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Texas HC Charlie Strong says freshmen are giving team confidence

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More than just providing competition, the members of the 2015 class are changing the entire team's mindset.

Charlie Strong
Charlie Strong
Texas athletics

Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong met with the media following Tuesday's practice and provided some updates on the team's Saturday scrimmage, as well as other important team developments.

Here are the highlights:

-- The Horns held a scrimmage on Saturday and sophomore running back D'Onta Foreman and freshman running back Chris Warren were both standouts. Senior Johnathan Gray missed the scrimmmage due to elbow and ankle injuries that have him as day-to-day. The good news is that there aren't any serious concerns about his health. Strong also singled out senior wide receiver Daje Johnson and freshman wide receiver John Burt as performing well during the scrimmage. The oft-suspended Johnson scored two touchdowns, one on a reverse, and did a double backflip after one.

-- Junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway is finally back practicing after his undisclosed injury and Strong said he's happy to have him back in the mix. Since the offensive line has reportedly been having much more success this fall in the run game than it did last year, having Ridgeway back in the middle should provide a bigger challenge.

-- When asked about freshmen performing well, Strong singled out Burt, cornerbacks Kris Boyd, Davante Davis, and Holton Hill, and offensive guard Patrick Vahe. The key for Vahe will be to refine his pass protection skills, which are a little bit undeveloped because Euless Trinity ran such a run-heavy offense.

-- Freshman linebacker Breckyn Hager tweaked his shoulder on Saturday, but it's not a serious injury. Strong also mentioned that Hager and defensive end Charles Omenihu have been playing well. With Fox ends Derick Roberson and Naashon Hughes out recently, Omenihu has had more opportunities than he would have otherwise and it sounds like he's been taking advantage.

-- The offense has been a pleasant surprise for Strong, who said it's been improving every day with no significant setbacks.

-- The team will start two new linebackers this year, but Strong said that the defensive front should help take pressure off of them because there are more than 10 guys ready to play there. So there's no pressure on freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson, said Strong. He just has to go out there and play.

-- The body language of junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has been much better recently, but Strong admitted that he won't really know until Swoopes has to react to the pressure of playing in South Bend. The head coach told Swoopes that he can't walk around with his head down any more.

-- When the freshmen arrived back in June, Strong told them not to lose their confidence because the team needs it. Boyd in particular has brought a "liveliness" to practice. Based on reports coming out, that means that Boyd has been quite talkative and extremely physical so far.

-- Gray asked Strong if he could play on the punt team, an attitude that Strong said is creeping into the entire team because now everyone wants to play on the punt team.

-- D'Onta Foreman has worked some at kick returner. The team has looked at a variety of different punt returners, including Daje Johnson, Duke Thomas, Ryan Newsome, and Boyd.