Studdard, Garcia 'Fight' To Fill Spot On O-Line

Studdard, Garcia 'Fight' To Fill Spot On O-Line

Lost on the casual fan during Texas&#146; pre-season camp is one of the biggest battles (literally and figuratively) for playing time at left offensive guard. The O-line returns four starters who will keep their jobs but <B>Kasey Studdard</B> and junior <B>Mike Garcia</B> are &quot;in a fight for that left guard spot,&quot; head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> said Tuesday morning.

This low profile, yet highly critical, contest is to take over for Tillman Holloway, who completed his eligibility last season. One does not replace overnight a second-team All-American with 37 career starts, but both Studdard (6-3, 285) and Garcia (6-3, 310) appear to have both the tools and attitude to hold their own among their more seasoned counterparts.

Garcia logged two starts at RG during the last two games of 2003 (in place of injured Will Allen) and has 26 career appearances as a backup. Entering the spring, he was the heir apparent for Holloway’s old spot. Health, however, may be an issue. He was limited the past two springs, suffering a knee injury (2002) and a foot injury (2004).

That opened the door for Studdard last March, and coaches couldn’t stop talking about him. Studdard appeared in seven games last year as a RS-freshman and is a chip off the old block(er). His father (Dave) played OT at Texas (1975-77) and helped pave the way for Earl Campbell’s Heisman run while his uncle (Les) also played OT at Texas (1978-80). Even without the impressive pedigree, this may be a case where Studdard’s talent and hustle may be enough to mitigate Brown’s reluctance to play underclassmen in the early going (i.e. before the OU game).

"Kasey loves to play and he’s got a tough motor," Brown said. "His motor runs full speed — all the time.

If the season started today, who would get the nod?

"Today, it would be Kasey Studdard," the head coach said, "but we're lucky that Mike Garcia has played a whole lot and he'll rotate with those other two guards (Studdard and Allen)..."

Along with Allen at RG, Texas returns senior Jason Glynn (a pre-season Rimington Award candidate for nation’s top center), junior Justin Blalock (RT) and junior Jonathan Scott (LT). It’s a unit that took a beating from defenses (and disgruntled fans) for most of 2002 and the early part of last season. Now, members of the O-line insist they are confident, experienced and already jelling.

"We’re definitely getting together as a group and meshing well together," Scott said Tuesday. "We kind of feel what’s going to go on and what’s going to happen. Basically, we’ve been together since my freshman year. We can definitely read each other inside out. We can definitely count on the person next to you to make that block."

That’s good news for Orangebloods but especially for RB Cedric Benson.

"Those guys are working on perfection now," Benson said. "They’re all experienced and they’re making things happen. Every time I get the ball, there’s always room to run."

PRACTICE NOTES:

Tuesday was the second of four two-a-days for August camp. The morning session was closed to fans and media, but Brown spoke to the press after the workout: "They came out this morning with a great attitude and they worked really hard. They were focused and we’re really excited about the way they continue to work on the mental part of the game. This time of the year, football is hard. Teams grow up, build their chemistry and their toughness in pre-season camp. These guys are really trying to do that. Some of them get a little sore and they fight through that."

Added Brown: "The hardest thing I do is balance the amount of hitting, the amount of time on the field with the amount of rest, and still send the message of toughness and let the guys get into condition because their going to have to play 70-to-75 plays in two weeks. You have to be in shape to do that. If football was easy, there would be a lot more people playing it."

I mentioned Saturday that (as to be expected), Texas’ experienced secondary and linebackers set the tempo when the team donned pads for the first time. Brown said it’s difficult to determine (at this point) which unit has the upper hand because of substitution patterns and because the offense may be focusing on specific plays during a certain 11-on-11 drill. Even so, Brown said, "Your defense better be whipping your offense a lot of the time because you really need to be good on defense to have a chance to win all the games."

Former Longhorn coach David McWilliams (1987-91) attended Tuesday morning’s session.

The Horns are scheduled to practice at 7:05 p.m., Tuesday, at Denius Field.

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