Johnson challenging for Texas' starting TB position

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas released its pre-spring depth chart the day before practice begins with a couple of notable position battles up in the air.

Sophomore tailback Cody Johnson, a 255-pounder who started two games in 2008, is listed along with Vondrell McGee as the No. 1 choice at tailback.

Johnson rushed for 338 yards and scored 12 touchdowns for the Longhorns last year as the team's designated short-yardage specialist. His role could grow this season as the Longhorns develop their "downhill running" philosophy in which the team would emphasize running more than in recent seasons -- particularly when ahead late in games.

"I would like somebody to emerge," Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "I'd like to have a guy, who we have had most years, who was 'the guy.' And then I'd like a third-down guy who was a great receiver and good in picking up blitzes."

The player who could emerge in the third-down role might be redshirt freshman Tre' Newton, who is familiar with pass-blocking and receiving schemes from playing in the pass-heavy offense at Southlake Carroll High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.

Greg Smith and Ahmard Howard are listed as co-starters at tight end.

On defense, the Longhorns should have strong competition this spring at both cornerback positions.

Aaron Williams, who made one start at left cornerback, is listed as a co-starter with Deon Beasley, who made 11 starts last season.

And at right cornerback Chykie Brown and Curtis Brown are grouped as co-starters. Chykie Brown had eight starts during the 2008 season, while Curtis Brown had four starts last season.

Sergio Kindle is listed at the buck defensive end. He is expected to play both defensive end and linebacker during the regular season, although Keenan Robinson is listed as the No. 1 at Kindle's strongside linebacker slot.