Senior wide receiver Malcolm Williams practiced this week for the first time this spring after sitting out with what head coach Mack Brown called a “family issue.”
Williams has been a veteran presence at practice in the first half of spring camp, assisting new wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt as he gets acclimated to a young corps of wide outs.
“We’re really happy to have him back. He’s a great leader for us,” said Brown. “He’s gained some weight. He can play the H-back position. He can play the wide receiver position. He can play a lot of things for us and he’s doing well in those areas.”
The Garland native is the Longhorns’ leading returning receiver, with 80 catches for 1,118 yards and seven touchdowns in his three-year career. Williams is also a fixture on special teams and is the elder statesman of the Texas receivers. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder should shore up a position that gave the Longhorns trouble a season ago with a number of untimely dropped passes.
“He gives us great leadership, outside of just the receiving position,” Brown said. “But he also gives us one of the best special teams players in the country.”
<strong>Brown focusing on run game</strong>
Texas’ poor performance on the ground over the past few seasons certainly hasn’t been lost on the Longhorns’ head coach, who said his teams have failed to run the ball consistently for four years.
Brown placed most of the burden on the offensive line to get things right this year, as the Longhorns continue to adapt to new co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. Brown noted the hardest part for the offense this spring has been line play, but that isn’t stopping him from stressing the importance of the running game.
“We’re going to run the ball and we are going to run it well, and it’s going to take a while because it’s a transition,” Brown said. “It’s a whole lot for the offensive line, and we only have eight scholarship offensive linemen healthy so we’re really thin there.”
Injuries have also taken a toll on the ball carriers, but not the usual suspects. The oft-injured Fozzy Whittaker has turned heads this spring and has stayed off the injury report.
“Fozzy has looked great, not good. We’re really excited about him, and he’s stayed healthy so far,” Brown said. “He really looks the best I have ever seen him look.”
Instead, the injury bug bit redshirt freshman Traylon Shead and junior Jeremy Hills. Shead pulled his hamstring and missed the Longhorns’ last scrimmage, while Hills missed time with a pulled groin.
Fifth-year senior Cody Johnson is working almost exclusively at fullback but has gotten reps at tailback this spring, as the coaching staff plans to use him in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Junior speedster D.J. Monroe, the most elusive of Texas’ backs, joined the team for practice this week after missing the opening of spring camp because of track-and-field commitments.
<strong>Horns get talk from Navy official</strong>
The assistant secretary of the Navy, Juan Garcia, greeted the Longhorns on Wednesday morning before practice. Garcia, who was in town for a lecture, spoke to the team about becoming leaders and took time to meet the players and coaching staff.
“It was a great meeting. It was fun, and I told him how much we appreciate him and all the guys and ladies that are across the world trying to help us stay safe,” Brown said. “We got some tips on leadership, which was good as well.”
The Longhorns lacked consistent leadership a year ago, and the coaching staff has put a larger emphasis on that dynamic this spring.
“We’ve got to compete hard every play and we didn’t all the time last year,” Brown said. “We’ve got to get that culture out of here.”