Spring Football: Horns a 'different' team

It's only four practices into spring workouts, but it's obvious that this Texas team has a different look than those of recent vintage. And it's not just the guy under center.

Mack Brown calls it "competitive emotion."

"We want to be aggressive; we want to have emotion," the Texas head coach said Saturday. "That's what I told them at the end of the game." Saturday's "game" definitely featured emotion, with Longhorn players getting in a couple of scraps during the 80-play scrimmage. "I told them to get away from the trash, get away from the pushing after the play because those are bad habits and that'll cost us," Brown said. "But (the emotion) is good as long as they do it within the rules."

The coach said the attitude of the players is reflected in a different way as well, one not as evident to the naked eye but one that the staff sees daily. "We've had two themes for spring," Brown said. "One is, every time you come out here, if your coach asks you, 'Did you improve,' can you tell him yes and what you improved in? And the other is finish. The two games we lost last year were in the fourth quarter. We need to finish. We finished a lot in the fourth quarter at Kansas State and Nebraska and some of those places but we have to finish every time to win all the games and that's what we're working towards doing. Those are the two things that we've asked our guys to do."

From a performance standpoint, Brown cautioned against reading too much into offensive or defensive trends or the success (or failure) of individual drives and plays. Individual players? That's another story, although Brown stressed that improvement at this phase of spring is as important as outright success.

"We're trying to find the best players for the first eight days and look at more schemes in the last seven days," he said, noting that the Horns squared off ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos for the entire scrimmage. "We don't have much in with the first offense. We're trying to run the ball better and use play action more, get more misdirection, which we're doing and I'm excited about that. Defensively, we're playing more zone because we need to learn to play zone better not because we're going to use it all the time, and we're playing more base defense."

"Everything was full speed today except we didn't tackle," Brown added. "We're tackling a lot more in individual drills and we're doing what we call 'thud' which means you go full speed, you hit the guys with both of your hands but we're wrapping up more in drills."

Brown pointed to several players as standouts, and at least one will probably surprise you.

"I thought Chance Mock and Vince Young made some plays," he said. "I thought Cedric Benson looked really good. I'm pleased after four days with the offensive line. I think they've done a good job. Good protection for a second day in pads and we stayed out here a long time yesterday so they had to be sore today and a little tired with their legs. Defensively, I'm glad to see Kalen Thornton healthy again. I thought Garnet Smith showed up some. Aaron Harris is showing up some at linebacker and I'm excited about that. Matt Melton is making some plays. I saw Eric Hall and Mike Williams show up a couple of times at defensive end. Tully Janszen's had a good week at defensive tackle. Larry Dibbles continues to improve at defensive tackle so there's a lot of young guys that are popping up." (Also see Hot News for Brown's comments on Neale Tweedie, Will Allen and Albert Hardy.)

That Brown singled out Harris is the surprising comment given that Harris, who many thought would push for significant playing time last fall before suffering an August concussion, had only been sharing time with Aurmon Satchell behind starter Reed Boyd over the first few spring practices. Saturday, both Harris and Satchell worked with the second team at MLB but late in the scrimmage, Satchell at SAM also took snaps alongside MLB Harris.

"I think a lot of guys got a lot of good playing time," Nathan Vasher said. "The last couple of days we've had some really good practices and we just wanted to come out full speed and see what it looks like, and it looked pretty good."

And, in many ways, pretty different, which in the long run could also make this team far more than "pretty good."

[Editor's note: Notes and analysis are coming tomorrow. Also see Hot News for more from Saturday's scrimmage.]

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