September 18, 2008

Which freshmen will make the cut come OU and Mizzou?

Message to the 19 freshmen at Texas who have played in the first two games: make your case quickly or your playing time could disappear after Sept. 27.

The Mack Brown who gave up collecting antiques over the off-season and now is into things shiny and new can probably only take this thing so far. There are only so many guys who have yet to shave who will take the field against Oklahoma and Missouri.

And, once again, give Brown credit for living up to his word thus far. He said he would be wide open on offense. There have been receiver passes, the Q Package and a little misdirection (although there needs to be a whole lot more misdirection come October.)

Brown said he would play young players. Check.

So let's take a look at the 19 freshmen who have played and determine which of those need to make their case Saturday against Rice and next Saturday against Arkansas to stay on the field when the Big 12 season starts.

RB FOZZY WHITTAKER - He's the next big-time back at Texas. He will be playing in October.

RB CODY JOHNSON - He is the featured back in the team's 32 Package (the jumbo, goal-line package that includes Roy Miller at fullback and Chris Ogbonnaya in the backfield). He will be playing in October.

LB EMMANUEL ACHO[db] - Acho has been a pleasant surprise and has earned coaches' trust. If he keeps on his current production graph, he'll play against OU and Mizzou.

RB [db]JEREMY HILLS - Already, playing time has been hard to come by. Unless Hills goes wild the next two weeks, don't expect to see him against the Big Boys in October.

S EARL THOMAS - There have been ups and downs the first two weeks - as expected. But the coaches feel like he and Blake Gideon are the guys they will build the secondary around for the next three-plus seasons.

S BLAKE GIDEON - Unbelievable. The guy has made very few mistakes and is the quarterback of the secondary. He makes most of the calls and helps line up older players who have been in the program longer. And he's even made a few plays.

WR MALCOLM WILLIAMS - Coaches like his physical toughness and blocking. He will be playing against Oklahoma and Missouri.

OL DAVID SNOW - Needs to get an opportunity to show what he can do the next two weeks to get on the field in October.

WR DAN BUCKNER - Wasn't physical enough to get off press coverage on a pass route in the end zone against UTEP, leading to Colt McCoy's only interception this season (McCoy should have seen Buckner didn't get off press and not thrown the ball, either.) Those are the kinds of plays the Old Mack would hold against a player come Texas-OU. We'll see. McCoy called the play "a great learning experience early in the season."

DT KHEESTON RANDALL - He was OK against UTEP, but with Lamarr Houston back, Randall will need to show coaches a big push to get on the field in October. The thought of Randall going up against OU's Duke Robinson probably doesn't appeal to Mack Brown at this moment.

LB KEENAN ROBINSON - Robinson is in a tough spot as the backup at strongside linebacker. That position is moving to defensive end (Sergio Kindle) in the Buck Package with five defensive backs on the field. So it may not be Robinson's fault that he doesn't get a ton of work in October. He could be the victim of situational defense.

K JUSTIN TUCKER - He has locked down the job of kicking off. Right now he's averaging a touchback on 40 percent of his kickoffs. (I know, I know, a bunch came in the mountain air at UTEP.)

DT MICHAEL WILCOXON - See Kheeston Randall.

S BEN WELLS - Coaches are really hoping to develop the chemistry needed between Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon, so reps at safety will be hard to come by. But he's been a key player on special teams.

CB AARON WILLIAMS - He's already a monster on special teams with two partially blocked punts against UTEP. If there's any leaking at cornerback ahead of him, he'll get on the field. If he keeps progressing, he could be part of the depth in the secondary against OU and Mizzou.



S NOLAN BREWSTER - See Ben Wells and Christian Scott.

DE RUSSELL CARTER - See Michael Wilcoxon and Kheeston Randall.

By my count, only nine of the 19 will see time on the field against OU and Mizzou unless there are big pushes the next two weeks. The nine are: Cody Johnson, Emmanuel Acho, Earl Thomas, Blake Gideon, Malcolm Williams, Fozzy Whittaker, Dan Buckner, Justin Tucker and Aaron Williams.

To the 10 other freshmen who have seen action this season, don't get satisfied now. Coaches need to see a lot more in exchange for playing time in October.

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