Twenty-three Longhorn freshmen report

The UT coaching staff welcomed 23 scholarship freshmen -- plus walk-on punter <B>Taylor Landin</B> from Fort Bend Elkins -- to the Forty Acres today, a bunch that <B>Mack Brown</B> called "the best class we've signed."

The class, though, is two players lighter than hoped. Illinois WR Marquis Johnson and Tyler CB Aaron Ross, both facing NCAA Clearinghouse issues, did not report. Johnson is already enrolled at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and won't wear the Orange and White until at least '04 while Ross remains a possibility to join the team later this month, according to Brown. Ross issued the following statement through UT: "I have some (NCAA) Clearinghouse issues I need to get resolved in order to be with the team this fall. Hopefully, they will be worked out so I can do that. If not, I will go to Blinn College and be back at Texas in two years."

Despite the loss of Johnson and Ross, the head coach said the staff feels really good about the group of newcomers -- OL Justin Blalock, DE Larry Dibbles, ATH Clint Haney, RB Albert Hardy, MLB Aaron Harris, DL Tully Janszen, P Landin, DT Marco Martin, CB Edorian McCullough, S Matt Melton, WR Dustin Miksch, OLB Marcus Myers, MLB Brian Robison, OL Lyle Sendlein, OLB Garnet Smith, OL/DL Kasey Studdard, TE David Thomas, WR Robert Timmons, OL Neale Tweedie, OL Brett Valdez, OLB Mike Williams, DT Rodrique Wright, RB Selvin Young and QB Vince Young -- largely because of the big guys on both sides of the line that could immediately join the playing time fight, particularly on defense.

That list on Carl Reese's side of the ball includes DE Dibbles, DE/DT Janszen and Studdard, who has told the coaches that he wants a shot on both sides of the ball. Brown said Monday that Studdard will get that shot, alternating practices with the OL and at DT. After undergoing off-season knee surgery, DT Martin is not expected to be in the early playing time fight. "We need to mix in some defensive linemen from the freshman signees," Brown said. "I was talking with coach Tolleson and coach McCrary and we agreed that we've played OK in the DL, but we need someone to come in and stir it up and push (the veterans). We need to get better in that area."

The head coach also said opportunities exist at both linebacker and corner for one of new Horns to step in and compete for a spot on the two-deep. Brown said Haney, who played running back and wide receiver in high school, will get his first look at the college level at safety and corner under the watchful eye of Duane Akina.

The offense holds less chances for immediate PT. QB Vince Young, and the majority of the guys on Greg Davis' side of the ball, looks headed for the 'shirt. "What we'd like to do with Vince is watch, work him real hard, and redshirt him if possible, and have him ready for the future," Brown said. "He understands. We'd rather redshirt him for him and for us (as a team)."

If a true freshman proves capable of helping the team this fall -- and Brown said this year's group has more potential contributors than did list year's group, which saw only Cedric Benson, Derrick Johnson, Brian Carter, Aurmon Satchell and the walk-on kickers play -- the coaches will turn up the intensity a bit in their work to get them prepared to play.

For now, though, the head coach said there'd be no freshman depth chart. "The most important thing right now is to make them comfortable," he said. That will include a picnic tonight with family members and the coaching staff, followed by a team meeting and the young guys' first time in the Orange and White unis Tuesday morning at 8:30. Maddog will measure body fat and strength levels before turning the team over to trainer Tom McVan for drills to determine baseline testing measurements. Finally, by 10:30 and the start of kicking game work, the newbies will get their first true practice reps. The team will remain in shorts and shoulder pads for all four freshman-only workouts.

The Horns other two true freshmen, spring ball participants DEs Chase Pittman and Bryan Pickryl, will report with the vets on Thursday.

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