Brown: 'Very important time'

Texas is halfway through two-a-days, so it’s time to start separating the contenders from the pretenders at key backup spots -- and especially at outside linebacker.

Two scrimmages -- Saturday’s Fan Appreciation Day at DKR and next Wednesday’s final scrimmage of August camp -- will solidify the depth chart as Texas gears toward its September 3 home-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"We told them that they need to put things on film that they’re proud of because this is a very important time for them," head coach Mack Brown said Wednesday. "They also understand that it’s not life-or-death today. We want them to continue to get better because we’re looking at a lot of guys who haven’t played a lot."

Brown was pressed (on more than one occasion) to disclose the current rotation at SLB and WLB, but he held firm to the mantra that we’ve heard from the beginning of August camp: "We’re trying to get our linebackers to learn all three spots. We’re thin and we’re trying to figure out who we are there. So, everybody’s trying to learn every position so depth will not be an issue so that if an injury occurs, like (MLB) Scott Derry’s."

It’s also time to nail down who the starting WRs will be, Brown added.

"We’ve got a lot of receivers working right now," he said. "We’ve got to separate them at some point so we can figure out who the Ones are who’ll be playing when we start."

The oft-criticized receivers didn’t get enough props for what they did last season, Brown said, referencing the school-record 14 straight that Vince Young completed in a combined effort against Oklahoma State. Even so, Brown said the wideouts must be more consistent in 2005. He sees progress.

"They’re more confident and they’re catching the ball better," he said. "And they became great blockers (in 2004). We were so used to watching those three (Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson, Sloan Thomas) that caught the ball so much. I thought our receivers did really well in a lot of situations and didn’t get very much credit for it. They weren’t the focal point of the offense last season, but we feel like we’ll be able to go out there and throw the ball around this season."

It was not until last season that Brown incorporated full-speed, full-contact hitting during August workouts. It resulted from former DE coach Dick Tomey’s counsel.

"The thing that Dick said was that if they do not tackle at full-speed before the first game, it’s hard to ask them to tackle in that first game," Brown said. "We have to do that."

This includes full contact on special teams practice, which Brown's Horns did not do until last year.

"The kicking game was live today," Brown said. "It was really good. We’ve made some progress, and we need to. We need to continue to make progress, but there were not a lot of missed tackles."

Quarterbacks are still off-limits. Vince Young and company get thudded at three-quarters speed during practice.

"They do need to get hit because they still need to carry the ball and protect the ball. If they don’t get touched before the first game, they might be in shock."

Wednesday’s session at the stadium marked the third consecutive day the Horns awoke at the crack of 5:30 a.m. for practice.

"Most young people are not morning-people; they’re night guys," Brown said. "We want them to be disciplined enough to where, if we get them up at 5:30 and come out for a tough practice during the toughest part of two-a-days, if they can do that with everybody on time, everybody working and everybody spirited, it sends a great message to their teammates that this is important. This is probably the best I’ve seen, as far as their attitude is concerned, this time of the year."

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