Q: Which new offensive, defensive and special team players are you looking for to make big contributions this year?
Offensively, it has to be D.J. Grant at the tight end position as every other player who will log significant minutes this season played in some capacity last year. The redshirt freshman will have every opportunity to earn the majority of the snaps at the tight end position this camp. Coordinator Greg Davis said on Sunday, "It's always great to have a guy, like we've been fortunate to have in Bo (Scaife) and David (Thomas) and Jermichael (Finley) that could stretch the field and do that. Hopefully that's where D.J. Grant fits that mold physically."
On defense, I expect that end Alex Okafor is everyone's pick here. If I have to go more off the radar than that, it would be one of the two freshmen defensive tackles, Calvin Howell or Derek Johnson. Those two are already in the top six according to Coach Will Muschamp.
On special teams, look for Malcolm or Aaron Williams to thrive with the opportunity to return kickoffs this season. Jordan Shipley will be limited in that role this year, so the door is opening for the both guys. Obviously, they both played last season, but this will be their first real opportunity to star in the kick return game.
Q: I listened to Mack Brown at the Longhorn Foundation two weeks ago. He was flat-out asked about playing the second team players late and running up the score late. He didn't give a very clear answer. "It's a balancing act. You want to win with class, but you also want to put your team in the position to play for the National Championship. It's a real balancing act and something I have to consider."
Obviously he doesn't like to run up the score and humiliate teams. After getting rooked last season with OU running up the score late in the season, do you believe what he says? I don't think he wants to run up the score on teams, but do you think he's scarred from last season and isn't going to let it happen again?
Mack Brown will always coach with a high level of respect for the opponent's coach and players and not intentionally rub their noses in it when given the opportunity. However, I do think this season Texas fans will see some changes in late game second string players. At the end of ballgames, I expect that the second team players will run the typical Texas offense as opposed to just running the ball up the middle as he needs to prepare next season's starting quarterback for the 2010 season.
In addition, I expect that Colt McCoy may ask to stay in games a little longer this season.
Q: If Greg Smith and DJ Grant are not able to produce at a high level at the tight end position, what are the offense's options?
The most likely option is to go to the 10-personnel, which is one back, no tight end, and four wide receivers. It makes it a little more difficult to run the football unless you can spread the defenders out far enough by formation and deep threat that pulls a safety away from the line of scrimmage.
Both Malcolm Williams and Jordan Shipley could excel with the mismatches from the flex tight end position.
Q: Do you think Texas plays under center more this season?
The Texas offense does plan on playing more snaps from under center this season, but do not expect it to be anything more than a change of pace formation.
After Sunday's first practice, offensive coordinator Greg Davis talked about playing more under center, "we're going to play more under center. Now, we have played very little under center as you know in the last three years. I don't want you to think that all of the sudden we're going to play 40 percent, 50 percent of the time under center, but we do want to play under the center more for a couple of reasons. One is to let the backs go downhill. That is the biggest thing. Also when we play up-tempo, we play under center, like we did against Ohio State. When we're playing with a really fast tempo, we like to play under the center."
At the same time, the coaches realize that Colt McCoy is their best weapon and biggest mismatch so do not expect them to stray too far from McCoy in the shotgun.
"We are going to play to our strengths," Davis added.
Q: Besides Sergio Kindle, who do you think will step up and provide the pass rush we need in this league? Who else will get close to double digit sack numbers? Last season, Sergio Kindle had ten sacks and Brian Orakpo has 11.5 sacks. Kindle should be in that same ballpark again, and the guy to watch for is Sam Acho at the power defensive end spot. Acho has shown a knack for getting to the quarterback in limited snaps during his first two seasons. Last year, he notched three sacks in spot duty, so expect that number to increase with more snaps.
Q: What defensive tackles do you think will get the bulk of the snaps?
Lamarr Houston is up to 300 pounds (he played at 275 last year) and has really adapted well. If you recall, he was a running back in high school (Michigan St. actually offered him as a RB), but kept growing out of the linebacker and defensive end roles. He will get as many snaps as he can handle at tackle.
Sophomore Kheeston Randall from Beaumont Kelly is the most likely to get the bulk of the snaps at the other tackle position. Ben Alexander is a spot duty, limited snap run stopper who may get more snaps in games which feature a strong running game (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State). Higgins, Howell, and Johnson should be in line for quality snaps off the bench.