Breakfast with the Horns: Steady diet of new faces

Texas' second scrimmage of the preseason early Saturday morning at Royal-Memorial Stadium afforded coaches another chance to shore up depth at the critical tight end, right defensive end and second team linebacker spots. It also proved that true freshman <B>Selvin Young&#146;s</B> performance in Thursday&#146;s session was no fluke.

QB Chris Simms was a solid 5-9 for 87 yards and no interceptions, while all four quarterbacks combined to connect on 13-of-25 attempts for 212 yards. While freshman QB Vince Young (5-of-6 for 85 yards -- see Hot News) tantalized fans with a glimpse of things to come (more-than-likely starting in 2003), coaches are looking for inexperienced guys to consistently step-up as back-ups at a few key spots in the here-and-now.

It’s the consistency aspect, head coach Mack Brown said, that keeps him up at night.

"We accomplished (Saturday) what we wanted in that, first of all, no one got hurt," the head coach said, "and that we got to spend a lot of time looking at the younger guys."

Added Brown, "The thing with freshmen is that you don’t want to waste a year unless they’re ready to play by mid-season, if not sooner."

Saturday, exactly two weeks before the season-opener vs. North Texas, the first-team offense opened with Simms connecting with WR Roy Williams for an 11-yard gain, followed by three RB Cedric Benson runs that netted 21 yards. An 11-yard completion to FB Matt Trissel was followed by Benson’s one-yard plunge off right tackle. An incomplete pass and a batted ball courtesy of strong safety Cedric Griffin set up K Dusty Magnum’s 32-yard field goal.

The first team defense showed none of the complacency that it did Thursday during its opening series which, more than anything, had to do with QB Chance Mock’s nondescript showing 1-of-8 showing. After RB Selvin Young for the second team offense started things off with 15 yards on three carries, the defense stiffened, forcing Mock to run for his life resulting in two incompletions and a sack.

Simms returned for one more series and promptly hit Williams on a 39-yard screen pass. Three plays later, Simms connected with WR B.J. Johnson, setting up a first-and-goal from the five. RB Brett Robin scored three plays later on a one-yard run.

"The offense is ready," DE Cory Redding said.

CAN SELVIN COME OUT AND PLAY?

The answer is, "Yeah, baby!"

The true freshman from Houston Jersey Village was an alarm clock in the early moments, waking the fans stumbling into the stands just before 8 a.m. by gathering in K Dustin Smith’s kick-off and returning it 90 yards along the right sideline for a touchdown.

Young followed his team-leading rushing performance (116 yards on 11 carries) from Thursday’s matinee performance with another team-leading total (44 yards on six carries) during Saturday’s early bird special. Granted, Benson was only going to make a cameo appearance in this one (four carries, 22 yards) but one of the new running backs had to emerge and it has consistently been Young throughout the preseason.

The 6-0, 195-pounder is actually considered a small back by D- I NCAA standards, but his speed and stature reminds us a lot of RB Shon Mitchell, who lettered on Texas’ 1995 SWC and 1996 Big 12 championship teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS WERE SPECIAL

With two weeks of preseason practices under his belt, Brown said the kicking game was going to be a focal point of Saturday’s scrimmage. No doubt, Brown liked what he saw as UT's field goal kickers finished 5-of-5. First-team FG kicker Magnum connected on both attempts Saturday, splitting the uprights from 32- and 30-yards out. After David Pino went 0-2 in Thursday’s scrimmage, the sophomore hit a pair of 41-yarders Saturday morning. Matt McFadden added a 37-yarder.

Justin Smith contributed two punts, averaging 46.5 per, while P Brian Bradford added a 45-yard punt.

Rod Babers blocked a Smith punt, recovering it for a safety.

Not to be outdone by Selvin’s simply scintillating (sorry, couldn’t help it) 90-yard kick-off return, Nathan Vasher returned a Smith punt 75 yards for the score. Brown, reiterating a point he made earlier in the week, said that Vasher’s special team duties will largely be restricted to returning punts and not kick-offs.

"I’m not sure that we want Nathan returning kicks, fielding punts and also playing cornerback," Brown said. "I’m not sure that, at his size (Vasher is a mere wisp of a lad at 5-11, 180) that we want him taking so many hits. In this league, in the Big 12, it would be so tough on someone."

Then again, coach, ya’ can’t tackle what ya’ can’t catch. Then again, Young looked an awful lot Saturday like Vasher returning kicks (and not just because Vasher also wears No. 3).

CORY REDDING: A MAN A MISSION

DE Cory Redding has his game face on. He looks focused, he looks intense and, God bless him, he looks angry in the best sense of the word. (I pity the fool who sneaks up behind him and says "Oklahoma." Go ahead; I dare you).

Even more than like having another coach on the playing field; Redding is a drill sergeant leading the assault up San Juan Hill. He is the one in your face barking orders should you take but one backward step. Better to bust an assignment within earshot of defensive coordinator Carl Reese than Redding.

And, in one instance Saturday, it was even safer to make an outstanding defensive stop.

After true freshman RDE Bryan Pickryl sacked Mock for a four-yard loss, Redding was so stoked that his high-five attempt literally knocked Pickryl off his feet, slapping his counterpart onto the Royal-Memorial Stadium soil, much to the amusement of the couple of thousand fans. (Kids, Pickryl stands 6-5 and weighs in at 210 pounds: you try knocking him down)

"As the days are winding down, the guys are getting very excited," Redding said, which may be the understatement of the preseason. "The offense is ready, the defense is more focused and the young guys are a whole lot better since Thursday (scrimmage)."

Miss an open-field tackle? Fail to shed a block? Take a lazy step? I pity the fool; I pity the fool.

FAN APPRECIATION DAY

Saturday’s scrimmage ended at 8:55 A.M. sharp, enough time for players to get showered and then home in time for cartoons. Instead, the team gathered at mid-field and then, with half the squad facing the east stands and half facing west, raised the Hook’em sign and sang "The Eyes" not so much with — but too — the fans.

The official salute, however, is not until Sunday when the Royal-Memorial Stadium gates open at noon for the annual Fan Appreciation Day. A "Punt, pass & kick" contest, in which two boys and two girls will be selected as participants from the crowd, is slated for 1:45 p.m., followed by a "Best dressed fan" contest at 1:55 p.m. The team will be introduced at 2:00 p.m., followed by a 2:30 p.m. autograph session.


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