AUSTIN _ Players have yet to start popping pads in Texas’ fall football camp, where practices began Friday. But one newcomer, freshman tailback Malcolm Brown, already has captured the attention of veteran teammates.
Brown, a five-star signee from Cibolo Steele, arrived with a reputation for being a stellar runner between the tackles because of his size (6-foot, 215 pounds) and production in high school over three seasons (6,663 career rushing yards, 86 TDs, 9.8 per carry). But safety Blake Gideon said he saw more than that during voluntary summer workouts.
“He’s talented in the open field more than I thought he’d be,” Gideon said. “He does have some ability to move his feet and swivel his hips. Even if he doesn’t start, he’s going to press guys (for playing time).”
One player who could surrender playing time is tailback Fozzy Whittaker, a senior who said he embraces his role of mentoring Brown and other young running backs.
“It’s my job to help make him the best football player he can be,” Whittaker said. “It’s always a learning curve. But he’s a very versatile back. He weighs a pretty good amount and he still has quick feet and great hands.”
Yet Brown’s most endearing asset to older players is his attitude.
“Malcolm’s said maybe five words to anybody since he’s been on campus,” Gideon said. “He just goes to work. He keeps his head down. He doesn’t say more than he’s supposed to, which some freshmen have a tendency to do when they come in. I’m excited to play with him. I think he can help us.”
Focusing on freshmen: Texas coach Mack Brown said the team’s early practices will be geared toward determining which incoming freshmen can contribute immediately. After three days, Brown said coaches will “start making decisions on who moves up to that first position and who does what.” But no official depth chart will be released until the Monday before the team’s Sept. 3 opener against Rice.
No QB decision imminent: Mack Brown said his four candidates competing to start at quarterback will begin separating themselves “in a couple of weeks, probably.” Coaches will have Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, Connor Wood and David Ash take part in competitive drills on a daily basis. Brown said “every pass” will be charted to gauge accuracy and each workout will have “a lot more” emphasis on third-down and red-zone situations than normal to help separate players.
Dual-threat Ash: Major Applewhite, Texas’ co-offensive coordinator, said freshman quarterback David Ash _ who averaged 41.9 yards per punt in high school _ might be used as a situational punter this season. Mack Brown said Ash probably won’t punt “unless he is playing some” at quarterback as well.
Two-deep defense: Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said his goal is to have enough quality depth to use 22 different players by the end of the first quarter _ two at each position _ without worrying about a dropoff in production. To make that happen, coach Mack Brown said the Longhorns “have got to find more tackles and … get more settled at cornerback.”
The defensive tackle situation, a carryover issue from last season, remains particularly vexing to Brown, who considers Kheeston Randall his only proven commodity at the position.
“We’ve got enough names,” Brown said. “It’s time to produce.”
Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.
_ Jimmy Burch