Texas football players ended the preseason with Friday morning’s practice and are free for the weekend. It means that Longhorn coaches now have to make the toughest decisions of August camp before the official depth chart is released Monday.
“Now, we start deciding who’s going to play more and that’s a tough thing for the morale of your team,” head coach Mack Brown said. “You’re splitting your team some. You decide who travels, and that’s a difficult thing because there are some who wanted to travel but who will not. You start talking about redshirting. These are all things that are very, very difficult for kids to handle.”
Topping the list of decisions that must be reached within the next 48 hours: the pecking order at RB, locating receivers No. 3 through No. 6, establishing a two-deep chart at safety, evaluating the package for for quarterbacks Colt McCoy and John Chiles, and, yes, scheming for Florida Atlantic’s polished pocket passer Rusty Smith.
While players are presumably resting-up following the most physically demanding Longhorn camp in recent memory, Texas coaches will be burning the midnight oil.
“There’s not a lot of lost sleep at night right now,” Brown said. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right guys on the field and that’s a hard decision. You have make sure you feature what your guys on the field can do best. That’s a real difficult job. To me, that’s coaching. Then, you motivate the guys. They have to start getting confident. You have to push them but, at some point, they have to believe they can whip the other guy.”
Once personnel decisions are finalized, Brown wants to address an area that has proved problematic on more than one occasion during his 11-year tenure: determining his team’s ‘offensive identity’ prior to the season-opener. Texas’ offensive philosophy, of course, determines a multiple of critical decisions, including bread-and-butter plays, overall schemes and the rotation. It was something Texas did not discover until after it opened Big 12 Conference play with consecutive losses last season. (Likewise, Brown conceded that coaches were still searching for an ‘offensive identity’ after stumbling to a 4-2 mark in 2003).
‘We didn’t even know who we were on offense until the fifth game last year,” Brown acknowledged. “We just weren’t consistent, but we’re ahead of that now because of the (more experienced) offensive line. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have some of those answers early next week and start polishing it. You want to make sure it shows up on Saturday like you planned on it being.”
And that may require a couple of all-nighters for Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
“Greg and I will sit down, after all the practices and all the scrimmages, and figure out who we are,” Brown promised. “Then, we’ll go back and see who we need to be as a team. Greg, Will (Muschamp) and I will talk a lot this weekend to see what the offense needs to do to help the defense.
Friday morning’s practice was basically a review session of the entire camp but with an emphasis on special teams. It was also intended to simulate a Thursday-practice on game-week.
Players report back Sunday evening.