During a virtual appearance at the annual Houston Touchdown Club on Thursday, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman shared some good news about his football program as it relates to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I know our positive numbers have dropped dramatically,” Herman said. “I’m not allowed to say numbers but almost nonexistent at this point.”
Five weeks ago, 15 players tested positive or were presumed positive based on symptoms when the team reported back to the Forty Acres for the first time since March. Ten more players went into self-quarantine.
Since then, the Longhorns moved from voluntary workouts to mandatory workouts and on-field drills with coaches present. Starting on Friday, the team is now going through one hour of workouts on Tuesday and Thursday, six hours of meetings, eight hours of running and lifting, and six hours of walk throughs.
Those same walk throughs were critical during winter conditioning to help install the new offense run by Mike Yurcich and the new defense run by Chris Ash. During media appearances throughout the spring and early summer, Herman cited that time as extremely important for the program, especially since spring practice was eventually canceled, and that the base offense and base defense for standard-down situations were already installed.
So the staff will not work to get the summer enrollees up to speed with the base schemes in those walk throughs and may spend some time installing the remaining situational packages like short yardage and red zone before preseason camp begins.
But those technical aspects of what Texas is doing on the field should take a back seat at this time to the apparent success in limiting the exposure of players to the virus, at least an initial indication that the protocols put in place by the Longhorns are working.
“We wear our masks, constantly,” Herman said. “We’re one person at a rack in the weight room, we’re five yards apart when we run, and even when we do drills now if it’s a person-versus-person drill, they’ve got masks up and covering the mouth and nose, and they get the drill done they get done, they jog off, they get a sip of water, and they go do it again, and it is extremely safe.”
While the staff can control the environments when the players are with the team, they can’t control what the players do with the rest of their time, especially in regards to social activities. Right now, there aren’t any other students on campus beyond the athletes, so that limits the risk at the moment, but that will change when the fall semester starts.
So the coaches spend a significant amount of time managing those potential issues.
“What they’re doing the other 20-22 hours a day takes constant education and a commitment level from our players unlike anything we’ve ever asked them to do,” Herman said. “Our kids have handled it. It’s been quite an adjustment — I’m not gonna sugarcoat that part. We’re constantly learning, constantly evolving, constantly trying new and better things. But all of it’s been with a smile on all of our players’ faces and an excitement about getting ready for the season.”
Now the question is whether the positive momentum generated by the team avoiding new infections can continue through preseason camp and into the season.
As usual, athletics director Chris Del Conte is optimistic. Once again, though, it’s because the protocols are working so far — there’s some cause for cautious optimism based on Del Conte’s Forty Acres Insider this week.
“We’re happy to report that our policies and procedures go above and beyond what the NCAA requires, and we are developing and planning in-season protocols that will make competition as safe as possible,” Del Conte wrote.