The "major story" at Saturday's Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage is running backs, head coach Mack Brown said. Oh, and linebackers, too.
Then, again, special teams remains a story line now that August camp has reached its 15th day at the Forty Acres (the equivalent time frame of spring drills). And stop the presses if you haven't heard this but Brown is still looking for a WR to separate himself from the rest of the pack. Otherwise, the D-line and the D-backs look dominant, coaches say, while Vince Young continues to build on his Rose Bowl MVP performance.
"The offense did better today and the defense really stepped up today," Brown said Friday. "That's how it is during two-a-days; one group looks great one day, the other looks great the next."
You couldn't pay Brown to publicly disclose any depth chart info but Selvin Young is clearly the starting RB while Ramonce Taylor is playing three positions (RB, WR, in the slot). You also couldn't help but notice Brown's face light up at the mention of freshman RB Jamaal Charles. The Parade All-American stands to work his way into the primary backup position since RT, as expected, is being groomed as an all-purpose back. Charles is ahead of the other two freshman RBs (Henry Melton, Jerrell Wilkerson), Brown said earlier this week, and there is still some doubt in the head coach's mind if Selvin can remain injury-free all season.
"Can he handle 13 weeks of pounding? That's a question we haven't answered yet," Brown said.
Selvin, of course, suffered a season-ending ankle injury at Arkansas last season and will not be returning kicks this year. (He holds on to his starting job at PR with Aaron Ross as his primary backup.) He also suffered a groin injury in September, 2003, at Rice that slowed him the remainder of the season.
"He's tough and he catches really well," Brown said. "If he keeps doing what he's been doing and stays healthy, he's got a chance to be really good."
The wideouts (these past two days) have shown the consistency coaches are demanding, Brown said, while adding, "We've still got to make decisions about separation. (SE) Limas Sweed is getting better. Billy Pittman has made huge strides since the spring. Tyrell Gatewood is catching the ball better than at any time that I've seen him. But we're looking for someone to jump up, and they haven't jumped."
Special teams was, again, an emphasis during Friday morning's practice as Brown said he "didn't feel good" about the kicking game the past two days. The kicking game, in fact, is Brown's biggest concern with August camp wrapping up next week. Coaches spent the first 20 minutes of practice working on special teams play.
"They've responded really well and now we need to separate our kickers and our punters," Brown said. "Greg Johnson has really improved."
The game film Saturday, and during next Wednesday's final scrimmage, will help solidify the two-deep at linebackers. But Saturday's scrimmage will focus on younger linebackers such as Roddrick Muckelroy, Nic Redwine and Jeremy Campbell, Brown added.
"Those are the ones we don't know about," Brown said. "Those are the ones who are getting all the work right now."
Fans can expect about 90 plays in Saturday's scrimmage, but very little of frontline starters like Vince Young and TE David Thomas.
"I've learned from older coaches that the guys you can't play without (during the season) will play 7-to-15 plays (during scrimmages)," Brown said. "You're not as worried about them being tired as you are someone tired falling into them."
The Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage is set for 9 a.m. at Memorial Stadium. An autograph session will follow.