Thursday mornings practice was indicative of the current State of the Longhorn Union: the DBs absolutely dominate, while head coach Mack Brown is still looking for separation among both his WRs and place-kickers.
"Our defense had a really good morning," Brown said. "They forced more turnovers. I think we have a chance to be better on defense than we were, for sure, at the start of last year."
Brown "had a great interception" Thursday morning, but his head coach reports "(Ross) is playing like he was before he pulled his hamstring. Hes having a great camp. He returned a punt (Wednesday) for a touchdown. He caught it well and did a good job with it. Hes just so confident. He has great hands. Weve got five guys in the secondary who are all starters. Weve rolled Michael Huff to corner and then back at safety, and weve rolled Cedric Griffin to safety and back to corner. Were trying to get those five to be interchangeable."
Two weeks before the home opener, Brown is still looking for a reliable WR.
"We just need to have more consistent play from each one of them because they all have ability," Brown said. "One will look great one day and come back the next day and drop two balls. Were looking for consistency at a high level."
Same goes for the PKs. For example, David Pino and Greg Johnson will "look great and then miss one." For example, the pair "made all but one" on Wednesday and were "more inconsistent" Thursday morning. Senior Richmond McGee is holding on to his starting job on both the punt and kickoff teams but "Greg Johnson is kicking off really well with Richmond, so thats a fight right now. Gregs punting well. Hes doing much better. Were excited where Greg is headed, but we still havent decided on a field goal kicker."
Coaches are charting every kick in pre-practice, during practice and during scrimmages but "right now there is no separation," Brown said. "Thats going to be a close battle. Were not consistent enough right now to say whos going to be the starter."
Although he got a late start due to NCAA clearinghouse issues, freshman Jamaal Charles has shown some separation from the other RBs in his class.
"Jamaal Charles is probably ahead of the others," Brown noted. "Hes playing really well. Henry (Melton) has made some great plays. And Jerrell (Wilkerson) has made some great plays. Weve got to figure out where they fit with Ramonce (Taylor)."
Brown does not make final redshirt decisions until mid-season but the next two scrimmages (Saturday, Wednesday) will help solidify which freshmen will play in September.
"Id like to get through Wednesday because, about the time I say a freshman would be ready to play, he might quit and not show up for practice. Ive been doing this long enough to know you never know about freshmen until youre ready to start."
RB Ramonce Taylor has a pulled muscle and saw limited action Thursday. ("Hes still practicing every day but you cant go every snap in this heat with a pull," Brown said.)
DT Derek Lokey has begun rehab on his left ankle (a fracture suffered in late July during voluntary workouts).
Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch writer Tim May has been on campus all week and expressed surprise that Longhorns were only willing to talk about Louisiana-Lafayette instead of the September clash at Ohio State.
"If you dont win the opener, the second one is not as important," Brown said. "In fact, we (coaches) wouldnt be here for the second one."
Brown continued: "When people ask, Is this your year? they said it last year, too. Theyve probably said it for the past 30 years but I know the last seven. Our guys live with that pressure every day. Weve got a chance to win every game, and thats exciting, but it sure doesnt mean youre going to. You still have to prove it on the field. We have to quit talking about the end of the season and start focusing on day-to-day practice."
The Horns will practice in pads Thursday afternoon and again Friday morning. The Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage is set for 9 a.m., Saturday, at DKR, followed by an 11:30 a.m. autograph session. It will be the last chance fans have to see the Horns before the September 3 home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.