BOHLS: HORNS TRY TO SHORE UP DE­FENSE

Acho might have to make the move from end to in­side this year

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - KIRK BOHLS

IRV­ING — For a likely top-10 pre­sea­son team, ques­tions still abound for Texas. Gar­rett Gil­bert’s next start at quar­ter­back will be his first in col­lege. There is no go-to re­ceiver now that Jor­dan Ship­ley has gone to Cincin­nati.

Texas says it will run more in 2010, kind of like it said it would run more in 2009, 2008, 2007, etc. Be­lieve it in Septem­ber.

De­spite ru­mors, the tight end po­si­tion has not been abol­ished, even though Greg Smith caught all of six balls for 48 yards with­out a touch­down last year. The tight end spot with Smith and Bar­rett Matthews might make a nice se­cret — or even dou­ble-se­cret — weapon. All that not­with­stand­ing, the biggest ques­tion for the Longhorns will be the glar­ingly thin de­fen­sive tackle po­si­tion. How thin? The ex­pe­ri­ence there is so shal­low that Sam Acho was asked over and over at Big 12 me­dia day on Wed­nes­day whether he had put on any weight to ac­com­mo­date his likely full-time shift there from de­fen­sive end. The an­swer is none.

The se­nior from Dal­las St. Mark’s still weighs in the same neigh­bor­hood of 260 pounds as he did a year ago, when he ter­ror­ized op­po­nents for 10 sacks, play­ing end op­po­site the good-luck-chal­lenged Ser­gio Kin­dle.

With the de­par­tures of Lamarr Hous­ton to the Oak­land Raiders, Ben Alexan­der to grad­u­a­tion and red­shirt fresh­man trans­fer Derek John­son to Arkansas State, Texas has just one true tackle who has lined up there as a starter, moun­tain­ous Khee­ston Randall, who’s all-con­fer­ence-cal­iber.

“It’s our true key on de­fense,” coach Mack Brown said. “We’ve got num­bers at that po­si­tion, but we do not have qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence. We have to look at a num­ber of guys to see

Con­tin­ued from C what fits. We can go to a 3-4, we can move Sam Acho in there. We’d rather not.”

The void of proven depth might not hurt as much since the Big 12 isn’t a run­ning league. How­ever, it could be a run­ning league when Texas plays folks if the Longhorns can’t stop the run first. They led the nation in that cat­e­gory last sea­son as Hous­ton was a beast in the mold of pre­vi­ous sen­sa­tions Roy Miller and Derek Lokey.

Even be­fore them, the Longhorns have been pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity de­fen­sive tack­les with cook­iecut­ter fre­quency, reg­u­larly churn­ing out Pro Bowlers such as Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers and solid play­ers such as Cory Red­ding, who had been an end at Texas.

Rod Wright and Frank Okam were much bet­ter as Longhorns than as pros, but de­fen­sive tack­les still play in Austin with some sense of great ex­pec­ta­tion.

“We walk by the pic­tures of past de­fen­sive tack­les like Derek and Casey and Shaun and Mar­cus (Tubbs),” Randall said, “and we know what the ex­pec­ta­tions at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas are.”

Fans can ex­pect more if new­com­ers such as red­shirt fresh­man Calvin How­ell, Tyrell Hig­gins and Kyle Kriegel emerge as re­li­able con­trib­u­tors.

All three are needed to make an im­pact, but mam­moth in­com­ing fresh­men Tay­lor Bi­ble and Ash­ton Dorsey will be given chances to pro­duce early.

Texas will see some strong ground teams in Texas A&M, Ok­la­homa and Ok­la­homa State, and Texas Tech will use the run much more than in the past. Longhorns neme­sis Kansas State may have the best run­ning back in the league in Daniel Thomas, un­less that player is in Khee­ston Randall, putting A&M quar­ter­back Jer­rod John­son on the turf last sea­son, started 0 games at de­fen­sive tackle last sea­son for Texas. He’s the lone proven force at the po­si­tion. Col­lege Sta­tion (Chris­tine Michael), Nor­man (DeMarco Mur­ray) or Still­wa­ter (Ken­dall Hunter).

Longhorns fans should be com­forted, we’re guess­ing, that Acho hasn’t al­ready been moved to tackle per­ma­nently. That ap­par­ently shows good faith in some of the other raw prospects who will line up next to the 6-5, 295-pound Randall, the team’s one le­git­i­mate pres­ence at tackle who started 10 games there last sea­son and will prob­a­bly bat down a dozen or more passes this year.

But we won’t be sur­prised if Acho’s time at tackle doesn’t go way up over the es­ti­mated 40 per­cent of the snaps he spent there last sea­son, when de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Will Muschamp wanted to in­sert an ex­tra pass rusher up front.

Acho could be spelled at end be­cause Texas has much more depth there in Alex Okafor, Ed­die Jones and Reg­gie Wil­son, with help on the way from re­cruits, in­clud­ing Jack­son Jef­f­coat.

Acho con­firmed he did spend more time at tackle than at end in the spring, and that he isn’t the least bit re­luc­tant to move there full­time, if nec­es­sary.

“I’ll do both,” he said. “I love both. What­ever Coach Muschamp has planned for me is fine.”

Care­ful what you wish for, Sam. Muschamp may plan for you to never come off the field.

Ralph bar­rera

Texas de­fen­sive line­man Sam Acho sacks Ne­braska quar­ter­back Zac Lee in the sec­ond quar­ter of last year’s Big 12 Cham­pi­onship game at Cow­boys Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton. Acho says he doesn’t mind play­ing more at tackle if Will Muschamp wants him there.

Deb­o­rah Can­non

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