Austin, Texas The Texas Longhorns reported to training camp Thursday ready to leave behind the smoldering wreckage of their dismal 2010, but even the fresh start on a new season came with the news they’ll be without yet another veteran receiver.
Coach Mack Brown said senior Malcolm Williams, a well-liked player who was also a key contributor on special teams, left the team for personal reasons.
“Malcolm’s got some family issues,” Brown said without elaborating. “He’s been an outstanding player for us. He had some tough things happen. I think this summer he was planning on playing ... I want what’s best for him.”
Williams played in 39 games, starting 18. He had 1,188 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. His departure further depletes a group of receivers that will also be missing junior Marquise Goodwin, the U.S. national long jump champion who is skipping the 2011 football season to concentrate on the track world championships and a chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
Reserve receivers Brock Fitzhenry also will not return and Greg Timmons, who played mostly on special teams last season, announced in June he would transfer.
“We’re thin there,” Brown said. “It puts us in a tough spot with numbers.”
The Longhorns’ 5-7 finish last season was Brown’s first losing season at Texas and first in 20 years as a head coach.
Brown revamped his staff with seven new assistants and declared every position open in the spring and in training camp to renew a sense of urgency in a program that Brown says had settled into a sense of entitlement.
“I think everybody has renewed intensity,” senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho said. “You learn you’ve got to keep swinging.”
But even with the changes, the Longhorns have been picked to finish in the middle or bottom half of the new 10-team Big 12, well below rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Texas went 2-5 at home last season and goes on the road to play four of the teams that beat the Longhorns in Austin last season.
“Anytime you come off a season like last year, you have a lot to prove,” senior safety Blake Gideon said.
The biggest position battle of training camp will be at quarterback, where junior Garrett Gilbert is fighting to keep the starters’ job after throwing 17 interceptions against just 10 touchdowns last season.
Competing with Gilbert is sophomore Case McCoy, the younger brother of former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, redshirt freshman Connor Wood and true freshman David Ash. McCoy threw only one pass last season but arguably outplayed Gilbert in the spring game.
Brown hasn’t given any hint as to who he expects to emerge as the starter for the Sept. 3 season opener against Rice. Their teammates were reluctant to shed much light on what they saw in offseason practices, but junior defensive end Alex Okafor said Gilbert “really picked up his leadership.”
Brown, who often says the players know who should be the starter, said he’s talked to them about the quarterbacks but wouldn’t reveal what he’s heard. The coaches will chart every throw and design drills that should allow the potential starter to elevate himself from the group.
“The biggest thing is leadership,” Brown said. “You’ve got to protect the ball. You’ve got to put the ball in the end zone. We feel like it’s going to be a great battle.”