There is an added measure of urgency among players, head coach Mack Brown observed, now that there are only nine practices remaining between now and the Sept. 3 home opener.
"We told them that well be looking at a depth chart at the end of this week," Brown said following Monday mornings practice. "They need to understand that, if theyre going to get a coachs attention, it needs to be this week. We also explained to them that we will not redshirt anybody until mid-season."
That sense of urgency is earmarked for Longhorn receivers. Brown reports there is across-the-board improvement among his pass catchers, but he wants six go-to guys to emerge from what has been a logjam throughout August camp.
"Were playing too many guys there right now," Brown noted. "What well do is cut it down to six guys. Theres some inconsistency when youre playing nine because Vince (Young) isnt throwing to the same guys all of the time. We feel like theyve improved tremendously. We were concerned about the ability to get deep, but we have more speed and more experience than last year."
No receiver has emerged from the pack and maintained separation, Brown has said on several occasions this month. Thats why coaches will choose their six-man rotation by prioritizing yards-after-catch.
"We didnt have a lot of yards-after-the-catch last year with our receivers," Brown said. "Thats something that we need to see improved. But we do feel like were good enough there. We just have to tie it all together."
Coaches are also looking to see which receivers can play at least two of the positions, Brown said. Fans will see more three-wide sets than at any time during Vince Youngs 19 starts at QB. Nate Jones, Myron Hardy and Tyrell Gatewood can play all three receiver spots, Brown said. Billy Pittman is playing Z (flanker) and sub-B (the third wide receiver in three-wide formations). Meanwhile, RS-sophomore Limas Sweed will primarily play the X-spot (split end) while 22-year old freshman Quan Cosby is settled in at Z.
"We tried to move him around some but Quan is so new and fresh to all of this that weve got to start limiting some of the things he can do to get him more ready to play," Brown said of the former minor leaguer who spent the past four years in the Angels farm system.
Brown said last week coaches are "hopeful" that FL Jordan Shipley can return to practice around the time of the home opener.
"We feel like we have the ability, with an injury, to play and not have much drop-off," Brown said Monday. "Were much more experienced than we were this time last year."
The deep ball wasnt emphasized during last Saturdays practice. Fans were served up a steady diet of the zone-read out of the shotgun (Texas bread-and-butter play) and tosses to tight ends. The Horns also operated out of the I-formation and tried to run some option, two facets that Brown wants to incorporate more in the offense this season.
"We didnt throw deep very much," Brown said, "so we need to do a better job of that going into the (Louisiana-Lafayette) game."
Vince Young was an efficient 5-of-7 for 68 yards in Saturdays affair while backup QB Matt Nordgren struggled. The fifth-year senior connected on 3-of-8 passes for 31 yards. He also fumbled.
"People that were critical of him Saturday didnt realize that he was going against the first-team defense with the second-team offense," Brown said. "If our second-team offense is running up and down the field against our first-team defense, which they have done in the past during the preseason, were in for a long year. So, I was really pleased that Matt didnt move the ball with the second offense against the first defense. When Matt lined up with the Ones, he was very accurate and made some great throws."
Nordgren also failed to cleanly orchestrate an option pitch in Saturdays scrimmage. Brown wants Texas to run the same offense regardless of whos lined-up behind center.
"We have talked with him about his improvement on the option," said Brown, adding that Nordgren has 4.7 speed. "He obviously doesnt have the vision, or the ability, to cut like Vince. But no one else in America does either. We feel like Matt needs to keep working on the option. We had a good session with him this morning and he did much better on it. Thats his goal before the first game. He needs to improve his option play."
Brown wants Wednesday nights scrimmage at the stadium to approximate the type of game day conditions that Texas will face during the Sept. 3 home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"Thats what freshmen need," he said. "They need pre-game warm-ups. They need to go out, they need to come back in. They need to hear what you say before a game. They need to have a game-day experience."
The only thing missing will be fans, as the scrimmage is now closed to the public. But Brown expects to turn the page on the playbook and work on the kind of offensive sets and defensive schemes that were not divulged during last Saturdays scrimmage.
"We will do things that we did not do Saturday," he said. "We didnt touch anything on Saturday that we didnt run a lot last year. We didnt blitz on defense. We were very vanilla, and that was the purpose. We wanted to look at personnel and we wanted the young ones to have the experience of a crowd. There were more than 20,000 so the freshmen have now been in front of a crowd. On Wednesday, we need game simulation and we need to look at some new things were working on."
Ideally, Texas will have at least 15 starters on both sides of the Ball, Brown added.
"Thats better than weve been," he said, "and were trying to find 22."
Monday is the last true two-a-day of August camp. Players are scheduled to practice 7:00 p.m., Monday, at Denius Field.