there."
Kelson may play as a nickel back in certain situations, Brown added.
Hall started all 12 games at SLB last season but suffered a nagging foot injury toward the end of spring drills. The emergence (albeit, gradual) of Eric Foreman at SLB, plus the official announcement Sunday that DE Mike Williams will miss his second straight season for academic reasons, opens the door for Hall at quick end.
"We want to look at Eric Hall at linebacker and at defensive end because we want to get more of a pass rush," Brown said. "Thats something were really concerned about, and Erics been a great pass rusher for us when hes been in that position in the past. He just hasnt been there very much."
Hall saw limited action at MLB as a RS-freshman in 2002, played RB as a sophomore before moving to SLB last fall. During his career, he has also practiced at FB, DE and WLB. (It actually pales in comparison with his prep school days at Clarksville, Tennessee, where he played QB, DE, linebacker, SS, punter and returned kicks and punts.)
"Weve got a lot of guys we want to look at," Brown said. "We want to see where some of the freshmen fit."
That includes freshman Jermichael Finley, wholl get a strong look at both WR and H-back. Houston, meanwhile, will move to fullback after spending spring at tailback.
Brown does not plan to release an official depth chart until August 29, in part, to keep backup players hungry.
"When you start (Monday), everybody is excited and everybody is happy," Brown said, "and then you separate your team by saying 'Hes a first-teamer and hes a second-teamer, hes a third-teamer,' the second- and third-teamers drop off. Then the first-teamers feel like theyre the only guys. One of our major goals for two-a-days is to make sure we get quality depth and to keep good team morale throughout that depth so we can continue to have our strength in numbers."
The Horns will practice in shorts and helmets, 6:45 p.m., Monday, at Denius Field. All evening sessions this week will be open to the public.