Day Two of the Longhorns’ Fall Camp (which sounds marginally less weird in August than in July) was closed to the media, but Tom Herman shared some post-practice thoughts with the scribes.
The highlights included:
- Praising the team’s conditioning. The Longhorns have made some substantial strength gains under Yancy McKnight’s tutelage, and Herman called out the team’s improved hip and leg strength as a major factor in allowing them to go hard every period while staying low and leveraged. He liked the team’s energy a lot compared to a jittery first session - it seems like attitude and buy-in aren’t question marks right now.
- Bragging on guards Patrick Vahe and Patrick Hudson. Herman praised Vahe’s work throughout Spring ball and the team’s first two practices while naming him the presumptive starter at left guard. He also called out Hudson’s positive attitude and work ethic while noting that the big man still needs to adjust to the speed of the game.
- Handicapping the right tackle competition and the contestants’ handicaps. Unsurprisingly Tristan Nickelson’s leverage challenges at 6’10” were a theme, but Herman praised his assignment soundness. He touted sophomore Denzel Okafor’s length, strength and fluidity but, like his 2016 classmate Hudson he’s still working to make sure that the speed of the game doesn’t prevent him from getting to the right spot with the right technique.
- Breaking the bad news on Kirk Johnson. Herman cast Johnson’s latest soft tissue injury - a tweaked hamstring - as likely a one-week deal that they’re treating with caution. Despite Herman’s seeming equanimity, though, it can’t augur well for KJ. Availability is an ability, a point reinforced by guys like Zack Shackelford and Chris Warren running second-team due to time missed with injury. Not even Johnson’s sparkling skill set can keep him in the staff’s good graces if he’s constantly shelved. The Golden Girls votive candles are lit at BC HQ on the sophomore’s behalf, but for now I’m slotting him on the Gravy List. That’s not the Taylor Bible version of the Gaskamp, but rather the guys from whom any productive snaps this season are considered gravy.
- Talking up his safeties. Junior DeShon Elliott earned plaudits for his improved leadership in the secondary while freshman Chris Brown got some love for his versatility. His combo of man cover skills and lumber-laying ability has caught the coach’s eye, though Herman acknowledges that Brown faces stacked depth charts at his “natural” positions of nickel and safety. He’s on the depth chart as a safety right now, but Herman said the staff wouldn’t be averse to giving him some run at corner if that’s his fastest way onto the field.
All in all not a ton of surprises, but Herman seems to be in good humor - and he doesn’t seem like the type who’d mince words if he wasn’t. The real fun doesn’t start ‘til the pads come on this Friday, the Longhorns may finally be ready to put the “fun” in “functional strength” after a lengthy run of sub-par S&C direction. If that’s the case, it’ll be an under-the-radar key to overachieving this Fall.
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