Big 12: Ishie Oduegwu

Irby, Shipley to miss Longhorns' spring practice

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
5:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Starting tight end Blaine Irby and wide receiver Jordan Shipley are among nine Texas players who will miss spring practice due to injuries.

Other players who will miss Texas' practices, which start Friday, include punter Trevor Gerland (knee), defensive tackle Jarvis Humphrey (kidney), defensive lineman Dominique Jones (shoulder), defensive end Eddie Jones (ankle), defensive back Kenny Vaccaro (knee), tight end Josh Marshall (limited to non-contact drills) and deep-snapper Alex Zumberge (shoulder).

Irby sustained a broken leg in Texas' third game last season against Rice and missed the rest of the season. Coach Mack Brown marvels at his spirit despite the injury.

"Blaine is doing pretty good," Brown said. "He is a wonderful young man who is really upbeat and positive. He's fighting it and coming back. You always worry about a guy who was starting and playing so well and then have that type of injury take his football (away) immediately. But he hasn't missed a workout and is trying his best to get back as soon as he can."

His absence this spring will make finding production at tight end one of the Longhorns' primary aims.

"We've had so many injuries at tight end," Brown said. "Those are positions hard to find any more because so few people are playing with a tight end and fewer are playing with a fullback in high school because of the influx of the Big 12's spread offense."

Greg Smith and Ahmard Howard are listed as co-starters at the position, with Ian Harris and D.J. Grant behind them.

"I would say it is as big a concern as we have offensively," Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "I'm concerned about it. But the good thing about it is that it gives us a chance for some of those guys to get a bunch of snaps."

Davis also conceded that Irby's injury explained why the Longhorns struggled running the ball.

"There's no question as much (four-wide receiver) as we used was a factor in our running game," Davis said. "We've got to find out if one or two of those guys are going to be able to do what we want done."

Shipley underwent shoulder surgery on Jan. 23, repairing an injury that bothered him most of the 2008 season.

"When they told us Jordan would have his operation we were disappointed for him he would have it," Brown said. "But at the same time he doesn't need spring. He can be out there running. As soon as he gets his brace off, he can get in great shape. And with all of the pounding his body has taken we thought it was a real plus. He could rest his body and it forces us to look at some of the young guys who haven't been out there."

Shipley's injury will provide a chance for young receivers like Brock Fitzhenry, Dan Buckner and DeSean Hales to have more playing time this spring.

"We're going to get really good looks at them," Brown said. "They'll have to be out there when it matters so the pace will pick up for them."

The Longhorns also announced that senior safety Ishie Oduegwu has decided to give up football after a series of injuries.

Oduegwu started three games in the 2007 season, but missed last year after having shoulder surgery before the season -- his fifth operation since arriving at college.

"We're pleased for Ishie that he's done so well here," Brown said. "He's had a real tough run with his injuries and he just felt like it was time for him to move forward with his life."

Five burning questions for Texas

August, 26, 2008
8/26/08
9:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Even though Texas claimed 10 victories last season, and defeated Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, there weren't many happy people around the Forty Acres after last season.

 
 Scott Wachter/Icon SMI
 Mack Brown and the Longhorns hope to build on 2007's 10-win season.

The Longhorns struggled defensively, ranking 109th nationally in pass defense, 52nd in overall defense and allowed more passing yards than any team in school history. Those struggles led to coach Mack Brown to demote former defensive coordinator Duane Akina and hire fiery new coordinator Will Muschamp from Auburn.

Brown hopes that move will shake some lethargy from a program that too often played without passion last season. It will be interesting to see if that decision shakes up the defensive unit and gets them to play harder. If nothing else, it will likely provide the Longhorns with a few "YouTube" moments from Muschamp's wild sideline rants.

Those disappointments have reduced expectations from most observers to the lowest since the 1999 season. Brown has to be loving that response -- almost as much as the motivational material prompted by some of Howard Schnellenberger's taunts about his team heading into their opener Saturday night against Florida Atlantic.

Heading into that game, here are five pressing concerns for the Longhorns.

