Spring practice is still nearly six weeks away, so strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight remains in charge of the Texas Longhorns as the team participates in winter workouts without junior quarterback Shane Buechele.
Three weeks ago, Buechele was in Philadelphia undergoing surgery for a torn muscle in the hip/abdomen area. On Wednesday, head coach Tom Herman said that the hope remains to get Buechele back for spring practice.
“Excited we got that taken care of,” Herman said. “There’s a guy in Philadelphia that’s done probably five or six guys that have played for me, whether it be as an assistant or as a head coach, and have all had glowing reviews. A guy in Philly has a certain technique, he’s pretty much the only guy in the country doing it. He’s really good.”
That doctor is most likely William Meyers, who started the Vincera Institute five years ago. Known as the James Andrews of core injuries, he pioneered the understanding of the complex interrelations of muscles in the hip and groin area.
In the past, such injuries could sometimes imperil an athlete’s career, but with thanks to new techniques, the procedures now are much more successful.
For Buechele, however, missing more time with another injury only sets him back.
And now there are two early enrollees on campus — Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson, who both have “magnetic personalities,” according to Herman. Though Herman still hasn’t been able to see them throw live yet, he said that both arrived with the necessary work ethic.
But both of those quarterbacks are still unknown commodities. Less so is sophomore Sam Ehlinger.
Arguably the biggest key for the Longhorns at quarterback next season — and one of the biggest overall questions surrounding the entire program — is Ehlinger’s development. In the weeks since Ehlinger ended the regular season with a mental meltdown against Texas Tech, the head coach and his young quarterback have had numerous conversations.
From developing a better understanding of how to manage games to avoiding the critical turnovers that plagued his freshman season, Ehlinger is taking mental reps to improve his situational awareness.
“I think just the year under his belt and the year of college football, another spring practice, another training camp, the speed of the game is going to slow down for that kid monumentally,” Herman said.
A month of bowl preparation for Missouri in Houston seemed to help, as Ehlinger avoided any egregious mistakes and had an efficient performance in the victory.
As with many freshman quarterbacks, Ehlinger always had crowd noise going on in his head when he was playing during the regular season. More reps increases the comfort level to combine with mental and physical maturity to help quiet that crowd noise and force the game to slow down.
Some quarterbacks never make it to that point — there’s no guarantee that Ehlinger will develop the situational awareness and processing ability to fully deploy his unique physical skills. Based on what Herman said about Ehlinger last year upon his arrival from Westlake, however, the Texas head coach believes in Ehlinger’s mental makeup.
Ultimately, until the games start in the fall, the discussion will mostly surround the hype or educated guesses of the moment. There’ll be a scrimmage of extremely limited value.
None of that will stop the discussions and probably more than a few arguments, all while Ehlinger and the other quarterbacks work to get better behind the scenes. Such is the offseason.