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March 31, 2007

Young QBs turn in big plays; one kicker excels

STILL NO SEPARATION

The quarterbacks are always the hot topic at every spring scrimmage, and the talk this year centered on back-ups Sherrod Harris and John Chiles, as each guy is still trying to solidify his spot on the depth chart behind Colt McCoy.

Both Harris and Chiles made plays with his legs, but the young quarterbacks had difficulties mounting much of a charge through the air.

Harris came into the game on the second series (McCoy started) but it was Chiles that first brought the fans to their feet. The true freshman executed a ball fake perfectly and darted around the left end and into the secondary. About 20 yards downfield, Chiles put on the breaks a couple of times, juking defenders (including Sergio Kindle) on his way to the end zone.

Not to be outdone, Harris came back on the very next possession to make a big play of his own. The redshirt freshman ran around the right side on a keeper, split the defense and then hit the jets for a touchdown that covered more than 70 yards.

The coaches have said all spring that the two players are running neck and neck, and Saturday's work did little to separate things. As Greg Davis said earlier this week, it was a similar story last year with McCoy and Jevan Snead, but the real separation began with the team's off-season workouts, where McCoy took command. Perhaps the same will hold true with Harris and Chiles, but this one is too close to call right now.

"We felt like we have to separate our young quarterbacks. You saw the confusion with them, but both of them made some really good plays," said Mack Brown. We're more ahead in the running game with them than where we are in the passing game. We need to continue to work and they can get a lot done in the passing game with their receivers and tight ends between now and the time we start back next fall."

LOTS OF VETERANS TAKE THE FIELD FIRST

Texas will undoubtedly have a lot of young pups battling for starting positions on the defense right up until the first game of the 2007 season, but Saturday's first-string line-up looked fairly familiar.

For all the talk among fans that Kindle, Roddrick Muckelroy and even Jared Norton could push some of the established veterans for a spot atop the depth chart, it was the same starting three from last season that took the field first in the spring scrimmage. Robert Killebrew, Rashad Bobino and Scott Derry were the first linebackers on the field, and Derry came away with the defensive play of the day on a later series. The senior starter stepped in front of an intended slant pass from Chiles and made an easy interception.

All of the linebackers saw quite a bit of action and the depth chart is still a long way from being finalized, but it is worth noting that there have not been any wholesale changes in the starting line-up just yet.

The same questions have been raised in regards to the defensive backfield. Will some of the young players be able to push for a starting cornerback job, or will the guys with the most experience run with the first team? On Saturday afternoon, it was senior Brandon Foster and junior Ryan Palmer that worked with the first unit on the opening series. They were joined by Marcus Griffin and Erick Jackson at the safety spots. Ben Wells, Chykie Brown, Deon Beasley and Curtis Brown also logged quite a bit of time before the day was done, but it was the veterans that got the first reps.

OFFENSIVE LINE COMING ALONG

The Horns are set at the tackle spots with the return of Tony Hills and Adam Ulatoski, but the coaches have the unenviable task of replacing all three starters on the interior. Throw in the absence of projected starting guard Cedric Dockery, and it's pretty green at the center and guard spots.

Center Dallas Griffin made some really nice plays in the spring game and while guards Chris Hall and Charlie Tanner had their work cut out for them in matching up with the talented Texas defensive tackles and it caused some penalties, Mack Brown said he likes what he's seen from his young linemen over the course of the spring.

"Dallas Griffin did a great job. He's a little bit undersized compared to Lyle Sendlein, but he's in honors business classes, he's a 3.9 student, and he's really strong. He played a lot last year, a lot more than people think. He hasn't had a bad snap in the shotgun all spring," Brown said. "Charlie Tanner and Chris Hall made tremendous progress this spring, but we've still got to have some more guys. That's an area where we just have to get more depth."

BAILEY GETS A LEG UP

There's still an open battle between Ryan Bailey and Hunter Lawrence to lock down the place-kicking duties, and Bailey took a major step towards winning the job on Saturday.

Bailey connected on both of his field goal attempts on the day (31 and 34 yards) while Lawrence missed on a 39-yarder.

Lawrence did hit the ball well on kick-offs (now from the 30-yard line), including one kick that landed on the goal line.

John Gold, Trevor Gerland and Justin Moore handled the punting duties, with Gold averaging 41 yards on two kicks, Gerland 49 on one kick and Moore 34 on one kick.


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