Friday Practice Notes and Observations

Notes and observations from the Horns' Friday practice at Denius.

The starting DBs were dominant Friday afternoon, serving up a steady diet of safety and linebacker blitzes, during Texas' first full day in pads while a couple of freshmen on the offensive side staked their claim to playing time.

About those freshmen...

WR Quan Cosby made the kind of break on the ball (during passing drills) that wasn't seen all last season. (Well, maybe just once.... when Vince Young made the adjustments on the halfback toss from Ramonce Taylor against Missouri.) On Friday, Cosby adjusted his route to collect over his left shoulder what looked like a slightly overthrown ball from VY. Erick Jackson had decent coverage but Cosby made a beautiful diving catch, good for about 40 yards. Matt Nordgren later found Cosby over the middle for nine yard during 11-on-11s.

"Quan Cosby will improve every day because he's a 22-year old that's never played receiver," head coach Mack Brown said, "and he hasn't played football for four years."

Freshman RB Jerrell Wilkerson is a prime example that you can't tackle what you can't catch. He produced a couple of long runs (primarily against the third-team D) where he darted through traffic, eliciting gasps and cheers from teammates.

"Today was his best day," Brown said. "It was the first day in pads and it's hard to tell sometimes without them but he's got great vision. He seems to be a young man that can be in the hole, make a cut and be full-speed coming out of that cut without having to slow down and start over. He looks like a special young back. And he seems to be a good blocker. He's 170 pounds, but he's got a lot of leverage."

Running back is a spot where Texas has "more talent than we've got experience," Brown said. "We've just got to figure out who's going to be out there first." Ordinarily, Brown prefers to maintain a rotation of four RBs. (A projection: your four are Selvin Young, Ramonce Taylor, Jamaal Charles and Jerrell Wilkerson. Freshman RB Michael Houston has moved to FB, and don't be surprised to see Chris Ogbonnaya at FB by the end of two-a-days. As for RB Henry Melton? He'll likely wallow in obscurity unless he makes the move to FB or DE.)

Sophomore Ramonce Taylor is listed on the current roster as both RB and WR, but Brown said RT will only play RB this season.

"He feels like he's a running back. That's what he wants to do, and that's where he'll stay," Brown said. "He's focused every day on improving his blocking and the things he hasn't been forced to do. He can run in space as good as anybody. We were impressed last spring that he could run up inside well and he's taking care of the ball better. He's got great hands as a receiver and we feel like we can use him in a lot of different places. But the decision has been made that he's a running back."...

For the second straight day, redshirt freshman Rashad Bobino took snaps with the Ones at SLB. Sophomore Drew Kelson, who was back at SS Thursday night, worked Friday at SLB with the second-team D. He also came up with an INT midway through 11-on-11 drills.

"We're still looking at a lot of combinations on defense at linebacker," Brown said. "That's the one area that we have to shore up."...

The most improved pass catcher (for this week, at least) goes to WR Billy Pittman.

"Billy Pittman has made more improvement than anybody out there, short-term," Brown said. "The guys raved over him this summer. They've all come back and said, 'Boy, this guy is really special.'"...

A big emphasis in the days to come will be upgrading Texas' pass rush. Last year, Texas' sack total stood at 22 (down 20 from 2003) and was good for just eighth place in the Big 12.

"We're working on it every day, harder than ever," Brown said. "We're talking about it every day. We seem to be getting more pressure in practice than we have in the past. When you're doing that, it means they're beating an offensive lineman that's your's, too. We're talking about it so much: stop the run, put pressure on (the offense), get 'em in long yardage situations. And, when you do, don't let the guy stand back there and throw the ball."

Brown has tried to boost the speed at the edge by moving senior Eric Hall and true freshman Christopher Brown to DE. Freshman Aaron Lewis also took snaps with the second team at DE.

"Eric Hall's playing there with quickness and (RS-freshman Brian) Orakpo has a lot of quickness," Brown noted. "Chris Brown is really quick. On top of the guys that we've had, we've really got more speed there."...

RDT Larry Dibbles missed practice due to class but sophomore Frank Okam has opened with the Ones at RDT since the start of spring drills. Dibbles, of course, missed the spring for academic reasons but I asked Brown if he thought the spot was a little more wide open than we had thought. In other words, is it assumed that Dibbles automatically keeps his spot after 12 starts in 2004? Just how much of a dog fight is there at RDT?

Brown replied: "What we're trying to do is find groups of guys who can play right now, and not get into who's a starter. After two-a-days are over, we'll figure out how many guys we have that we feel like can win all the games. Then you've got another group of guys that you feel like can maybe play 20 plays, 15 plays, 10 plays. And our decision will be, for example, if (LDT) Rod Wright is tired, what guy can come in and play as good as Rod tired if he's full-speed. Can he do it for three plays? Can he do it for five plays? Or, can he do it for 15? Those are the decisions that we have to make as a staff during the next two weeks, and that's one of them. You take Dibbles, you take Frank, you take Rod: they've all played a lot. Tully Janszen is back. Thomas Marshall is doing better. Marco (Martin) is practicing and trying to do better with his weight (NOTE: Martin's weight had ballooned to 380 last year. He looked like he was about to go into labor. He has since dropped 40 pounds.) You've got Derek Lokey coming back (ankle). You've got (five-star freshman) Roy Miller. You have to look at all those numbers and where they fit, which freshmen might redshirt, and which one might play in the opening game and which one might play by mid-season."...

FS Michael Griffin (during one-on-one passing drills) has shown he can blanket a receiver and slap the ball away just as it arrives. (Griffin is such a big hitter that he told me that one of his key areas for improvement is wrapping up while tackling. Like so many DBs, he prefers the guided missile approach to leveling a WR or ball carrier where he just careens into them with his shoulder pads. It worked fine in high school but now the new kid in the secondary is learning how to lasso a WR... but only if the ball gets there.)...

Freshman Ishie Oduegwu continued to take snaps as backup FS. On Friday, he continued the theme of safety blitzes when he sacked backup QB Nordgren.

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