Freshmen will be particularly counted on to shore up depth at WR and along the offensive line, two areas hit hard by attrition since the end of the 2006 season. Meanwhile, the defense will be three-deep at nine positions once SLB Sergio Kindle and DE Henry Melton return to the program in late September.
For now, SE Limas Sweed (wrist) is "probable" for Saturday's home opener against Arkansas State while FL Jordan Shipley (hamstring) is "doubtful", according to Brown. (Sweed is listed as a co-starter with Quan Cosby at the X receiver spot.) Sub-B receiver Billy Pittman (shoulder) will not play. The rash of injuries at WR have opened the door for true freshmen James Kirkendoll and Brandon Collins at flanker, but the pair may have impressed enough during the preseason to have cracked the depth chart anyway.
Coaches have raved about offensive lineman Chris Hall (6-4, 295) throughout the spring and summer. Now, the sophomore is listed as a co-starter at right guard alongside Cedric Dockery as well as the co-starter at center with Dallas Griffin.
"We are planning on rotating Chris Hall in the middle," Brown said. "Whether he or Cedric Dockery starts, or whether he or Dallas Griffin starts, Chris is going to play."
Dockery suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Oklahoma last October and is gradually working his way back into the lineup.
"They (trainers) have said that, to be 100 percent, it takes a year," Brown continued, "but we've been very impressed with him. He's been tough. He's tried, and he hasn't missed (a practice). Normally, you would ask him to miss and he didn't want to. I've been pleased with him, but I don't know that he can play 75 plays. I don't think he's ready for that."
True freshman Michael Huey (6-5, 305) also cracked the three-deep at right guard. As expected, highly touted true freshman Tray Allen is listed as left tackle Tony Hill's backup. True freshman Kyle Hix is slated to backup sophomore right tackle Adam Ulatoski. But membership on the depth chart may not necessarily translate into extended playing time this weekend, Brown noted.
"I don't know that we're ready to put all those freshmen linemen in there yet," Brown said. "Those are things we haven't decided yet."
Redshirt-freshman Vondrell McGee cracked the depth chart, sharing backup duties with Chris Ogbonnaya as running back Jamaal Charles' primary understudy. True freshman Blaine Irby is listed alongside junior Peter Ullman to provide depth at tight end behind all-Big 12 candidate Jermichael Finley. RS-freshman Antwan Cobb enjoyed a breakout spring and is listed behind junior Luke Tiemann at fullback.
A pair of true freshmen, Curtis Brown and Earl Thomas, are listed as co-backups to senior Brandon Foster at left corner. True freshman and Parade All-American Keenan Robinson is expected to factor into the rotation, backing co-starters Scott Derry and Roddrick Muckelroy at weakside linebacker.
RS-freshmen also dot the depth chart, providing depth at defensive end (Eddie Jones, a consensus first-team prep All-American from Kilgore), at strongside linebacker (Dustin Earnest) and at right corner (Chykie Brown). But Texas will be three-deep at every spot except middle linebacker and (power) DE once Melton and Kindle return following a three-game DUI suspension. (Note: Marcus Griffin is listed as the co-starter at free safety with Drew Kelson, but Kelson can play at either safety position.)
The presence of two true freshmen, one RS-freshman and two sophomores in a secondary that replaces three starters leaves the scheme unsettled heading into Saturday's game.
"It's easier to play 'man'," Brown said. "It's harder with ability but easier with scheme. When you get into disguising coverages and moving around, especially against a team like Arkansas State that uses a lot of different formations that tries to get your secondary aligned wrong, that puts you in a difficult spot. We'll be a team that has a lot more answers after four non-conference games. We'll have a lot more answers then than we do now."