Notes from post-scrimmage interviews with Texas players and coaches on Roy Miller’s new role, young DBs that are stepping up, some shuffling on the offensive line and more.
Roy Miller Working at Fullback Last season the Longhorns frequently used defensive tackle Derek Lokey at the fullback position. This season Roy Miller is going to get his chance. The senior DT worked as the fullback in goal line situations during Saturday’s scrimmage and, according to quarterback Colt McCoy, is doing quite well at the position.
“His job is to go head-up on someone else and I think he’s going to win that battle most of the time,” said McCoy.
Miller is certainly excited at the prospect of playing some O this season and getting to deliver some hits on opposing defenders.
“I love to hit, especially when all I’ve got to do is run at somebody. That’s fun,” said Miller.
Two Young DBs Standing Out We’ve heard plenty about young safeties such as Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon, but what about the corners? Senior Ryan Palmer and junior Deon Beasley will be the starters at cornerback when Texas opens the season against Florida Atlantic on Aug. 30, but given the number spread passing attacks the Horns will face in 2008, some young corners will need to step up.
According to Palmer, two of the best right now are sophomore Chykie Brown and true freshman Aaron Williams.
“Chykie and Aaron are doing really good back there,” said Palmer. “I like their game. They play physical and they’re real big dudes.”
Palmer said what each needs to work on, though, is their consistency and his defensive coordinator agrees.
“Both guys have shown some flashes,” said Will Muschamp. “They’ve played well at times, but those are two guys who haven’t played under the lights as much, especially Aaron being a freshman. We’re pleased with their ability, consistency is what we’re looking for.”
Muschamp said consistency is important to him because of the nature of the position.
“Three-technique (defensive tackle) can make a mistake and maybe nobody knows. When we make a mistake on the back end, it’s costly for us and we’ve got to make sure we don’t have that,” said Muschamp.
Since they’ve got the talent, if they developed consistency could they eventually take over a starting spot, even being so young? Muschamp had a very concise answer for the question: What does a freshman have to do to become a starter?
“Play good. Same thing a senior does,” said Muschamp. “I don’t care if he’s a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. We’re going to play the guys who are going to win football games and play well defensively.”
Some Shuffling on the Offensive LineTexas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said on Saturday he’s looking for a great deal of flexibility in his offensive line, meaning he’s cross-training his backups at multiple positions so he can get the best five on the field, especially if there is an injury. Davis gave several examples, such as Britt Michell working at guard and tackle, Buck Burnette working at guard and center and Greg Smith working at tackle and, in the wake of injuries at the position, tight end.
Ironically, the multi-talented Chris Hall has been at only one spot.
“Chris Hall has only played center in camp, but we know can move him outside if we need to,” said Davis.
The first team has been pretty much the same group throughout camp, but Davis said that the guard positions are not as set as many think. According to Davis, sophomore Michael Huey is battling with senior Cedric Dockery for starting right guard spot. Huey is currently backing up both Charlie Tanner and Dockery and there’s a chance he could replace either, but closest competition right now is between he and Dockery.
Davis is also considering moving Burnette, who has been listed as Hall’s backup at center, to guard permanently and moving true freshman David Snow in as the No. 2 center. Davis said Snow is working a lot with the second team at center and has blown coaches away with his talent.
“He has been talked about along the same lines as (Justin) Blalock,” said Davis. “When Blalock redshirted, we talked for three or four games about whether or not we were doing the right thing and David Snow is in that category.”
The preference at Texas is almost always to redshirt, but, if necessary, Snow is good enough to play right now.
Overall, Davis is expecting a much better offensive line than last year and one that can make use of its depth.
“I think what you’re going to see is a few more personnel groupings than what you’ve seen in the past,” said Davis.
Linebackers Stepping UpOn defense, the unit that received the most criticism last season was the linebackers. Muschamp said that he expects the unit to be the strength of the defense this season.
“I think we’ve got a good group of play-makers and guys who have stepped forward and we’ve got some competition, which makes everybody better,” said Muschamp. “When you have that, that makes guys become self-starters. You don’t have to do as much in terms of motivation as a day-to-day process in camp.”
The tightest competition is at middle linebacker, where senior Rashad Bobino and junior Jared Norton are considered co-starters. Both have been playing well and Muschamp plans on reviewing the tape of Saturday’s scrimmage and all of the practices before deciding which of the two opens with the first team on Aug. 30.
However, Muschamp said he doesn’t like the idea of a particular unit taking as much heat as the LBs did last season at Texas because of the team nature of defense.
“We’ve got to have a good pass rush, we’ve got to have good underneath coverage by the linebackers, good fronts in the run game, good coverage from the defensive backs. When one fails, we all fail, so there’s not going to be one group that fails for us. If anything, it’s me. So if we don’t play well, it’s my fault,” said Muschamp.
Big Improvement on Defense in Assignments and Execution “We had poor pad level in the first scrimmage and missed some assignments. Today was much better,” said Muschamp.
The Texas DC said execution on defense has improved greatly over the course of camp and said the biggest reason for the initial struggles was the sheer amount of information his players were having process.
“We throw a bunch at them,” said Muschamp. “I told the guys that we install for the season. I don’t want to go into a game saying, ‘Ok, now we’re going to do this.’ That’s hard to do for a kid because offenses run the same offense every week. Defensively you’ve got to adjust what you do to what they do. So you can’t throw a new concept out there and expect them to get it done in a week’s period of time.”
According to McCoy, Muschamp’s installation of multiple defenses is helping the offense as well, which has had to deal with attacks from multiple directions.
“They’re doing a lot of three-down and four-down, switching to nickel packages and dime packages. They’re giving us all different kinds of looks and it’s really going to help us all season,” said McCoy.