Following the third practice of spring, the Longhorn Network caught up with Texas Longhorns junior defensive back John Bonney, who like the rest of the team is adjusting to coach Tom Herman’s smash-mouth practice style.
The clip opens with the players going one-on-one against each other in a circle drill, putting that smash-mouth style on full display. Bonney says he’s excited first and foremost just to be back on the field.
“It’s always fun, it’s always a good time getting back into real football,” he says. “That’s one thing coach Herman has preached to us... Actually putting the real pads on, that’s when the real football starts.”
He says Herman is preaching physicality first and foremost, wanting the ‘Horns to be one of the most physical teams in the nation.
“Today was a good showing that this is how our practices in pads are going to be,” Bonney says. “They told us it’s going to get harder and harder. I think that’s going to help us win games.”
While Bonney is now an upperclassman, he aspires to lead by example rather than being a vocal presence on the field.
“I feel like we still have some things to improve on, but it was good to just get out there and hit each other.”
After mostly playing cornerback over the last two seasons in Austin, the new coaching staff made the decision to move Bonney to the boundary safety position.
“I just think when you watch last year’s film, and some of the things he struggled with in terms of his skill set, I think it’s more natural for him,” said defensive coordinator Todd Orlando last week.
“I really do. It gives him the opportunity to play at a high level. He’s kind of in between corner/safety. He was out there last year and gritted through it.”
In 2015, Bonney was an on-again, off-again starter at cornerback, then went through the opposite trajectory in 2016 — he started off on the bench, then eventually replaced the ineffective starters who had replaced him the previous season.
However, Bonney struggled mentally at times, struggling mightily at times in knowing how much cushion to give receivers and often driving late on the football. The former coaching staff noted that he struggled with his confidence and didn’t always trust his athleticism.
Orlando saw those dynamics play out in his film review and opted for a change, though Bonney had performed well against Baylor in breaking up two deep passes intended for KD Cannon.
“From our standpoint, I think he’s more suited to be a safety, which is going to give us a little bit of range back there in terms of the throw game if we play some two-deep,” he said. “He can end up being a decent blitzer for us, too, so that’s why we made the change.”
With a handful of cornerbacks on campus who are either bigger or faster than Bonney, Orlando believes playing the boundary position suits the Houston Lamar product because he doesn’t have to cover as much ground as the field safety position
Known for being a cerebral player, the coaches also like Bonney’s ability to help is teammates get lined up and understand their respective assignments.
“I think the coaches felt like I was a good fit for the safety position because of the communication behind the ball,” Bonney said. “You have to have a smart guy back there and somebody that is physical. So they felt like I fit that mold. When they came to me I was a little bit surprised, but at the same time I was excited about it because I felt like it was good they felt like I was able to play that position.”
A first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection in 2015, Bonney is also a three-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
The hope is that the move to safety will allow him to do less thinking and more reacting on the field that made him one of the top 250 prospects in the 2014 class.