Official team reporting day is always an interesting event for fans, with excitement swirling around the returning stars, while anticipation and intrigue seem to be the common theme for a program’s newcomers.
Monday was no different for Texas Longhorn fans, as the burnt orange faithful were rewarded with the returns of talented players like Derrick Johnson, Cedric Benson and Vince Young to name but a few. But, there were some surprise omissions from the official reporting list. A few too many surprises, if you ask some Longhorn fans.
The most noticeable absentee is defensive end Mike Williams, a player who was expected to start at rush end and was being counted on to provide production at a position that was already thin with returning experience.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound speedster was arguably the Horns’ best pass-rushing threat and he was primed for a breakout year after recording six sacks last season (second on the team). In his absence, the coaches will look to the very talented, but unexperienced Brian Robison, who made the switch from linebacker to defensive end in the spring.
“I have some academic issues I need to take care of in order to return to the team. I'm really disappointed that I'm going to have to miss the season, but I'll spend the fall focusing my energy on that and I'll return to the team in the spring,” Williams said in a prepared statement.
To lend further depth at the position, Mack Brown announced that former defensive tackle Kaelen Jakes and former linebacker Aurmon Satchell will also make moves to defensive end. Williams’ absence could also open the door for true freshmen Brian Orakpo and Nic Redwine to crack the two-deep.
The depth along the defensive line was further depleted by the announcement that Bryan Pickryl would be out for at least the 2004-05 season and Austin Sendlein had chosen to give up his football playing career.
Pickryl, who started some games at defensive end in 2002 and ’03, will miss the year with an injury and it’s possible that his days as a Longhorn could be finished.
"I came in (as a freshman) rehabbing a shoulder injury and have had two more shoulder surgeries since. I've been trying to get my shoulder strong enough the last few years and haven't been able to get back to 100 percent,” he said. “I'm going to take a step back, try to get well, and make a decision on my future at a later date."
Sendlein, who recorded 21 tackles and two sacks last season, decided to hang up his cleats and focus on academics as well as helping the team in other areas.
“It's been an extremely difficult decision for me, but after dealing with a bunch of injuries the last few seasons I think it's best for me to concentrate on finishing my degree and helping the team in another way this season,” he said. “It'll be tough not playing on the field, but hopefully I can help the guys as a student coach."
It was announced that two other players, projected third-team running back Erik Hardeman and reserve defensive lineman Marco Martin, will not report with the team but they are expected to join the summer workouts before the season begins.
“I have a few personal things that I need to get taken care of. I'll be back with the team by next week," said Hardeman.
The only other player that did not report was true freshman Adam Ulatoski of Southlake Carroll. A highly-regarded offensive tackle prospect, Ulatoski will spend the next few months rehabbing a back injury and then join the team as a true freshman in January.
"I'm disappointed that I'm not in Austin checking in with the team today, but I think it's in my best interest to concentrate on getting my back healthy,” said Ulatoski. “The next few months, I'm going to concentrate on rehabbing and getting as physically fit as possible. I'll be in Austin at 100 percent in the spring."
The Longhorns return to the field for their first practice of the season on Tuesday night. The workout, scheduled for 6 p.m., will be held at Frank Denius Fields. Orangebloods.com will have complete coverage of the practice, with positional breakdowns and notes on the Inside the Forty Acres message board.