Hobbled Horns: Is Relief in Sight?

"Sudden change" is the term Texas coaches and players have for an immediate turn-around during a ballgame. It was also the phrase head coach Mack Brown coined Monday to describe the recent rash of injuries to beset his program, including DE Brian Robison and RB Selvin Young following the Big 12 Conference-opening win over Iowa State. So, now where do we stand?

Brian Robison has been able to walk without crutches, according to a source close to the situation. X-rays revealed there were no broken bones, according to another source, who also reported that Robison suffered a deeply bruised quadricep. This does not mean Robison is expected to play Saturday against Division-IAA opponent Sam Houston State. In fact, for the first time in recent memory, UT Men's Athletic Department officials did not release an updated Game Week depth chart to media during the weekly football press luncheon.

Three years ago, the NCAA enacted tougher legislation regarding student-privacy issues with particular regard to injury status and academic standing.

"They told me I can't talk about injuries. Period," Brown said, before expressing his frustration that many football programs fail to consistently enforce the NCAA statutes. "Some coaches will just tell you if a guy is injured; others won't tell you anything at all," Brown said. "I can't even say if a kid is practicing because that's the same as reporting on an injury."

Robison suffered the injury with 5:40 left in the first half. Replays showed that the senior was apparently leg-whipped by RT Aaron Brant, but there is no doubt in Texas coach Mack Brown's mind that the injury was unintentional.

"That's not the kind of program (coach) Dan McCarney runs," Brown said. "I'm 100 percent sure of that."

Selvin Young suffered a rib injury near the end of the first-quarter against Iowa State. The senior walked off the field without assistance and was later seen in good spirits on the Texas sideline (albeit in street clothes) for the remainder of the 37-14 Longhorn win.

"These kids prepare years to play," Brown said, "and if it gets taken away from them -- even for a Saturday, much less prolonged -- it's really, really disappointing to them."

Sometimes you can read-between-the-lines into an injury situation when coaches become effusive in their praise of backups. Case-in-point: coaches couldn't stop talking about backup WLB Scott Derry last week, just a few days before it was officially announced that three-game starter Roddrick Muckelroy would miss up to two months with a ruptured tendon on his ring finger. It's not that Derry isn't deserving of attention -- the junior has 11 tackles this season essentially as a backup, just three off the pace of starting SLB Robert Killebrew. It's just that when the hype suddenly shifts to a backup (for whatever reason), you can almost expect him to log significant snaps with the Ones the following Saturday.

On Monday, it was RB Henry Melton's turn to garner his head coach's accolades; Brown was more complimentary of the sophomore than at any point this regular season.

"Henry was very impressive Saturday," said Brown. "That's the best we've felt like he looked."

Melton averaged 8.2 ypc (66 yards on eight carries, one TD) against a physical Cyclone defensive front. In fact, the H-Train has contributed 90 yards on 13 carries (6.9 ypc) the past two ballgames.

Young's injury also allowed Jamaal Charles to notch a career-best 17 carries, good for 78 yards; he added 35 yards on three receptions.

It's a safe bet, with Oklahoma on the horizon, that coaches err in the direction of caution with Robison and Young this weekend against SHSU. Charles limped to the sideline during the third quarter Saturday but was able to go back into the game. Charles was Texas' leading rusher in 2005 on the way to Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors. While you hate to see another injury to Young, there are a good many Horns fans who would love to see what Charles could do if he ever got the chance to lather-up with 20+ totes in a contest. Melton is a load and almost enjoys a cult following among UT students. He created the biggest offensive buzz last spring when coaches announced Melton's progress was such that he could be counted on as an every-down back.

Meanwhile, Texas hasn't been this loaded at DE since scholarship limits went into effect a quarter-century ago. Tim Crowder is this week's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and Brian Orakpo, who started against Ohio State when Robison battled pneumonia, was the 2005 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and may be the most explosive defensive lineman Brown has signed. Coaches are also very high on Aaron Lewis. The versatile sophomore has been crosstrained to play DT in the three-technique but saw action in eight games last season as Robison's backup. Likewise, coaches see true freshman Lamarr Houston as one who will start to make his mark. The Colorado Springs product was a Parade All-American at linebacker.

OKLAHOMA KICKOFF SET: Texas' annual border war with Oklahoma has been set for 2:30 p.m., Saturday, October 7, on an ABC-Sports national telecast.

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