Texas head coach Tom Herman stepped to the podium for his press conference and gave the item Longhorns want to hear.
“I just want to let you know that we are really excited about this season,” he said. “Our culture is firmly ingrained, our guys are in as good a shape as I’ve ever seen them. They’re hungry to compete in the Big 12, which has done a fantastic job.”
He stated that 60 players have a vertical jump of more than 30 inches, 42 players can powerclean more than 300 pounds, 34 athletes can squat more than 500 pounds, and three can squat more than 600 pounds.
So if the Longhorns must win games by running or stopping the run, they are well on their way to having the strength to do it.
Herman’s defensive coordinator Todd Orlando hasn’t had an issue at stopping the run in all the time the head coach has known the defensive coach, he noted.
The defensive ends, especially Breckyn Hager, Charles Omenihu and Chris Nelson, will have vital roles in containing the run game of opponents. Chris Nelson is expected to move to noseguard.
Herman noted that he’s been around three great defensive linemen: Casey Hampton, Ed Oliver, who is at the University of Houston right now, and Poona Ford, who is an undrafted free agent who signed with the Seattle Seahawks in the spring.
Herman added that running the ball with a “mash unit of inexperience and injuries at offensive line” is difficult. The team finished the spring with eight scholarship offensive linemen.
“That’s not enough,” Herman said.
The coach noted a couple will return from injury and Rice graduate transfer Calvin Anderson will help, and he believes new offensive line coach Herb Hand will have a huge impact on the improvement on this unit.
Running backs Danny Young, Toneil Carter, Kyle Porter, Tristian Houston and a healthy Kirk Johnson will lead that room. Keaontay Ingram and Tre Watson are new to the room. While the room has many options, Herman noted there hasn’t been a player who has separated himself from the others.
“We have spent countless hours developing them,” he said. “You’re right. We’re not going to be as good as we hope to be if we can’t run the football.”
While is especially happy with what he sees in the quarterback room with junior Shane Buechele, sophomore Sam Ehlinger, and true freshman Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson.
He noted the two older players have improved in the areas coaches wanted; Ehlinger with his release and Buechele in being a vocal leader. The coach added that Rising is a better runner than people think and Thompson is a better passer than people think.
“I tell you what, it beats having a quarterback room with two scholarship players going through the entire season and for much of the season one of those being injured and out of the game,” he said. “So really one scholarship quarterback the entire season. To have that depth in that room and the depth be as young as it is, just really excited about where that room is headed.”
Herman said he hadn’t made a decision on who would be the offensive playcaller this season and noted he has veto power on all plays. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck called plays last year.
“The way that we handle playcalling is very collaborative,” he said. “What we do throughout the week is much more important than the three hours on Saturday in terms of game planning, in terms of installation of the game plan, in terms of the knowledge and retention of our players of that game plan. So no decision has been made nor do I feel any sense of urgency to have to do that.”
The Longhorns have two words that defined their offseason, Herman said, which are develop and finish.
Coaches want to develop better athletes who are bigger, stronger and faster and who understand the game, techniques and the situations that arise in the game. Coaches also have been training players on how to finish in every drill, every workout and “everything that we do has a finish component to it,” Herman said.
“We require our guys to be at their very best when the game is on the line, and I think our guys have really taken to that,” he said. “They’ve embraced it, and they’re excited about this season.”