Monday evening practice notes (updated)

Notes and analysis from the Horns' Monday evening practice:

FS Kendal Briles' left ankle injury (see Hot News) clearly had a chilling effect upon Monday night’s shortened practice at Frank Denius Field. Despite head coach Mack Brown’s obvious concern for Briles, there were a couple of reasons for optimism: Texas’ depth in the secondary is second only to its depth at wide receiver and RDE Kalen Thornton returned to full contact workouts for the first time this season.

"Our younger guys are doing very well back there (in the secondary)," the head coach said. "Cedric Griffin, Michael Huff, Dakarai Pearson and Kendal were all going to play a lot, and I hope Kendal isn’t hurt bad. We are going to do more substituting in the secondary than at any time since I’ve been here."

Thornton took the green jersey off Monday, bringing not only much needed experience to RDE but also a smile to Brown’s face.

"It’s good to see him out there," Brown said. "A lot of what’s part of coming back from a knee injury is the mental aspect; it’s testing it to see how well you do. Kalen is making great progress."

Thornton was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection last season in posting a team leading 20 QB pressures on the nation’s top defensive unit.

True freshman Bryan Pickryl started at LDE and Austin Sendlein started at RDE with the first team Monday evening, but that doesn’t mean that coaches gave LDE Cory Redding the night off. Redding, along with starting LDT Marcus Tubbs and RDT Miguel McKay missed practice due to final exams.

OFFENSIVE SMOKE & MIRRORS

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis turned the page in his playbook as the first- and second-team offenses practiced reverses and double reverses in the early going before trying the gadgetry on the first-team defense. The defense, thinned up front by final exams, stuffed the play for no gain on the first play from scrimmage against Chris Simms and Co. The offense would later find its rhythm with handoffs to Cedric Benson, completions to the fullback in the flat, and WR Roy Williams' 50-yard reception (even though it was against third-team defenders).

"The first-team offense, on it’s last drive, looked as good as I’ve seen it this year," Brown said.

When the Vince Young era begins (the prediction here is the week after the 2003 Oklahoma game), expect Texas to use more plays that can exploit Young’s ungodly speed (dude’s got 4.35 speed). But, for the most part, the option has vanished in Davis’ bag of tricks. So has the shovel pass that worked so effectively in the second half of last season, starting with the 42-7 win over Colorado in October. While coaches are pressed to nail down depth charts and bread-and-butter plays during the last days of the pre-season, Brown said he wants to see the option become a more integral part of the play calling.

"I jumped on our offensive coaches this morning because I haven’t seen the option run in three practices," Brown said. "Obviously, it made a difference because they didn’t run it again tonight."

The opening series of full contact drills pitted the third-team offense against the third-team defense with QB Matt Nordgren under center. With Brown reiterating Monday that coaches want to redshirt freshman Vince Young, Nordgren gained some valuable snaps, initially hitting freshman WR Dustin Miksch in the flat for a 15-yard pickup. The less heralded 6-5, 220-pound signal caller was a two-time all-state selection (1998, 2000) at Dallas’ Bishop Lynch High.

TE DAVID THOMAS

Aug. 19 was unofficially David Thomas Day. The true freshman, whom Brown said is the only TE matching the injured Bo Scaife’s speed, added to his two nifty grabs in the morning session with what would have been a midfield touchdown reception from Simms. Coaches, much to the chagrin of onlookers, quickly signaled the play dead. (A wise move, however, since it came on the heels of Briles’ injury).

By now, coaches know what the 6-3, 220-pounder can do. In fact, what Thomas can do is take the redshirt off. Experienced senior Chad Stevens has been a permanent fixture on the first-team unit since returning from a minor leg injury last week but "David will definitely play in our first game," Brown said. "David has been very impressive."

Thomas was a first team 4A all-state selection at Wolfforth Frenship High.

OU NAMES WHITE STARTING QB

This was Brown’s reaction to Oklahoma’s decision to start Jason White at quarterback instead of Nate Hybl:

"I honestly haven’t seen Jason White since we played them last year, and about the only thing I know about Jason is that he runs awfully well. He scrambled very well against us, he made our defense miss some tackles, and he’s got a lot of speed."

White was OU’s backup quarterback until the second quarter of last year’s State Fair showdown. White took the field on the fourth play of a 61-yard touchdown drive after DT Marcus Tubbs knocked Hybl out of the game with a separated shoulder. Aided primarily by OU tailback Quentin Griffin’s 17-yard dash on fourth down, White engineered the game’s only offensive touchdown.

SCHEDULE CHANGES

The time for Wednesday’s scrimmage, the last of the preseason open to the public, is now set for 7 p.m. at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Coaches wanted players to scrimmage at the same hour as the Aug. 31 kick-off against North Texas.

Thursday’s practice, scheduled for 10:45 a.m. at Denius Field, will likely be moved to 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Brown added. This would give players a chance to review the scrimmage film Thursday morning prior to its last practice of two-a-days.

Brown’s "list of things to do" during the final three days of the preseason include making depth-chart decisions on Tuesday and Wednesday before preparing for North Texas on Thursday.

"We’re trying to make personnel decisions, up and down, every day," Brown said, "but what you see out there now is a pretty good indicator (of the current depth chart)."

The annual Women’s Clinic is set for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Practices will be closed to the public starting Monday.

INJURY UPDATE

In addition to Briles’ injury and Thornton’s return, freshman DT Larry Dibbles, after wearing a green, non-contact jersey Monday morning, participated in contact drills Monday night and quickly became a presence in the backfield, throwing RB Anthony Johnson for a one-yard loss on the second play from scrimmage. TE/FB Brock Edwards should return by early next week from a quad injury, Brown said.


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