Two scrimmages slated for the next four days will go a long way toward solidifying Texas’ 2008 depth chart. The first shakedown is set for Wednesday morning at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis will train his eyes on RBs Vondrell McGee, Foswhitt Whittaker and Chris Ogbonnaya simply because the season’s first scrimmage should be the most telling session to date for relatively unproven ball carriers.
“It’s hard to evaluate running backs until you put them in a scrimmage-situation,” Davis said. “When you’re just ‘thudding’, you really don’t know if they broke the tackle or not. You can evaluate blitz pick-ups and catches, but you can’t really evaluate running backs until you go live in a scrimmage….There’s only a limited amount of times you can go ‘live’ during camp, so it plays a big part in determining who takes the first snap and who comes in.”
For now, it remains a tailback-by-committee. There has been no mention of specifically determining a featured back, but a pecking order will be set eventually — perhaps as early as this week or even as late as the Arkansas game (September 13).
“It always seems to shake itself out by the second or third game of the season. We don’t want to paint ourselves into a corner. We’d like to have two (RBs) and then a third-down back who can do all of it. Then, we’d go with whoever gets hot. Until that shakes out, we’ll either have to rotate the backs by series or plays or something like that.”
Davis is also looking to establish his rotation among the younger wide receivers.
“We’re trying to find the best combination,” Davis said, “because different teams present different problems.”
Davis will continue to tweak the QB package involving Colt McCoy and John Chiles, but McCoy’s primary learning curve this preseason is “stepping forward in the pocket. There were times last year when he left the pocket when he could have stepped forward. He can still be a threat as a runner, but we want him to keep the pass alive.” Ball security is also high on McCoy’s list of Things To Do, Davis said, after he threw 18 picks his sophomore season.
Davis’ plan is to begin Wednesday with more blitz pick-up drills “because you can’t get too much of that.” The Ones and Two will get about 30 snaps apiece before the scrimmage concludes with Red Zone work as well as operating in the shadow of your own goal post.
Defensively, the most intriguing battle is whether MLB Rashad Bobino (38 starts) can fend off Jared Norton. The sophomore replaced Bobino the last time Texas took the field when coach Mack Brown rewarded productivity with starting assignments in the 2007 Holiday Bowl. There is also healthy competition at SS, the only spot in the secondary that isn’t quite a lock. Ben Wells appears to have the inside track although true freshman Blake Gideon impressed early.
The second scrimmage is set for Saturday morning and, this year, will be closed to the public. The annual Fan Appreciate Day that typically follows the season’s second scrimmage is set for 11 a.m. at Gregory Gym. Fans are instructed to enter Gregory through the west entrance off Speedway where 2,000 wristbands will be distributed staring at 9 a.m. Those who are 16-years or older must present a photo ID to request autographs and will be limited to two autograph items per person.