March 19, 2009

What we still need to know as spring football resumes

Colt McCoy has spent his second straight spring break digging wells in a third-world village in Peru. Sam Acho and punter John Gold have finished mission work in Nigeria. Now, it's time to get back to work.

The team gathers to resume spring workouts Thursday after a week off for spring break. Let's look at where we've been and where we're going …


10 THINGS WE LEARNED THE FIRST WEEK OF SPRING

1. John Chiles will play receiver


Chiles has a long way to go, but he appears ready to work to get there.

2. Garrett Gilbert, who isn't even on campus yet, will most likely be UT's backup quarterback in 2009

Gilbert has to beat out Sherrod Harris, but that will be expected because Gilbert has so much upside

3. Lamarr Houston is emerging as a vocal leader on defense

This is a huge development. With Roy Miller gone, the defense needs an in-your-face enforcer, and Houston appears to be it.

4. Earl Thomas is already playing with a lot of confidence

Not only is Thomas making play after play, but he's starting to pick up where Ryan Palmer left off as a leader in the secondary

5. A receiving corps led by Brandon Collins and Malcolm Williams is raising the level of its play

Collins, Williams and James Kirkendoll have set a high bar for others like Montre Webbber, DeSean Hales and Brock Fitzhenry to emulate

6. Christian Scott is playing safety in the nickel package

Leave it to Will Muschamp to figure out how to get Christian Scott on the field without taking Blake Gideon or Earl Thomas off it. The early reviews on Scott are what we thought - he's a head hunter always near the ball.

7. Kheeston Randall has given coaches no reason to doubt he'll be starting at defensive tackle

With Miller and Aaron Lewis moving on, Randall needs to step it up - and he has.

8. Sergio Kindle has quickly taken to playing rush end

This is actually a huge development, but it's so far down the list because we probably all expected Kindle to star as Brian Orakpo's replacement.

9. Aaron Williams is holding off Deon Beasley at cornerback

The latest example of how Muschamp is going to play the best player - regardless of age - has had some great battles already with his explosive namesake (Malcolm Williams).

10. D.J. Monroe is being held out of spring drills while he focuses on academics

Monroe is a blazer. But you have to be eligible to use it.

10 THINGS WE STILL NEED TO LEARN THIS SPRING

1. Who will emerge as the team's leader at tailback?


Cody Johnson is still running first team. Will he be Mack Brown's new Natrone Means?

2. Will Texas finally have the power running game Mack Brown has been looking for?

Mack is serious about this. The offense focused most of the first half of spring ball on establishing the run.

3. Can Texas add depth along the defensive line?

If something were to happen to Houston or Randall, who would step in? The answer might not come until the fall.

4. Which receivers will fill out the six-man rotation Bobby Kennedy is looking for?

With Williams, Collins, Kirkendoll and Shipley holding down four of the WR spots, there's a couple spots left in the rotation for some exciting young blood like Hales, Fitzhenry and Chiles.

5. What will Texas do about the tight end position?

With Blaine Irby out until the fall, there's a golden opportunity for someone like sophomore Ian Harris (6-4, 253).

6. Can Chykie Brown keep developing the confidence that will turn him into an all-conference performer?

Texas was only +2 in turnovers last season despite a wicked pass rush. Having a healthy, confident Brown all season should help increase that number.

7. Can Emmanuel Acho or Jared Norton make an impact as the Buck defensive end?

Muschamp is back in the laboratory, trying to find speed and pass rush that he can manufacture.

8. How much chemistry can Colt McCoy establish with receivers Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Malcolm Williams?

With security blanket Quan Cosby moving on, McCoy has spent the most time in the off-season working with these three. One of McCoy's key roles this spring is bringing these three along the way Vince Young helped Billy Pittman and Limas Sweed before the 2005 season.

9. Can Keenan Robinson, Dustin Earnest and Emmanuel Acho start to show they can be the next wave of linebackers at Texas?

With Kindle, Muckelroy and Norton moving on at linebacker after next season, it's time for these guys to make a move or the youngins' like Tariq Allen and Ryan Roberson may have something to say about it.

10. Who of the early enrollee freshmen can get a leg up on the competition?

Coaches have been impressed with DE Alex Okafor, CB Marcus Davis and LBs Allen and Roberson. OL Mason Walters and Thomas Ashcraft did a lot of learning the first week, as did DT Kyle Kriegel


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