1. Can the young secondary hold up?

The secondary is the youngest that Brown has ever had and it got even younger when the most veteran member, Ishie Oduegwu, went down. It will mean that five freshmen defensive backs could see action against a talented Florida Atlantic passing game. And it won't get any easier once Big 12 play begins.

2. How will the defense respond to Muschamp?

So far, so good as the Longhorns seem to have gravitated to his aggressive nature. But will that nature stand up after a little adversity? We'll see.

3. Colt's turnovers

After a record-breaking freshman season, QB Colt McCoy had a tendency to try to do too much last season. It helped lead him to throw 18 interceptions, which tied for the conference lead and were the most thrown by a Texas quarterback in Big 12 history in one season. He's got to do a better job this season.

4. Who will be Texas' featured running threat?

Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya will get the first shot with Fozzy Whittaker waiting for his chance after he recovers from his knee injury suffered late in training camp. McGee is more of a move-the-pile runner, Ogbonnaya is a better pass-catcher and Whittaker a more explosive back. The combination should be useful, if all can handle not being the featured back.

5. How will the Longhorns handled the diminished expectations?

Diminished for Texas, anyway. Most observers have them picked for third in the Big 12 South. It's hard to believe that Brown ever would need to play the disrespect card at Texas, but this season looks like the perfect time.

Texas' young secondary faces huge challenge against FAU

August, 25, 2008
8/25/08
10:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The defensive calls are simpler and some of the best young recruits in college football will be playing Saturday night in Texas' secondary in the Longhorns' season opener against Florida Atlantic.

And it still won't make Texas coach Mack Brown rest any easier over the next several nights before his team's first game.

The Longhorns will open the season with unprecedented youth in the secondary, including freshmen safeties Blake Gideon and Earl Thomas in the starting lineup.

Backing them up will be three more freshmen, all for a unit that a year ago ranked 109th nationally in passing, set school records for passing yards and touchdown passes allowed and is already breaking in a new coordinator.

Making the task even more perilous will be Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith, who passed for 3,688 yards and 32 touchdowns for the nation's 16th most potent passing attack last season.

And did we add that the largest crowd to attend a football game in Texas state history is expected?

So it's understandable that Brown isn't resting too comfortable these days -- getting ready for an opponent he calls the best team that has ever traveled to Austin for an opener in his 11-year coaching tenure there.

"It's hard to test them like they're going to be tested with that noise and with a bunch that's as good at throwing the ball as Florida Atlantic," Brown said about his defensive unit. "We're going to have to play well because they're going to throw the ball."

Brown is especially girding for an FAU offense that returns 10 starters and rolled up at least 30 points in six of its final seven games last season. Included in that run was FAU's 44-27 shellacking of Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl in the Owls' first postseason action in school history.

"You'd love to play older defensive backs," Brown said. "It's interesting that the best thing Florida Atlantic does is throw the ball and the thing we've had the most trouble with is stopping the pass. We're excited about it, but it's obviously a concern."

The Longhorns' injury woes worsened Monday when junior Ishie Oduegwu was announced out for the game after shoulder surgery. Oduegwu was the defense's most experienced player in the secondary with three career starts.

The Texas secondary is dotted with high school standouts who came to college with strong pedigrees. But it will be interesting to see how the Longhorns react to a solid passing team in their first game.

Thomas has been one of the most impressive players in Texas' training camp. And players
like Nolan Brewster, Christian Scott and Ben Wells all were heralded high school players. Collectively, Brown compares his incoming group in the secondary to the one that featured future NFL standouts Cedric Griffin, Michael Griffin and Michael Huff.

That group served as the core of the Longhorns' national championship team's secondary, but all played together early in their careers.

"It's only a concern because they haven't been out there, and we're going to need our fans to really help us because we're probably going to give up some plays," Brown said.

And it will only get worse for this group as gun-slinging Big 12 quarterbacks like Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell and Todd Reesing loom in upcoming weeks.

Brown wants this green group to grow up fast and get challenged early -- even if it might come with some growing pains along the way.

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