Texas DBs: Without Fear & Without Peer

Longhorn DBs expect to be college football's top secondary in 2006, and that's why there just isn't much out there that makes them afraid. Well, maybe just a couple of things.

RCB Tarell Brown and LCB Aaron Ross pointed to some frightful scars Monday following Texas' fourth day in pads. The events that cause the wounds, as well the possibility of recurrence, is still a scary thing for both seniors. But an opposing WR? No sweat! "Our secondary is going to be the best secondary in the country by far," Brown said. "I just believe that we've worked so hard during the off-season, just trying to do the little things right and fine-tune our game. I think we really have it this year."

Ross' scar is located just above his left hip. It seems that about 10 years ago, a Chow decided to take a chomp out of Ross' mid-section.

"I'm scared of dogs," he said. "I don't care what kind it is. If it's big, I'm scared of it."

These days, Ross won't set foot into SS Michael Griffin's house until the pit bulls (all three of them) are locked in another room.

"Dogs smell fear," Ross laughed. "He has to put the dogs up every time before I come over. I don't like dogs."

But do 6-5 receivers present any worries?

"No. Not at all."

Brown's scar is more recent and familiar. That's because millions of football fans saw his goal-line collision with Griffin in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl National Championship. Brown left the game with a broken bone in his lower right arm, the first injury of his career.

"That was my first break ever," Brown said, "so I was a little scared."

As he lay crumpled on the goal line, Brown did not realize he had suffered a break.

"I thought it was a bad stinger. When I couldn't roll over, that's when I knew something was broken. It was very painful. Words can't really describe it. It was like a quick shot through my body. I lost feeling on my right side."

The thought that raced through his mind was, "Everybody is watching. I need to get up."

Until then, Brown was enjoying one of the finest games of his career. When he was helped off the field, he had accounted for 10 tackles and two PBUs. As important, Brown repeatedly launched himself like a kamikazee into RBs Lendale White and Reggie Bush when either tried to bounce outside around right end.

"I broke my arm, but it was worth it," Brown said. "I play pretty physical. That game came pretty easy to me. I enjoyed myself. I was out there having a lot of fun. I wasn't really thinking about football. I just enjoy being out there with my teammates. I enjoy battling. I enjoy playing against the best competition."

Brown had surgery in Austin last January. He was held out of contact during the spring when he moved from LCB to RCB. Both Brown and Griffin had long established themselves as talkers on the defense, but Brown prefers to speak of the unit in terms of a "quiet confidence."

"I've always had that confidence and I've always had that swagger," he said. "We've always had that swagger about ourselves and about our team."

Really, there are just two concerns with the Texas secondary. The first is the lack of proven depth at all four spots. Nagging injuries in the spring (Brown, Michael Griffin, Erick Jackson) and even this week (RCB Brandon Foster) thinned the depth. DB Coach Duane Akina cross-trains the DBs, in much the same way that Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik cross-trains linebackers, so that the next-best athlete could step in for an injured player regardless of the position.

"Coach Akina makes sure we have someone behind (the starters) so that if we go down, we don't have any worries," Ross said. "Everything will be all right. Depth is always important at UT.

The other concern is whether the DBs can get their hands on more INTs and, consequently, shorten the field for Texas' young quarterbacks. The group collected just 11 picks last season (NCAA No. 70) for the second lowest total of coach Mack Brown's tenure. But it was also a season when Chizik installed a defense in which the DBs were expected to provide more run support. As such, the cornerbacks crowded the line and then dropped-off to cover receivers. It's more difficult to get a pick, Brown noted, when your back is to the ball. Griffin was the team's leading tackler (124) last season. Offenses also tended to avoid Thorpe Award-winning SS Michael Huff's side of the field, who posted one INT all season. Yet, producing more INTs has been the top priority for Texas' DBs during August Camp.

The team is scheduled to practice, 7:00 a.m., Tuesday at Denius Field.

Backup SLB Sergio Kindle continues to be held out of contact after spraining his left ankle last Tuesday. Backup RCB Brandon Foster was held out of contact Monday and spent much of the session with ice on a lower leg, according to a team source. Both have been held out of practice as a precautionary move and are expected to be "fine."

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