Thursday's first scrimmage of the preseason gave the coaches a great chance to collect video tape on young players. For those players who are fighting for starting positions, it, along with Saturday morning's scrimmage, will go a long way toward helping the coaches determine who will move up and down the depth chart.
It is significant who shines in the stadium, when the eyes of the coaches get a chance to view the players in a different light. However, the scrimmages are only a small part of an evaluation system that is vastly different from the way things used to be.
When James Street told the UT freshmen that "the game" is always going on, he was right. The eyes of the Texas coaches are always on their players. A Mack Brown practice is one of constant activity. Folks who were concerned over the number of snaps Chris Simms or Cedric Benson got in the scrimmage should not fret. The entire scrimmage consisted of about 80 plays, including kicks.
In a regular practice, with teams working against each other in dual sequences, a unit will get 30 snaps in about 10 minutes. That's why you seldom see the Longhorns running sprints. Brown wants the players moving all the time in practice. An offensive set will be paired against a defense set heading south and another set heading north.
During the first week of practice, the Longhorns worked twice a day Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and once a day on Tuesday, Thursday. To beat the heat, Brown scheduled the second practices at night. He first set the morning practice at 9:30 a.m., but then moved it to 8 a.m. because as many as 17 Longhorns players had morning summer school classes. Where summer practices in other years have faced challenging temperatures of 100-plus degrees, the fall drills have been staged in reasonably comfortable conditions. Even the 3:30 p.m. practices seemed to catch a good breeze on Frank Denius Fields.
The fans have responded to the schedule, with the night practices regularly drawing full houses, which is about all you can crowd into the space around the practice fields in use. Construction of the indoor facility on the northwest corner of the property has taken one of the outdoor fields as a staging area, so the Longhorns have been pretty much limited to two practices fields. However, it has worked.
Another positive physical development appears to be the new turf in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The new Joe Jamail Field was sprigged with grass in late April and the July rains helped the process of the rooting. Thursday's workout on the field earned a fine passing grade, as far as the durability of the new surface is concerned.
Saturday morning's early scrimmage will give the players some well-deserved extended time off. Sunday's Fan Appreciation Day will be dedicated to signing autographs.
Next week's schedule will include two practices on Monday, one on Tuesday, two more on Wednesday, including the final preseason scrimmage at 6 p.m., and one more Thursday morning. The veteran Longhorns likely will see more action in the final scrimmage as a tune-up for the season opener against North Texas on August 31. Until then, it will be snap, snap, hurry, hurry, while the team works on timing and conditioning. Less than 30 minutes after a practice session is over, Brown and his staff will be pouring over video, which will already have been broken down into several different sequences to allow the coaches to look carefully at every player and every play.
That's the on-going game. If you snooze, you lose, and the cameras, those eyes of Texas in the sky, will catch every move. The only time anybody stops, other than for the necessary water breaks, will be via the remote control.