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Texas puts high value on track times when evaluating skill position players

If recruits don’t run track, Tom Herman wants to know why.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Georgia vs Texas Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Height. Weight. Track times.

On the morning of National Signing Day, head coach Tom Herman and his Texas Longhorns staff were evaluating skill position players as the Horns fully turned the program’s collective attention to the 2020 and 2021 classes.

After asking for the height and weight of prospects, Herman asked for their track times.

“And if the answer is, coach, he doesn’t run track, then I’m going to ask, why not,” Herman said. “You know, there’s a lot of reasons that are perfectly acceptable to us, but it is more difficult because you do get all these, you know, combine and camp times.

Why track times? Because the verified track times are the most reliable measurements available.

“Unless their times are at your camp or a verified track time, it’s hard to put a lot of credence into it, because you just don’t know who is holding that stop watch.”

Due to the imprecise nature of timing of springs with a stop watch, those numbers are highly unreliable. So are the reported times on a prospect’s Hudl page. Even the most credible times taken at The Opening regional camps and finals depend on the calibration of those instruments, which may be why Herman doesn’t trust them.

So the coaching staff places an emphasis on skill position prospects coming to camps, where the coaches can at least time them in person.

Track results are sometimes more telling than even the most reliable testing times at camps. Wide receiver Joshua Moore ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at a regional camp for The Opening, but won the 3A long jump as a senior. Cornerback Jalen Green ran a 4.69 40-yard dash at a similar event, but ran an 11.02 100m as a sophomore in high school.

Sometimes track times confirm that a prospect is fast enough to succeed and not just quick in short areas or facing poor competition. St. Louis product Mookie Cooper, a 2020 commit expected to play slot receiver and work some out of the backfield, is remarkably quick in short areas and doesn’t face top high school talent, but he did run a 11.10 100m last spring.

And as much as track times matter, a strong performance doesn’t guarantee on offer. Take 2019 safety signee Tyler Owens, who ran a 10.34 100m last spring. The Texas staff knew beyond any doubt that Owens has an elite combination of speed and size based on that time, but didn’t offer Owens until he came to Austin and performed well at a summer camp.

So it’s another tool in the evaluation process, but one that’s important enough for Herman and his staff to query potential skill position targets for any reasons behind not running track.

Which raises a key point for recruits — not only does running track provide good speed work and conditioning during the spring, it’s something that at least one top college staff values highly.