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Texas practice habits now 10 times better than during the spring

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The Longhorns responded to a Tuesday challenge to have more fun at practice.

NCAA Football: Texas Spring Game John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

As a head coach who called his defensive lineman “fat guys” during the spring and steadfastly refuses to call specialists by their given names until they graduate, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman is not known for handing out effusive praise.

On Tuesday, however, Herman made a remarkable statement about how well his team practiced on the second day of preseason camp.

“We are practicing without pads, from a positivity standpoint, practicing without pads ten times better than we did in the spring and much better than any place I've ever been,” Herman said.

Considering that Herman won a national championship at Ohio State and coached up a Houston program so well the Cougars never lost to a ranked opponent during his tenure, the current level of alignment among the players is an extremely positive sign.

Assuming that Herman isn’t saying all that lightly.

Whatever the case behind the scenes, Herman delivered more encouraging news about the way the team approached practice.

“I thought that today (there was) a lot more energy, I think maybe yesterday they were a little bit nervous; first practice jitters. We challenged them to go out there, have some fun, and let loose.”

For Herman and his staff, accountability and discipline don’t have to get in the way of having fun. In fact, having fun is a crucial part of what it means to play for Herman.

“What we do is too hard not to have fun and make it fun every day, so I think they responded to that challenge and I saw a lot smiles on their faces.”

The other element of practicing well, of course, is conditioning — a player puking on the sideline or suffering from cramps probably isn’t going to have a smile on their face.

In order to ensure that players can remain strong throughout an entire practice, strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight focused heavily on leg strength and hip strength. Building players from the ground up, in other words.

So far, the returns have been positive and immediate in the practice results.

“That's attributed to the guys, I think, buying into going hard, but also the functional leg strength and hip strength that we have to stay up and using our techniques and our hands,” Herman said. “That all ties together; we're going really, really hard and really fast without pads on and everybody's staying up and staying injury free.”