Title Defense Begins For Horns

Rose Bowl's over, baby. Time to get to work. It wasn't said in quite the same vernacular that Vince Young used this time last year, but Texas coach Mack Brown believes his point was not lost in translation. Just before spring football began Monday for the defending national champions, Brown had a sobering word for his 2006 Longhorns.

"Many of you were part of that (national championship), but this year's team hasn't done anything yet. Today, is the start of a new year. We need to understand that we're not sure about the leadership, we're not sure about the chemistry, and we're not even sure about all of the positions yet. We started working January 17, but let's continue today to make sure we build on this team when it goes in the record books next year that it will be something we'll be really proud of."

And, with that, the ninth spring season of Brown's Texas tenure kicked off at Denius Fields. The obvious difference is that this year's Horns enter spring drills with a national title to defend.

"When it's the first spring practice for the defending national champions," Brown said, "you expect them to be excited and to be in great shape. And they were. They did a tremendous job. The team speed looked good. They were fresh. They threw and caught really well. We're excited about the way they got started."

At least one Longhorn, RB Selvin Young, is pumped about returning to practice following what has been described as a particularly intensive off-season schedule.

"(Jeff) Mad Dog (Madden) had us out there at six o'clock in the morning," Young said. "Guys were puking and guys were falling out. They've been pulling hamstrings. We've been going hard. We've probably stepped it up a notch than from what we did last spring. The guys that came out there today are in-shape, they're strong, and they're smart."

For the first time since Brown's first season in Austin, a freshman QB will direct the offense. The closed practices will allow RS-freshman Colt McCoy and true freshman Jevan Snead to focus and assimilate, Brown believes. Coaches have decided to shield both QBs from the media's microscope for a couple of more weeks by not making them available for interviews until after spring break. But this was Brown's assessment of their opening day performance:

"The young quarterbacks fit in really well. I thought they did a great job for the first day. It's way too early to evaluate them. We're not going to have a depth chart for a while just to make sure we evaluate everybody. We were pleased. You would not expect Colt (to press) because he's been here. You would be concerned about Jevan but I thought he did really well. Both handled things well. We did the same things offensively. Obviously, we'll want to see progress out of them each day, but they were throwing it to the right place. I was really impressed by the first day from both of them."

Otherwise, the other void in the offense is at TE. Neale Tweedie is David Thomas' heir apparent, but RS-freshman Jermichael Finley is big (6-5), explosive and can stretch the field. (Peter Ullman will miss spring due to a knee cap injury.)

FL Jordan Shipley is (knock on wood) full throttle and even returned punts Monday.

"He wants to go ahead and go for it again," Brown said. "He feels like he's 100 percent and I thought he did a good job today. Hopefully, we'll turn him loose and let him go."

True freshman Sergio Kindle is projected as being part of the rotation at outside linebacker, and will train at SAM and at WILL this spring.

"He did really real," Brown said, "but when you're big and tall and fast, you look good in shorts. They'll start him at one and let him try to learn that before he goes to the other. We feel like he'll be an outside guy.

Rashad Bobino will probably move to the inside after starting all 12 games last season at WILL, Brown added, while RS-freshman Roddrick Muckelroy will also log most of his snaps at MIKE.

Michael Griffin, who missed only one start at FS last season, will get a look at SS.

"We'll look at Michael Griffin first because he's the guy that's been back there who can play all the places," Brown said. "Tarell Brown could play safety or corner. Then you've got Erick Jackson who can play safety or corner, plus Matt Melton and Marcus Griffin, who are also in there now. And we'll have Ishie (Oduegwu) once he gets his foot well."

Oduegwu will miss all of spring drills (right foot) while Tarell Brown will see limited action (arm) during spring drills.

"They don't want (Tarell) falling on it," Brown said, "and after spring break we think he'll wear a green jersey. He'll get a lot done but the hard thing for him is that he missed last year (knee). He has not had the benefit of spring training."

Otherwise, the projected starters in the secondary are Tarell Brown and Aaron Ross at the corners, Michael Griffin at SS with twin brother Marcus Griffin holding the inside track at FS.

The Horns will practice in shells on Tuesday afternoon before donning pads Wednesday.

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