For the first time in the Tom Herman era, the Texas Longhorns took the practice field on Tuesday for the first of 14 practices leading up to the Orange-White game.
Since the NCAA doesn’t allow players to put on pads until the third practice, which will be held on March 21 after the team returns from spring break, Herman and his staff will have to wait to find out more about the team’s physicality.
First spring practice for Tom Herman is in the books. pic.twitter.com/9XqBx7A7Lq— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) March 8, 2017
Two things to note with the practice uniforms — the team is wearing burnt orange pants instead of the black and orange tops that were so divisive for years. And there aren’t any logos. Not on the helmet nor on the jersey neck.
Like Charlie Strong before him, Herman is forcing players to earn that right.
Former Texas standout Aaron Ross, the Thorpe-Award winning cornerback, was at practice with cornerbacks coach Jason Washington, the Texas Football Snapchat account revealed.
The only appearances from sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele and early enrollee quarterback Sam Ehlinger were in drills, with Ehlinger working on quick, short passes and Buechele participating in a ladder drill emphasizing footwork.
Both players were wearing braces on their left knees, which are likely precautionary.
There were a few notable one-on-ones match ups shown on the account, including sophomore wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey making several impressive catches against good coverage. On one play, he beat junior cornerback Holton Hill, who also allowed a contested catch by senior wide receiver Dorian Leonard.
On both occasions, the wide receivers had to use their hands to create the necessary separation against the physical Hill.
Sophomore wide receiver Collin Johnson also flashed, showing his ball skills on a play against air and then beating a cornerback with a stop and go route, eventually finding the end zone. Johnson also caught a short hitch, which could be a dangerous route for him because of his size at 6’6 and 215 pounds.
On another play, junior wide receiver John Burt beat redshirt freshman cornerback Eric Cuffee. Even though the throw was low and took Burt to the ground, he was able to secure the catch, something he struggled mightily with in 2016.
The plays shown are just a small look into practice overall, but it does appear that position coach Drew Mehringer will have some intriguing options at the X spot with Burt, Humphrey, and Johnson.
For Herman, however, those plays don’t mean as much as effort and ball security, the two things that he’s looking for from his players. To the effort end, two cornerbacks who fell down in one-on-ones quickly got up and pursued the play to the end zone even though they couldn’t catch the wide receivers.
“Today was all about practice habits,” Herman said afterwards. “We have to learn how to run full speed through the whistle, learn how to take the field, learn how to run off the field. We have to learn everything that's important in winning. I told the offensive and defensive staffs, and in front of the players, plays don't matter. Because they don't. There's no secret offense or defense. Teach them how to go hard. It's the only objective is to go hard. It's a lot harder to go hard, and when it's period 24, it's hard.”
Herman expressed some satisfaction with the effort level and noted that the players are starting to learn about the intensity level demanded in practices.
During the practice, Herman addressed the team during the stretching period and told his players that he wouldn’t end it until every single player on the team did their sprints “completely right.”
“It's about taking care of the details and putting forth the effort,” he said. “Those are all things that take zero talent to do and are decisions that are made in your head. I think it made a difference early but as they got tired there was a lot more yelling at coaching effort than there was at the beginning.”
After that, Herman said that he tends to gravitate towards the offense because he can add “true coaching value” there, but does the pursuit drill with the defense because he considers it the most important drill on that side of the ball.
Texas will practice for a second time on Thursday before taking 11 days off for spring break.