Scrimmage: Back-ups get a chance to step up

Prior to Thursday's scrimmage at Royal-Memorial Stadium, the first in pads for the 2002 Longhorns, Texas coaches scrapped the idea of pitting the first team offense against the first team defense (that should come Saturday) to focus on individual performances.

During the 90-play scrimmage, several freshmen (notably RB Selvin Young -- see below and also see Hot News -- and DL Rodrique Wright) staked their claim for playing time, the two-deep quarterbacks (Chris Simms and Chance Mock) were respectable, WR Tony Jeffery showed why teammates think he is at the same level of the Texas Triplets (Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas) and Cedric Benson was, well, Cedric Benson during his cameo appearance.

The bottom line: coaches saw what they needed to see and are preparing to make official their personnel decisions by Saturday’s 7:45 a.m. scrimmage at Memorial Stadium, head coach Mack Brown said.

"Our experienced guys had only about 10 or 15 plays, but they’ve got enough chips stored that we don’t always have to watch them play," the head coach said. "We wanted to watch the No. 2 and No. 3 guys to see who could step up and perform."

Brown complimented Simms (3 for 6 for 34 yards and one TD) and Mock (6-10-62-1) for their efforts and lauded the running game.

"We’ve run the ball this year better than any time during the past three years," Brown said.

Brown, however, took his first team defense to the woodshed after the second offensive unit looked like Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game by pounding the ball into the heart of the first team defense during its first possession.

After K Dusty Mangum connected on a 51-yard FG in the swirling breeze, the second team offensive answered back with RB/FB Ivan Williams’ back-to-back runs of 20 and 9 yards, following by RB Anthony Johnson’s 17-yard scamper.

"The No. 1 defense just stood around during the (second team offensive’s) first drive, which is something you worry about this time of year," Brown said. "They were far too complacent playing the No. 2 guys. We’ll find a way to stir them up."

SCRIMMAGE HIGHLIGHTS & INDIVIDUAL STANDOUTS

Show-stealing true freshman RB Selvin Young electrified the Memorial Stadium crowd by ripping off a 69-yard run on his first carry. Young finished with 116 yards on 11 carries.

"Selvin has looked real good," Benson said of his understudy. "I think he’ll play quite a bit this season."

DL Rodrique Wright, one of the most heralded true freshmen in this year’s stellar recruiting class, proved that his props were legit by recording eight tackles, one sack, and one deflected pass. The 6-5, 320-pound tackle earned first-team All-America honors from both USA Today and Parade magazine as a senior at Alief Hastings.

The best reception of the day clearly belonged to Jeffery. The speedy sophomore gathered a Mock pass in the left flat and then jitterbugged across midfield before finding a seam down the right sideline en route to a 32-yard reception. The play set up the second team offense with a first down at the 14-yard line, where Mock then found a tightly covered Timmons for the score.

"T.J. has finally become a receiver," Brown said. "He did some good things for us last year, and now he’s ready to join those other guys."

Benson had 45 yards on just three carries (on three of the first-team O's first four plays). Can you live with a 15 yard-per-carry average?

Brett Robin showed strength and balance in carrying the rock 32 yards on three carries. The Austin Westlake grad was paired in the backfield with FB Will Matthews, who has drawn rave reviews from Brown during two-a-days.

FB/RB Ivan Williams contributed a determined 33 yards on four carries.

Dusty Magnum connected on two-of-three field goals, from 51- and 37- yards, missing wide right on another 37-yarder. K David Pino was 0-2, including a blocked (by Kaelen Jakes rushing up the middle) 37-yarder.

CHRIS SIMMS: VINCE YOUNG’S BACK-UP

And, lo, it came to pass that the biggest Memorial Stadium cheer Thursday for a non-play occurred when signal-calling savior Vince Young came to pass.

It was the first time the 6-5, 220-pound true freshman set foot on sacred Royal-Memorial Stadium grass in a Texas uniform, and the Longhorn faithful in the stands anticipated nothing less than a college football epiphany.

Hopefully, Texas fans were as aware of Simms standing behind Young during his first series, functioning as both coach and counselor.

Young would need a U-Haul to carry his trophies. The Houston Madison product earned National Player of the Year honors from both The Sporting News and Parade, and is the 2001 Texas 5A Offensive Player of the Year.

Still, the transition from high school to D-I NCAA football can be dizzying. Hence, Simms (literally and figuratively) stood behind Young while the ballyhooed youngster’s first series included a false start under center and a coverage sack.

"I didn’t have the luxury of (fellow quarterbacks) teaching me a lot of times my first year here," Simms said. "When you’re a freshman, your head is just spinning. I’m definitely willing to help in any way I can."

Young later settled down, and found RB Albert Hardy on a 18-yard reception, aided by Hardy’s nifty spin. On the next play, Young found true freshman WR Robert Timmons who made a spectacular grab between two defenders at the left sideline for a 31-yard reception. Two plays later, Young would fumble into the end zone but OL Lyle Sendlein alertly recovered the pigskin for the score.

TEAM COMES EARLY, STAYS LATE, WEARS ORANGE (AND WHITE)

Texas has a wealth of talent and a luxury of depth not seen at the Forty Acres in recent memory, but that’s another way of saying its personnel is not too dissimilar from the Oklahomas, Miamis, Tennessees and Florida States of the college football world.

One of the intangibles that sets a national champion apart from the other outstanding squads is, of course, team chemistry. This year, Texas has it, according to Brown, and it may result from the squad’s overall work ethic.

"We’ve worked this team harder than any team we’ve had since I’ve been here," Brown said. "We’ve got them up early and we’ve kept them out late. And they have responded."

Brown said one of the reasons why Monday, Wednesday and Friday scrimmages have been moved from 9 a.m., to 8 a.m., and now to 7:15 a.m., is because players wanted it that way.

Simms also notes a difference in this year’s squad.

"We have playmakers, but we also have a lot of guys who go out there and do their part," Simms said.

INJURY NOTES

Roy Williams, after seeing limited action for two workouts with a slight groin injury, took to the field with the first-team O on the opening possession of Thursday's scrimmage. With the first-team facing a first-and-10 from its own five on the third offensive possession of the scrimmage (the first-team O's second series), Williams hauled in a Simms toss on a crossing route for a 15-yard gain before FS Rufus Harris knocked him to the grass. Williams, who limped off the field after the hit, suffered a bruised quad on the play and did not return. FS Dakarai Pearson and WR Kyle Shanahan suffered sprained ankles. WR Brian Carter did not participate after suffering a hamstring injury Wednesday. FB/TE Brock Edwards (quad), RDE Kalen Thornton (knee), MLB Aaron Harris (concussion), RT Jonathan Scott (hamstring), LG Terrance Young (shoulder), DT Marco Martin (knee), SLB Braden Johnson (bruised forehead) and ATH Clint Haney remained sidelined.

COMING UP

Practices on Friday, Monday and Wednesday morning will begin at approximately 7:30 a.m. Saturday’s scrimmage at Royal-Memorial Stadium has been moved from 9:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.


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