“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.”
Texas Longhorns defenders have one main task in practice — go hard for head coach Tom Herman. That means running hard onto the field and off the field.
For 5’11, 310-pound senior defensive tackle Poona Ford, that isn’t always a pretty sight, as Herman noted. After all, the South Carolina native is one of the defensive linemen that Herman called out on Monday as being a “fat guy.”
The extra weight didn’t keep Ford from “hauling you-know-what to the football” at the end of period 24, exactly the point in practice when the Texas coach knows that effort often flags.
Ford didn’t get a pat on the back from Herman for his effort — those only come after bowl wins and graduation — but the defensive tackle did get called over for a word with his head coach.
Already called out publicly by Herman, Ford was nervous about getting dressed down. “Scared,” even, as Herman put it.
Instead, he got a well-earned high five.
One other defensive lineman also received some praise from Herman — sophomore defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, who is now listed at 330 pounds after his knee injury last fall.
Those injuries are particularly concerning for offensive and defensive linemen, as some never recover their athleticism after layoffs and often gain weight that is difficult to lose.
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Herman joked that Elliott “committed and decommitted from 19 schools” during his recruiting process — to be fair, the Houston product was committed to only four schools — which raised some red flags for the former Cougars coach. After all, Herman had recruited him at Houston, landing his commitment briefly, and worried that guys who make so many decisions aren’t “go-hard guys.”
“We’ve had conversations, long conversations,” Herman said. “I was very pleasantly surprised with him in winter conditioning. For as out of shape as he was, he knows how to go hard, which was a big concern of mine.”
So Ford is on the right track with his effort in practice and Elliott worked hard during the offseason to get himself back in shape. Some positive signs for the maligned group.
As Herman, defensive line coach Oscar Giles, strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight, and the team nutritionists try to raise the level of conditioning for Ford, Elliott, and the rest of the “fat guys,” there is no grace period as the Texas staff works to get them into championship form.