Horns: No Looking Back, But Not Looking Ahead

Sandwiched between the two most important Longhorn football games of the Mack Brown era is the 2006 home-opener against North Texas. But with a couple of key spots on the roster still up for grabs, coach Mack Brown insists that No. 2/3 Texas is focused on this weekend's opponent rather than the seismic tilt against Ohio State.

"You're vulnerable every week," Brown said. "If you start looking back right now, you get hit in the face. You don't take anything for granted. About the time you think something can't happen in football is when it does."

It's been well documented that coaches have reiterated their year-long stance that a final verdict on the freshman QBs would not be reached until this weekend, at the earliest. Meanwhile, the starting PK job is still up for grabs, and Saturday's game against an overmatched opponent is shaping up as the line of demarcation that will separate senior Greg Johnson and freshman Hunter Lawrence. Previously, Brown said Johnson would handle punting duties while Lawrence would be responsible for FGs and PATs.

"We actually had them kick in a contest (Wednesday)," Brown said, "and they were dead-even. Coach (Mike) Tolleson walked out of practice mad. He said, 'This didn't help us any.' But if they remain even, we'll go with the older one (Johnson) because he's been there before, and Greg's done a tremendous job."

As far as true freshmen losing their redshirt status by logging snaps in the home-opener, Brown reports, "If they're in the two-deep, they'll probably play. If they're in the three-deep, there's a question mark."

The true freshmen that cracked the two-deep chart this week are: MLB Jared Norton, SS Robert Joseph, LCB Chykie Brown, PK Hunter Lawrence and, of course, QB Jevan Snead. It is also expected that RB Vondrell McGee and DE Eddie Jones will log playing time this season.

Brown typically does not decide to redshirt a player until midseason, even though the home-opener remains the best barometer (barring injuries) of who loses their 'shirt.

"We talk to them (freshmen) after the first week and say, 'Here's where it stands. You talk to us.' We're in a better position now than we were eight years ago for guys to understand that, when you have some depth, redshirting is not such a bad thing. At one point, it was not considered a good thing. But once you see a Vince Young, a Michael Huff and a Cedric Griffin redshirt, and you see that Larry Dibbles and Aaron Harris would have been back (had they redshirted), then guys look at it differently than they did before you win 11 games a year. The older guys tell them, 'If it's in question, and if I was you, I'd redshirt.' Those are hard decisions for them, and that's why we don't totally make them until the fifth game of the year."

Added Brown, "The guys that are ready because they were in better shape, or because of team-need, have a better chance to play. Now that freshmen can arrive in June, there is more of a likelihood that we'll have more of them ready to play. They're with strength coaches and trainers, and they're around the team."

There has been no mention of Texas extending its NCAA-best winning streak to 21 games this Saturday.

"The more you talk it about, the bigger it gets and you lose your focus," Brown said. "In fact, we haven't mentioned the streak at home or the streak at all. We've told them that it's about this team and it's about the first game... Honestly, I've quit thinking about it. I'll think about it when I'm through."

Well, maybe Brown thinks about it just a little bit.

"We had 21 straight wins at home and then Arkansas beat us (2003)," he continued, "and then it seemed very insignificant. Maybe that's the way my mind works. But when I heard (USC coach) Pete (Carroll) say that when you talk about the streak all the time. That's the time you get into trouble because you're not focused on what you're supposed to be doing. You're focused on the streak instead of how you got there."

Brown believes he has seen ample evidence from practice this week that his squad is focused solely on North Texas.

"Practices have been great, and we've had very few missed assignments. You can tell from the snap counts, and the way they cover kicks, and the way they handle the mechanics of the game. It's been really good, and they're focused. They can't wait to play."

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (Central) on a Fox Sports Southwest telecast.

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