One of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s biggest concerns heading into this season is the inexperience inside at defensive tackle. Junior Kheeston Randall, who had 23 tackles and two sacks last year, is the only veteran.
But last weekend, Muschamp had to make a decision on who would line up next to Randall as the other starter. Despite the hype and buzz surrounding sophomore Alex Okafor and redshirt freshman Calvin Howell’s names, Muschamp listed junior Tyrell Higgins as the other starting tackle on Monday.
“He’s been all over the place [during the offseason] doing a great job,” Randall said of Higgins. “He’s shown the coaches that he’s ready to play the role that they’re asking him to play.”
Muschamp plans to use five or six players in the tackle rotation, which includes Okafor and Howell coming in for Higgins and freshman Ashton Dorsey coming in at the nose for Randall.
“If I trust a guy, he’s going to play,” Muschamp said.
So despite the inexperience on the defensive line, at this stage in the game it looks like this group has earned their coach’s confidence.
In Gilbert they trust
After a whirlwind start to his college career when he was thrown to the sharks in the national championship game, Garrett Gilbert’s football career has finally slowed back down. He’s had the chance to go through spring drills, summer seven-on-sevens and fall camp — all against a defense that consists of a myriad of future NFL prospects — and get comfortable with being the team’s leader.
The past two years the Longhorns relied on Colt McCoy to win games for them. Though the coaches have implemented a running game and will line him up under center for the majority of the snaps to relieve some pressure, they feel that if it came down to it, Gilbert could throw the long ball and get the team out of trouble.
Gilbert has an impressive high school football resume, winning two state championships and a player of the year award at Lake Travis, but he’s still inexperienced at the collegiate level and it’s unfair to think of him as picking up right where McCoy left off.
“We all forget he’s starting his first [college] game on Saturday,” said head coach Mack Brown.
Speedsters on special teams
Brown expects his special teams unit to play the best they’ve ever played this season.
“If your special teams can get you points and field position, the rest [of the game] usually works by itself,” he said.
What Brown is most excited about in the unit is the team’s punt block and return group, which consists of cornerbacks Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams, track star-receiver Marquise Goodwin and safeties Christian Scott and Kenny Vaccaro — some of the team’s quickest, most agile and hard-hitting players.
With this group, the Longhorns have the potential to block more than five punts, the team’s total in 2009.