Brown: 'We're selling toughness'

An abbreviated, yet spirited, 55-minute practice at Frank Denius Field Friday night was intended, in part, to continue to establish the 2002 Longhorns as the hardest working team in America, head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> said (in essence).

Although the team that trotted off the practice field would be limbering up at Royal-Memorial Stadium in less than 12 hours for its second scrimmage of the preseason, coaches said the evening session would maintain limber muscles and give the staff another look at athletes vying for second team positions.

It also objectified the team’s collective mentality that players should bring their lunch pails, not their storied press clippings, to practice.

"We’re selling toughness (as well as) growing up this year," Brown said. "We’ve worked harder than any team I’ve ever had here. We want to work harder than any other team in the country."

Brown said Friday night's practice was also intended to "correct a few things" (i.e., getting more consistent play on the second team, particularly at linebacker) and also to see if lightning would strike twice for those who turned in electrifying performances at Thursday’s scrimmage.


WR Tony Jeffery’s 30-yard reception from QB Chance Mock, and then tightroping the left sideline to remain in bounds, drew accolades not only from fans but also from Brown.

"I’ve told Tony that there’s no longer a drop-off between him and the other three receivers (Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas)," Brown said. "That’s the most exciting thing that came out of Thursday’s scrimmage."

Arguably, true freshman TE David Thomas’ outstretched reception of QB Matt Nordgren's pass over the middle was the second-best reception of the evening. One gets the impression that Brown would really (I mean, really) like to see Thomas emerge and contribute significantly this season in the wake of TE Bo Scaife’s season-ending injury. Earlier this week, Brown said Thomas is the only TE he’s got with speed comparable to Scaife.

Coaches wanted to take a close look at true freshman DT Rodrique Wright, who posted a team-leading eight tackles (and one blocked pass, for good measure) in Thursday’s scrimmage. Friends, the first-team USA Today and Parade All-American is no fluke. This is one freshman that needs to play against Oklahoma. With exceptional speed for a guy his size (6-5, 320 pounds), Wright will be a fixture in opponents backfields before the end of the season.

"Rodrique has done really well for us, and he’s made a lot of plays already," Brown said. "He is someone we’re going to look at closely in (Saturday’s scrimmage)."

Senior Cory Redding’s spot at LDE was probably decreed centuries ago by Nostradamus, but one of the more interesting story-lines of the preseason is the competition brewing for RDE as a result of Kalen Thornton's injury. Thornton suited up but was withheld from contact Friday, and the junior defensive end's continuing rehab means Austin Sendlein would get the starting nod if the season opener were tomorrow. Meanwhile, coaches are sold on swift-footed freshman Bryan Pickryl, a 2001 Parade All-America at DE who graduated from Jenks (Oklahoma) High early so he could participate in spring drills.

"We’re really impressed with Pickryl," Brown said. "He’s done a good job for us."

However, Brown said he was also impressed with DE’s Chase Pittman, Lance McFarland and Kaelen Jakes.


As mentioned, the most heated battle for coveted first-team playing time is for the strong safety and free safety spots. Friday night, redshirt freshman Michael Huff started at SS while fellow redshirt freshman Kendal Briles roamed the FS terrain. However, Brown said there is absolutely no drop-out when junior FS Dakarai Pearson and redshirt freshman SS Cedric Griffin are on the field.

As the old man among three redshirt freshman -- Pearson started 10 games his freshman season -- the Dayton, Texas product staked his claim to his old stomping grounds by turning in Friday night’s defensive highlight.

During the first-team offense's opening possession, Pearson snatched a Chris Simms pass out of the air which sent Texas defenders on the sidelines into frenzy. Pearson raced through the mass huddle of the all offensive units, and slowed down only to have Redding lead the charge of other defenders in a victory pile on top of Pearson. (Note: Brown commented Thursday that he intended to "stir things up" defensively after the first team turned in a lackluster opening series against the second team offense).


WR Roy Williams returned to practice Friday night after being held out during the morning session.

Walk-on LB Brad Price was released from the hospital breaking the tibia and fibula in his left leg near the end of Friday morning's workout. Brown said the freshman was home with his parents in Copperas Cove and that the team talked to him by telephone.

"He’s doing fine considering how tough it was for him and for all of us this morning," Brown said. "We asked him how he felt and he said, ‘I’m just mad’, so he seems to be in good spirits for what he went through this morning.

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