Whoa Nelly!, according to head coach Mack Brown. The best thing about the first night in pads is that no one got hurt, the head coach said, and that it allowed coaches to begin to truly evaluate younger or inexperienced players.
"This was an important night because practice is simply different when the guys wear pads," Brown said. "The effort was good and the attitude was good. We had by far the largest group of fans (of the preseason) out here tonight and that certainly lifted the spirit of the team. It was our first chance to really see which of the younger guys can play and to see if the older guys are in shape."
The full-pad work also allowed the coaches to begin the process of solidifying the lineups at a couple of positions, notably at tight end and fullback.
Converted TE O.J. McClintock took first snaps at tight end and had a couple of nice grabs. Chad Stevens, the regular TE starter who just returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with a leg contusion, also had a nifty reception over the middle, and then sprinted for another 10-or-12 yards. Earlier in the evening, QB Chris Simms so deftly feathered the football that WR B.J. Johnson did not break his stride en route to a 60-yard reception. That play compensated for a later possession where an attempt bounced off of Johnsons hands.
The offense closed out the evening with quarterbacks passing from four- and five-receiver sets. Dusty Mangums 37-yard field goal, his third of the night, was the exclamation point that closed out Wednesdays workout.
"Tonight was a preview for (Thursdays) scrimmage," Brown said.
THURSDAY SCRIMMAGE: WHAT TO EXPECT
Take a close look at the guys on both sides of the ball during the first couple of series at Thursdays 3:30 p.m. full pad scrimmage at Royal-Memorial Stadium. These are the guys that you can pencil in as your starters if the season were to begin this weekend.
"It will be ones against ones (first-team offense versus first-team defense) when we start it," Brown said. "Then we want to see how well a second team guy does against the first team because thats how they would have to play it if it were a game."
First-team units will square off for about 30 snaps, Brown said, before the coaches will start to rotate in second- and third-team players. Coaches on both sides of the ball are more concerned now about establishing depth, particularly at on the offensive line and at linebacker, than running certain schemes in the initial scrimmage. The second-team OL, though, may already be ahead of schedule.
"Ive thought the second-team linemen have looked really good," Brown said, but later added that having a running back like Cedric Benson (and Selvin Young -- see Hot News) may have had something to do with it.
"More than anything else, it will be an individual test (Thursday)", Brown said. "Well be looking to see who has progressed enough to end up playing in the first game (Aug. 31)."
WR Roy Williams, after suffering a slight groin injury Tuesday afternoon, is not likely to see action in the pre-seasons first full-contact scrimmage, but that decision is merely precautionary and even a blessing in disguise. Williams absence will allow younger split ends like Brian Carter and Dustin Miksch to get some reps against the first team defense.
"Weve seen Roy before and he looks pretty good," Brown quipped.
On a more serious note, Brown expressed concern that RT Jonathan Scott remained sidelined but added that his absence has allowed Lionel Garr and Alfio Randall-Veasey to significantly develop.
TE/FB Brock Edwards missed practice after injuring a quad during the morning workout.
The injury bug may not be as nearly as severe at the Forty Acres than at some other college football hotbeds.
"I talked to coaches at three major universities today who told me they can't scrimmage (Thursday) because they have so many injuries," Brown said. "Thank goodness weve recruited well enough to avoid that."
The start time for UT's season opener against North Texas on Aug. 31 is now set for 7 p.m. at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Originally slated for 6 p.m., the pay-per-view contest will be televised nationally on Direct TV and the Dish Network.
Breakfast with the Longhorns: Saturdays scrimmage at Royal-Memorial Stadium has been moved from 9:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.
Practices on Friday, Monday and Wednesday will begin at approximately 7:30 a.m. Brown said about a dozen Longhorns still have classes that conflict with mid-morning sessions.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Fan Appreciation Day is set for 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 18, at Memorial Stadium. Players and coaches will be introduced at 2 p.m., followed by a 3 4:30 p.m. autograph session.
The annual Womens Clinic is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Aug. 22.
All practices are open to the public until Monday, Aug. 26, when the Horns begin game normal week preparations. The first class day for University students is Aug. 28.