Wednesday, March 16, 2005 Updated: March 29, 8:34 PM ET
Young preparing for fresh start
By Ivan Maisel ESPN.com
Texas coach Mack Brown is not prone to panic, which is a good thing, because tailback Cedric Benson is gone and his heir apparent, Selvin Young, is rehabbing a broken ankle and not even in school.
The coaching staff expects that Young will be in summer school and will be ready to go by the Sept. 3 season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. But the Longhorns don't know for sure because good health and Young haven't been in the same room very often during his three years in Austin. If Young isn't ready, expect a whole lot of throat clearing and foot shuffling.
Mack Brown hopes to have a healthy Selvin Young in the backfield this season.
For one thing, Young is big (6 feet, 215 pounds) like Benson and has shown that he can run like him. As a freshman in 2002, when Benson came out of the gate slowly, Young all but shared the job with him.
For another, if Young isn't available, the tailback most likely will be sophomore Ramonce Taylor, who spent time at tailback and wide receiver last fall. Behind Taylor are the four freshmen the Longhorns signed last month, including Michael Houston of Denver, who has enrolled and is participating in spring ball.
"We put him [Taylor] at tailback for the first seven days of spring practice, and we'll give it another eight," said Brown, who is visiting family in North Carolina this week, "Ramonce has good speed. He's more of a Warrick Dunn type. If he's the guy, we would have to change who we are."
Nothing against Taylor, who is talented, but you don't change unless you have to, which brings the Horns back to Young. He remained healthy as a freshman, rushing for 408 yards and five touchdowns. But his sophomore year has more accurately defined his career.
Early in the year against New Mexico State, Young returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns. But a pulled groin muscle knocked him out of two games and hampered him for the last half of the season.
Last fall, Young broke his ankle in the second game of the season against Arkansas. This semester, he is taking classes at Austin Community College to shore up his academics and focus on rehab. It is not uncommon for athletes to go this route; a conference can request a waiver and the NCAA would have to sign off on it.
"His question mark is staying healthy," Brown said. "When I talked to him, he wanted to change his number. 'I'm starting over,' he said. He has been [No.] 3. He came in and wanted 22. That was my high school number, but I don't think that's why he wanted it," Brown said dryly.
"Numbers are important to kids. This is a fresh, new start."
The Longhorns should be as good as they have ever been, which is pretty good, given that they've won 43 games over the last four seasons. Moreover, although Benson will be gone, the four returning starters on the offensive line have a total of 88 career starts.
"The best offensive line we've ever had," Brown said.
Junior quarterback Vince Young is a star, and if he can line up with his close friend and fellow Houstonian at tailback, Brown believes that Texas will have a better chance of maintaining that string of 10-win seasons. The answers, however, won't begin to emerge until the summer.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.