What Do the "Or's" Really Mean?

When Texas released it's first depth chart of the 2008 season this week, 20 "or's" showed up on a three-deep covered with co-starters and co-backups. On Wednesday, Texas head coach Mack Brown addressed whether having that many "or's" is a good or a bad sign as the opener against Florida Atlantic approaches.

On Monday, when the depth chart was first released, Texas head coach Mack Brown said there was a lot of separating to do before the opener.

"We're trying to make more decisions right now at this time of the year than we ever have," said Brown.

Those decisions won't be revealed until the players step out on the field against Florida Atlantic, but Brown said on Wednesday that having having co-starters means exactly that...co-starters. Both guys are starters, both guys will play, regardless of which one goes out onto the field first.

"That's what 'either-or' does, it gives two guys a chance to play. It gives two guys a chance to start," said Brown. "Obviously, one of them will walk out there when the game starts, but we've always told our team that the only team that starts is either the kickoff team or the kickoff return team. Everybody else goes in, but one of those two groups starts the game and there are no other starters because we're going to rotate."

But is that necessarily a good thing?

Listing players as co-starters means there isn't significant separation. It could be because players haven't played well in practice, stepped up or established themselves as starters, but Brown looks at the other side of the coin.

"It might mean that both those guys are ready to start and we just haven't picked one yet," said Brown. "'Either-or' gets confusing to some people. To us it's a really good thing. If you're negative you can say, 'Boy, neither one of them are ready to play.'"

One of the positions where many are saying 'Boy, neither one of them are ready to play' is at Sub-B (slot receiver), where Malcolm Williams and Brandon Collins are listed as co-starters. Early in camp, Williams had a leg up on the other receivers in competition for the third starting spot before seemingly fading. Brown has a simpler explanation.

"Some people had said that Malcolm Williams had hit a wall, he really didn't. He dropped a pass and our standard's really high," said Brown. "He's played really well and Brandon Collins is playing well too."

Along with Williams and Collins, sophomore James Kirkendoll and freshman Dan Buckner also have a chance of taking that starting spot and each will likely play on Saturday. According to Brown, Buckner initially struggled when he got to Texas in the spring, but has improved a great deal in his short time on the 40 Acres.

"Dan Buckner is a much better player right now than he was this spring because things are happening easier for him," said Brown. "Things were so quick in the spring and we thought Dan was struggling. Looking back, he was just thinking about everything new and how everything was quicker. Now Dan's playing really well."

Buckner is one of many young players on the Texas depth char. Brown said that youth contributes to the number of "or's" because the true test of a player's ability happens on Saturday. It's doubly difficult to tell who's the better player if they've never stepped onto a college field or played in front of 98,000.

"That's why we'll know a whole lot more about this team on Saturday night than we do right now. We think we know, but we still don't know. Especially freshmen," said Brown.

Of course, having a high number of "or's" on a Texas depth chart has not been an unusual thing during Brown's tenure in Austin. Brown says the more "or's" the better because that means more depth.

"We've really worked hard here for ten years to have a real two-deep and I think that's key," said Brown. "That's the reason we've been able to win ten games with so many injuries the last two years, is because we really sell depth."

True depth where both co-starters are playing strong...or a lack of separation due to poor performances? Brown argues the former and said that having "or's" is a sign of strength.

"The (coaches) that don't have any ("or's" on their depth charts) are either lying to you or they don't have any depth. What we have done here is we've won a lot of games because we've had really good depth," said Brown.

Texas fans will get a chance to find out when the Horns kick off the 2008 season at 6 p.m. on Saturday against FAU.

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