Brown: Spirit, attitude, conditioning impressive

<B>Mack Brown</B> said he noticed a gleam in the eyes of many of the 24 true freshmen as they wore the Orange and White for the first time out at Denius Fields for the Horns' first freshman practice session of two-a-days. The head coach probably could have caught that same gleam with a look into any of his coaches' eyes. Or into a mirror, for that matter.

The newest class of Longhorns is one good-lookin' bunch both physically and athletically, a fact that was not remotely lost on a beaming Brown. "I feel like this kicked off the first day of football," Brown said. "We got to see what we recruited. It's the first time we've been able to coach them and get them out on the field and we were impressed with their spirit, we were impressed with their attitude and they're in pretty good condition. A couple of the big guys have some (conditioning) work to do but we thought overall they were in good shape. I felt like the class is probably every bit as good as we thought it was coming in."

A quick look around the field as the guys went through their stretching exercises revealed several awesome looking physical specimens, including (but certainly not limited to) Vince Young and Rodrique Wright. The two 6-5 athletes literally stood above the rest of the class (Lyle Sendlein and Neale Tweedie are also listed at 6-5 while the rest of the class is 6-4 or below) and have chiseled physiques that belie their just-out-of-high-school age. As Brown said Monday, the coaches hope to redshirt QB Young, but DT Wright is a completely different story. The former Alief Hastings star dropped 20 pounds over the spring and summer and reported at 300 pounds, a weight that he carries like a 250-pounder. He looks that athletic and thus ready to compete for PT in the defensive middle if his football skills match his physique (which seemed to be the case based on his incredible dominance at the high school level).

Wright and the other defenders demonstrated an across-the-board athleticism during footwork and agility drills by deftly and quickly negotiating six equally spaced obstacles in straight-ahead, zigzag and shuffle motions. The 10 defenders who participated -- Wright, DE Larry Dibbles, MLB Aaron Harris, DE/DT Tully Janszen, CB Edorian McCullough, S Matt Melton, OLB Marcus Myers, MLB Brian Robison, OLB Garnet Smith and OLB Mike Williams -- collectively make up the most athletic group of newcomers I've seen in my seven years of covering the Horns.

The guys on the other side of the ball are certainly no slouches. Along with the imposing looking Young, who seems to have a very compact throwing motion based on his few practice tosses, some of the new skill position talent looks both fast and strong. WR Robert Timmons, at a listed 6-2, 205, is well put together while Dustin Miksch showed his speed in a foot race (that could have been for the team's fastest man competition) with McCullough for a deep ball delivered by Vince Young. Brown said that because of the Horns' depth situation at wideout plus the possibility that any of the Big Three receivers could leave early for the NFL, both Timmons and Miksch will play this fall if they prove ready to contribute. "We need to play these guys if they're ready to play and we need to have a great recruiting class (at wide receiver)," the coach said. "We feel really thin there."

Tight end could be thin as well depending on the still unsettled injury status of returning starter Bo Scaife. But regardless of Scaife's health, Brown said the coaches feel true freshman David Thomas "is a guy we need to play this year. We feel like he's a guy like Bo for us for the future. He's smart, he's athletic, he can play wide receiver in the four-wide sets and he can still play tight end." Brown said the physical part of Thomas' game will have to catch up with the pass-catching part, enabling him to become a better blocker. The head coach said Thomas put on some pounds over the spring and summer and is now above 220.

Thomas and the rest of the true freshmen will get their second chance at impressing the coaches Tuesday evening during an hour-long workout beginning at 5 p.m. at Denius.

Practice notes: Brown said Scaife and team doctor Carey Windler have talked and the junior TE is trying to get back to Austin as soon as he can to have his knee evaluated. . . . Dibbles is up from a spring weight of 280 to 300 pounds, according to Brown. . . . Offensive tackle Tweedie, nursing a sore shoulder suffered in his recent high school all-star game appearance, wore a green jersey today, meaning he participated in footwork drills but did not take part in any of the physical or hitting drills. The time frame for Tweedie's return to 100-percent health is unknown. . . . With Nathan Vasher scheduled to start and take almost every game-on-the-line snap at corner plus handle the punt return duties plus possibly the kick return duties as well, the coaches hope to ease Vasher's return burden if possible. Several true freshmen will have the opportunity to earn at least a back-up role at both punt and kick returner. McCullough, Melton, Timmons and Miksch all spent their special teams time shagging punts (some from the machine and some from walk-on Taylor Landin, who showed an extremely strong leg but also the expected freshman inconsistency). Of the four, McCullough looked the most comfortable catching the ball, which is about all the drills allow for. . . . Sendlein, Brett Valdez and Kasey Studdard spent the kicking game work during the first 10 minutes of practice working on deep snapping. Another true freshman to look for in the deep snap battle is Janszen, who worked as both a deep and short snapper on special teams for Keller and who made a few practice deep snaps during the 10 minute special teams session that closed out the Tuesday morning workout. . . . Brown said true freshman Bryan Pickryl, who will report with the vets on Thursday, should be cleared to practice after missing all of spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. The coach said he ran into Pickryl recently and the DE "looks great" after bulking back up into the 220-plus range. . . . To give the players a sense of the urgency of two-a-days, an adjustable, count-down sign on the practice field reads 25 days until North Texas.

[Editor's note: Please be sure and check the Hot News section of the website often for quick-breaking news on the Horns. For example, while we're preparing these in-depth practice reports, we will post brief practice updates when warranted. Early this afternoon, that included the following: Marco Martin -- Did not participate in first frosh practice; and Clint Haney -- Getting a look on both O and D; and Brian Robison -- To try fullback/H-back as well as LB.]

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