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Texas Longhorns first practice notes

The media was allowed access to the season's first practice.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Longhorns football players checked in on Sunday as head coach Charlie Strong met with the media for the first time this fall and then started practice on Monday.

Since most first practices don't produce a great deal of note, there wasn't a lot of ground-breaking information that emerged, but there were several developments worth noting.

On the injury front, the Horns are mostly healthy with only several players not cleared for full contact. Junior wide receiver Marcus Johnson was one of those players on Monday, as he sat out following minor nose surgery. The likely No. 2 receiver for Texas this season was wearing a bandage on his nose, but isn't expected to be out long.

Also, during a media availability on Monday, junior running back Johnathan Gray said that he's now 95% recovered from his Achilles injury last fall and expects to be completely healthy in the near future. And that's heartening news with the recent hits to the depth chart at the position following the dismissals of senior Joe Bergeron and sophomore Jalen Overstreet, moves that Strong made official on Sunday.

From a depth chart standpoint, the composition of the offensive line was certainly one of the stories that emerged from the session. The starters, from left to right, were sophomore Kent Perkins, junior Sedrick Flowers, senior Dominic Espinosa, junior Taylor Doyle, and redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson.

Since senior left tackle Desmond Harrison is looking at a suspension of yet-undetermined length, seeing Perkins step back in at a tackle position was hardly a surprise, but his counterpart on the right side was definitely a surprise, as junior Kennedy Estelle was slated for that slot.

Instead working  as a back up, one has to wonder if Estelle has been in some trouble with the coaching staff of late to cost him a spot among the starting five.

As for Raulerson, he definitely has the body quickness to play a tackle position and struggled in the past with bigger interior players, so tackle might be a good fit for him, though it leaves the Horns without a back up at the center position. At 6'5, he has enough height to play the position and was even rated as an offensive tackle out of high school by Max Preps.

It's also possible that redshirt freshman Darius James could get a look there, too, as he did during the spring. Basically, with the suspension of Harrison and the demotion of Estelle, it's an all-hands-on-deck situation for Texas and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline.

The other surprise came on defense, as walk on sophomore safety Dylan Haines spent time working with the ones. Haines could become a fan favorite this fall as he vies for playing time and senior defensive end Cedric Reed said that the team is rooting for him to succeed.

From Lago Vista, Haines actually has ideal measurables at 6'1 and 190 pounds, so he's not undersized like most walk ons. Following an interception in the spring game, he looked poised to earn playing time this fall and that trajectory continued on Monday.

As did the message from Strong to his young scholarship safeties -- step up or sit in favor of the non-scholarship athlete.

Along the defensive front, one of the position battles to watch features junior defensive end Shiro Davis and sophomore defensive end Caleb Bluiett. Competing for the spot opposite of Reed, Davis started with the first team, suggesting he currently has the upper hand in that competition, even though Bluiett outplayed the Louisiana native in the spring game.

On Sunday, Strong cited senior running back Malcolm Brown and junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown as guys who have taken to the weight conditioning program -- the former Brown having leaned up and added muscle and the latter Brown having dropped some weight.

On Monday, sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, a big-time wild card along the defensive line for Texas, was praised as looking like he's in excellent condition. Always a physical specimen, the question with Ridgeway has been his consistency from play to play and practice to practice.

If he can maximize his potential, he has All-Conference ability.

The Horns are practicing again and the start of the season is only weeks away.

Feels good, doesn't it?