Saturday evening practice notes and analysis

Notes and analysis from the Horns' Saturday evening practice:

After Saturday morning's workout, Mack Brown said that 10-15 guys on each side of the ball are in good position depth chart-wise while five or six spots on both offense and defense remain to be determined. A good gauge on who the coaches are considering for game-on-the-line action is during divided 11-on-11 work. During that session of practice, the first-team offense squares off with back-up defenders while the first-team defense takes on an offensive unit consisting of back-ups. The players that shuttle in with each first-team group are essentially the guys that are already in that game-on-the-line group or are auditioning to join it. Saturday evening, the starting group on offense consisted of QB Chris Simms, TB Cedric Benson, FB Will Matthews (Matt Trissel is still out with an infection), SE Roy Williams, FL B.J. Johnson, LT Robbie Doane, LG Tillman Holloway, C Jason Glynn, RG Derrick Dockery, RT Jonathan Scott and TE Chad Stevens. O.J. McClintock (who Greg Davis said has demonstrated "good ball skills" so far) and Brock Edwards (who spent the morning workout at FB) rotated in at TE, Alfio Randall (at T) and Beau Baker (at G) worked in on the OL, Tony Jeffery, Brian Carter and Kyle Shanahan saw action at wideout, and Brett Robin and Ivan Williams worked at tailback. On defense, the starters consisted of LDE Cory Redding, LDT Miguel McKay, RDT Marcus Tubbs, RDE Austin Sendlein (projected starter Kalen Thornton did not practice), WLB Derrick Johnson, MLB Reed Boyd, SLB Lee Jackson, RCB Rod Babers, LCB Nathan Vasher, SS Cedric Griffin and FS Kendal Briles. Eric Hall (on the left) and Kaelen Jakes (on the right) took a large number of snaps at DE, as did Stevie Lee at DT. Michael Huff and Doc Pearson also spent a good bit of time on the field in the defensive backfield. In spring, DB coach Duane Akina continually rotated the "starters" at safety, so don't read much into who "starts" right now at either safety spot. Interestingly, though, Akina worked both Griffin (on the left) and Huff (on the right) substantially at corner as well as at strong safety on Saturday evening. Babers and Vasher are the only corners on campus that have taken a live game snap, so Akina is certainly searching for capable corner back-ups (a bill which both Griffin and Huff look to fit). You'll notice that the list of defensive players above includes only the starters at linebacker. Apparently, the coaches want to continue to evaluate the true freshman competitors working with the back-ups before moving any of them into the game-on-the-line role signified by rotating in for the first-teamers.

Roy Williams continued his work with the punt block unit on Saturday evening, working on technique as a right side rusher along with Beau Trahan, Babers, Jeffery, Garnet Smith, Robin and Derrick Johnson during the early practice special teams session. Obviously, as Brown suggested Saturday morning, the coaches are indeed auditioning starters for special teams duties.

Only Vasher and Pearson worked in punt return Saturday evening. With Pearson out during spring, Carter assumed the No. 2 punt return role but Pearson looks to have (at least temporarily) stepped into that spot this August. Several of the true freshman -- Edorian McCullough, Matt Melton, Robert Timmons, Dustin Miksch, Selvin Young -- auditioned before the vets arrived and could still get a look as two-a-days progress.

An FYI on Sloan Thomas' injury: after spending much of Saturday evening practice on the stationary bike, the junior wideout stood on the sidelines during 11-on-11 work with his left ankle iced. After practice, Davis said he expects Thomas back in action "pretty quick." With Thomas out, Carter is running second at SE behind starter Williams, and Davis said post-practice that the sophomore wideout has "done really good things" over the first two varsity workouts. "He made catches he hasn't made in the past, he's stronger and he's more confident," the offensive coordinator said of Carter.

A note on the true freshmen OLs: Neale Tweedie remains in a green (non-contact) jersey, which keeps him from participating in any drills or scrimmage work that includes physical upper body activity. The other true freshmen OLs are receiving limited work during 11-on-11, so far only working for a few late practice snaps with Vince Young and several other young and walk-on players on both sides of the ball. Brett Valdez, who lined up some at left tackle during freshman mini-camp, worked at right tackle Saturday. Kasey Studdard (LG), Lyle Sendlein (C) and Justin Blalock (RG) have remained at their mini-camp spots. Also, redshirt freshman G Terrance Young is still recovering from his off-season shoulder surgery and is not yet participating in practice.

Highlight reel plays: Aside from the incredible collision between Matthews and Aaron Harris that sent Harris to the hospital (see Hot News) and that literally reverberated across the practice field, Derrick Johnson had the hit of the day, leveling Albert Hardy during 11-on-11 work as the true freshman RB tried to haul in a dump pass from Chance Mock on a release and turn route that left him quite exposed to the charging linebacker. Johnson also intercepted Mock on an over the middle attempt, as did a leaping Boyd a little earlier on a deeper attempt for a crossing Miksch. Mock, working behind a back-up OL, faced substantial pressure from the first-team pass rush (including McKay, who had his way at least a couple of times with Mike Garcia and others) on most of his drops.

With Harris out, true freshman Brian Robison and sophomore Aurmon Satchell split time at MLB with the back-up defensive unit.

Both Dusty Mangum and David Pino missed their practice-closing field goal attempts, with Mangum pushing his 36-yard attempt wide left and Pino, despite a booming kick similar to his morning practice blast, missed his 37-yarder wide right.


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