Final Tune-Up

On Saturday morning, the Longhorns scrimmaged at DKR, giving Texas fans one last look at their team before the season opener on Sept. 2nd against North Texas.

They were diplomatic. They were fair. They were friendly. Both Selvin Young and Mack Brown, who were available to talk after Saturday's scrimmage, had positive things to say about quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead.

"I thought they both threw the ball well and they've both got great arms," said Young.

"Both quarterbacks did well. You can see there's a tremendous amount of talent with both of them," said Brown.

But to those in attendance it was clear: Colt McCoy is the Texas Longhorns starting QB.

The redshirt freshman played only two series, both with the first team offense and looked phenomenal, connecting on 5-of-6 passes for 68 yards.

"Colt has had the same scrimmage twice now. He got in, was efficient and he got out," said Brown. "There was one errant pass over to this right and I don't think the receiver came back like he should. I think the pass was better than the route. We felt like he got what he needed."

McCoy made the most of his short time in the game and his well developed throwing touch was apparent from the very start.

Faced with a 3rd and 11 on the very first drive, McCoy dropped back and threw a high spiral which dropped into hands of Limas Sweed, as the 6'5" receiver streaked up the sideline and caught the ball for a 43-yard gain.

McCoy's counterpart, true freshman Jevan Snead showed off a powerful arm but still looked like a freshman learning the offense, going 4 for 8 for 24 yards and an interception.

"There's so much ability there," said Brown. "He's just young. He's still learning."

The quarterbacks were certainly the main focus going into the game and had their moments, but the biggest breakthrough performance was from running back Selvin Young.

On the second play of the scrimmage Young made nice cut running off tackle behind an impressive block by tight end Jermichael Finley (who is looking bigger and stronger) and busted through for a 20 yard gain. After McCoy's aforementioned pass down to the six yard line, it took Young just two carries and he was in the end zone.

"It's always good to get into the end zone," said Young, "and not just for me, for the offensive line. They're always like, 'let's get in the end zone so we can get off the field.' So I scored for them too."

The offensive line definitely helped Young, and all of the Texas backs, on Saturday. The unit looked solid as a whole, as did an unexpected face. At media day on Friday, Brown stated that tackle Tony Hills would likely not play in the scrimmage because of a family issue, but Hills was in pads on the field Saturday for of the scrimmage and left for home afterwards to deal with the matter.

"He's just a tough young man. He's amazing to me," said Brown of his starting left tackle.

Hills will be manning the left side of the offensive line during the season, but the right side is still unsettled. The first team offense alternated tackle Adam Ulatoski and guard Cedric Dockery, moving Justin Blalock back and forth between guard and tackle as necessary. At this point, it appears Ulatoski still has the starting job, the gap is very narrow and the offensive line shuffle will continue, perhaps even into the season.

An offensive lineman who received significant playing time was J'Marcus Webb. The 6'8" true freshman played every down with the second unit and will likely see playing time in 2006, which is almost entirely unprecedented for Mack Brown who rarely pulls the redshirt from freshman linemen.

When the second team offense took the field for the first time, they didn't stay very long, going three-and-out after a Snead run for two, an incomplete pass (batted down by a rushing Brian Robison and a pass to running back Chris Ogbonnaya for no gain. Greg Johnson sent away a nice punt which Selvin Young fair caught at the 31. Young had high praise after the game for Johnson's punting ability.

"I'll be out there working with him and, man, he's got half the field," said Young.

Young is out there working with Johnson because he's once again returning punts for Texas. According to Brown, CB Aaron Ross, Young and WR Quan Cosby will all be involved in punt returns, while Ross, Young, Cosby and Tarell Brown will all see time returning kick-offs. Brown also wants his return teams to do a better job of setting up the offense, or even generating points of their own.

"I told them we need to try score every time they're on field," said Brown.

Another player who made an appearance on the punt return unit was Jamaal Charles, but not where you'd expect him to be. After the fourth series of the scrimmage, Trevor Gerland lined up to punt the ball and Charles lined up, not as the returner, but as an edge rusher. Off the snap, the speedy running back knifed past his blocker and would have easily blocked the punt, but pulled up and let ball sail away to give Aaron Ross some reps returning the ball. Is this a position we'll see Charles at in the regular season?

"Duane (Akina) is the best in the country at blocking kicks and he just takes whoever he wants," said Brown. "He just gets a free hand."

Wide receiver Jordan Shipley will eventually be involved with the return units, but probably not this year.

"He's working at all three (wide receiver) positions and we want him to focus on that and be healthy," said Brown.

Shipley did receive a "lot of love," as Young put it, on his only catch of the afternoon, getting an ovation from the fans in attendance.

"I was impressed with how they (the crowd) embraced Shipley," said Young. "We (the players) are all rooting for him too."

The rest of the wide receivers looked sharp in the scrimmage as well. While there were pretty well defined ones and twos at almost every single position, the five top wide receivers were constantly rotating in and out.

"We've got five receivers right now who'll be in rotation," said Brown. "Myron (Hardy) could be six and the younger ones and George Walker are feeling their way right now."

Three wideouts and one tight in the shotgun was the primary formation on Saturday, as it should be during the season. Two-tight end shotgun and two-tight under center were also quite common. Noticeably absent from the scrimmage was the I-Form. Not once during the entire scrimmage did a fullback ever line up on the field, even on the goal line. Obannaya only appeared as a tailback and FB Marcus Myers only played on special teams. At this point, excepting goal line and occasional short yardage situations, it appears the fullback will not be on the field. Texas will opt for more two tight end sets with TEs Finley and Neale Tweedie.

On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive backfield looked exceptionally good.

"They're ridiculously fast," said Young.

The DBs not only showed good coverage, they also brought the hammer. Late in the scrimmage, Snead threw a WR screen to Nate Jones and defensive back Erick Jackson leveled him with a crushing hit. Jones' feet were lifted off the ground and Jackson lost his helmet in the process.

Safety Ishie Oduegwu managed to grab an interception off of back-up QB Matt McCoy. Oduegwu originally was wearing the number 10 during practice, but showed up to the scrimmage with a 19 on his jersey. Now, no one on the team has the number 10 (As a completely, utterly and entirely unrelated note, no one on the team is wearing the numbers 20 and 34 either).

Something very notable about the defensive backs is the progression of the freshmen. True freshmen Chykie Brown, Ken Beasley and Robert Joseph will all likely see significant playing time this season as they've each gone step for step with the Texas receivers, which is not an easy task.

Perhaps the most impressive defensive play of the morning came from Joseph. Snead fired the ball across the middle to Billy Pittman, Joseph leaped into the air, over Pittman, and yanked the ball away for the interception.

"They're pretty, they're athletic," said Mack Brown of the freshmen DBs. "Robert continues to make plays Chykie and Deon (Beasley's middle name) both look like they can play this year."

Both kickers looked very strong in the scrimmage. Johnson has the starting punting job locked down and also holds a close edge in kick-off duties. The question is whether or not he'll be handling all three duties. Johnson and freshman Hunter Lawrence each connected on 37-yard field goals to end the scrimmage. Lawrence had one blocked by Robison in the early goings, but both still appear neck-and-neck.

Injury Notes: Thankfully, there were no injuries or even tweaks during the fall scrimmage. LB Sergio Kindle is still day-to-day, but will likely be ready to go be the opener on Sept. 2nd. Accoding to Brown, at this point LB Roddrick Muckelroy is the back-up for all three linebacker spots and has come on very strong.

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