UT defense already in ‘ooh’ mode at practices

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Randy Maltz is a die-hard sports fan, with passion for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns. He is Founder & Editor of Silver and Blue Report and Hook 'em Report. He still idolizes Roger Staubach and Tom Landry.
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UT defense already in ‘ooh’ mode at practices
Cedric Golden, Commentary – Statesman.com

If you don’t like the sound of pads cracking on a football field, this column isn’t for you. After watching the Texas Longhorns’ two open practices last week, the Texas defense got the assembled fans at the big stadium charged and ready for the upcoming season.

I can’t shake the feeling that this defense will be terrific, despite the obvious question marks at defensive tackle. There’s a sense of violence in this group, and tight end Greg Smith can attest to that after he was caught on the receiving end of a blowup hit by safety Christian Scott on the first play of Wednesday’s scrimmage drill.

“That’s how you set the tone to any time of scrimmage or game setting,” said safety Blake Gideon. “There is no doubt in my mind when we’re playing live bullets out there that Christian Scott will bring the same heat. That’s the type of player he is.”

Scott seems to always bring something with him when arriving on the scene. Can’t wait to see him unleashed.

And while we’re oohing and ahhing over Scott’s hit, let’s not forget to credit Smith for hanging on to the football.

And just when you thought it was safe to catch the football … cornerback Aaron Williams introduced himself to young wideout Mike Davis on the first day of full pads with a thudding blow after Davis attempted to turn a swing pass upfield.

Those “woo” hits are message senders that indicate this defense will be fun to watch in 2010. Scott and Williams can become stars this season in what is already one of the best three defensive backfields in the country.

From the eye test alone, Williams is the next great corner produced by Duane Akina, and his teammate Curtis Brown is scary good as well. Phil Steele’s college preview magazine ranks Brown and Williams sixth and eighth, respectively, nationally among cornerbacks. They’re a couple of ballhawks who can blanket wideouts, and more important, they are more than willing to get their nose bloodied in run support.

“There no such thing as a cover corner,” defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. “You have to play physical in this game.”

An FYI on Williams: His coaches and teammates refer to him as A.J. all the time, but his father let me know last season that he would prefer his son be called Aaron in print. Not a problem, Mr. Williams.

After watching Garrett Gilbert connect with John Chiles for a 50-yard touchdown pass in Thursday’s practice, I wasn’t reminded of Colt McCoy’s telepathic connection with Jordan Shipley, but I couldn’t help but think these two could have a special relationship over time.

Given the time to throw, Gilbert will get the ball there, and if Chiles continues to improve his route running, he can become a quality pass-catcher. We have been waiting for Chiles to deliver on that immense potential he showed at Mansfield, and it’s understandable that it takes time to become accustomed to a position change. With that said, Chiles looked big and fast Wednesday and Thursday.

It’s just cool to see a receiver willing to go over the middle, and Chiles appears willing to stick his nose in there. He has the potential to catch 40 balls for 400 yards as Gilbert is sure to spread it around. Chiles even flashed the old arm on a rollout play, hitting James Kirkendoll for a 20-yard gain.

“(I) still have a little bit left,” he said after the pass.

While Chiles is having a nice start to fall camp, keep an eye on DeSean Hales. He had a nice spring and followed up with a couple of eye-catching grabs the past week. Wouldn’t it be nice to see him come out of nowhere this season like Billy Pittman did in 2005? The Horns could use another step-up season from an unexpected source.

The best name from camp? Carrington Byndom. That sounds like a cross between an 1980s oil baron and an oft-injured NBA center, even if Lakers post Andrew Bynum does spell his last name differently.

Byndom is a highly touted freshman corner from Lufkin who has been thrown to the wolves in drills. The coaches have assigned him to the fastest of the Texas receivers, and to the kid’s credit, he hasn’t backed down. Case in point: After he was beaten deep by Marquise Goodwin — the fastest guy on the team — on an out-and-up route, Byndom came back on the next play and broke up a pass intended for Hales.

Cornerbacks have short memories, and Byndom probably learned that from birth since his dad, C.B. Byndom, played defensive back at the University of Houston from 1981-84.

Mack Brown said last week that Fozzy Whittaker and Tré Newton had separated themselves from the other contenders for the starting running back job in the spring and neither did anything to dispute that assertion this week, but Cody Johnson did make a few noticeable runs in scrimmages.

Johnson appears to be in good shape at 250 pounds and hit the hole with decisiveness. He’s never going to scare defenses with breakaway speed, but he could be that clock-milker this team needs in games they’re leading late. I did notice he put the ball on the ground a couple of times this week, and that’s always an area of concern for backs.

Given Whittaker’s history of injury, Johnson could receive a relatively heavy workload if he holds on to the ball. That is, if the team is as committed to running the football as the coaches would have us believe.

cgolden@statesman.com

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