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Texas begins rebuilding project in private

Texas coach Mack Brown is keeping his rebuilding project private — for now.

The Longhorns began spring practice Thursday with five new assistant coaches after last season's disastrous 5-7 finish, and Brown is keeping all of spring drills closed to the public until the annual team scrimmage on April 3.

Brown has closed most of his team practices for several years, but said he decided to close them all this year because he doesn't want any distractions for himself, his players and his staff during his "brick-by-brick" team reconstruction. Not after the first losing season at Texas in 13 years.

"We've got to start over and we're rebuilding a foundation at every level: offense, defense, special teams, credibility, strength and conditioning, swagger, body language, chemistry, everything," Brown said.

"I don't want our players and our coaches trying to please other people to start practice. We've got a lot to do," Brown said. "I don't want media, I don't want people in the stands, I don't want autographs. Nothing right now. This is only about getting better."

But he also hopes fans will show up when he's ready to unveil the new product.

"I want the largest crowd at our spring game we've ever had," Brown said. "I want them to see a sharp and organized football team."

Brown's two biggest moves in the offseason were hiring new offensive co-coordinator Bryan Harsin from Boise State and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz from Mississippi State.

To help build team chemistry, Brown had Harsin address the defensive players and Diaz talk to the offensive players to explain their philosophies and style. The point was to create a better understanding of what both sides of the ball are doing.

"I did feel like that last year, not everybody was on the same page all the time," Brown said.

Brown has said all positions are open, including quarterback Garrett Gilbert's job, and the team would not have a depth chart. But he qualified that by saying experience and offseason workouts would establish a "pecking order" in which players get snaps with the first team.

Gilbert passed for 2,744 yards with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season. He would still rate first in the pecking order, but all four quarterbacks will get snaps with the first team, Brown said. The other quarterbacks are sophomore Case McCoy, the younger brother of former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, redshirt freshman Connor Wood and freshman David Ash, who signed with Texas three weeks ago and is already enrolled.

"To win at the level we want to win, you have got to have great quarterback play," Brown said. "That means leadership, that means confidence (and) swagger. A great quarterback wins on the money downs and that's on third down and in the red zone."

Brown said he'll be watching the players for the effort they give in practice, something he thought was lacking last season when Texas lost five home games.

"At Texas, you're going to play hard every play. We said it last year and we didn't do it. I want it passionate and I want the work ethic back," Brown said.

Texas also announced the return of senior tight end Blaine Irby, who missed most of the last three seasons with a severe knee injury. Brown said he will bring Irby back slowly, but his size, speed and pass-catching could make him a key component in the new offense.

"The hardest thing will be mentally, the first time he plants that foot," Brown said. "He is a great leader ... They said his knee is better than most people's because he's worked so hard to get back."

Sophomore cornerback Eryon Barnett will miss spring and the 2011 season after an injury to his right knee in offseason workouts that will require surgery.