Texas' John Burt is spending this spring running hurdles with the UT track team, just like he has the past couple of years. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ/ AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Jumping hurdles again should make Texas’ John Burt a better football player

Nine things, one crazy prediction: On John Burt, Jaxson Hayes, Karen Aston and why we should root against Kansas winning another Big 12 title.

Posted February 19th, 2019

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While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:

1. Tom Herman, Edrick Floreal’s got your back. He’s also got your wide receiver. For now. The first-year Texas track coach plans to return hurdler John Burt back to Herman’s football team a better and faster football player. “He will be significantly faster when he gets back to football,” Floreal said before prepping for this week’s Big 12 indoor championships in Lubbock. “We’ll work on his mechanics.” He said he and Herman have discussed crossing over for current and incoming football players, including senior wideout Devin Duvernay, who won the 100-meters Class 6A state championship and anchored the 400-meter relay in high school, but there are no plans for him to do track. “We’re talking back and forth,” Floreal said. “The cool thing about football players is they know how to work. And John’s a worker. Hey, if I get ‘em and make ‘em slower, he won’t be sending them back to me.” Floreal loves Burt’s work ethic and the way he attacks the 60-meter hurdles although he occasionally attacks them too much. “John’s absolutely fearless. Most hurdlers are afraid to hit the hurdles. He broke two of them already. I think I’m going to need to buy more hurdles. He goes right through ‘em. It’d be nice for him to be technically sound. It’s not just about sheer force.”

Texas freshman Jaxson Hayes (10) has developed into one of the Longhorns’ top weapons. But how long will he remain at Texas? [Rodolfo Gonzalez for AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
2. I asked Shaka Smart if he’s educating freshman center Jaxson Hayes about the joys of being a college sophomore. He chuckled. Hayes is listed as a lottery pick by four NBA mock drafts. “We focus on being in the moment,” he answered. Smart has been thrilled by how well the near-7-footer has handled his first year of college. Doesn’t seem like he’s hit the wall. (No, not that wall.) “I think he’s dealing with it. He’s doing a really good job of trying to fight through some challenges inherent in being a freshman. He’s someone whose world has really changed. He’s at the front of the scouting report (on Texas) now where he really wasn’t when the season started. In November, he’s a carefree guy coming off the bench and playing with house money. Now, not so much.” Bet here is Hayes is gone. Oh, ESPN projects he’d go 14th to New Orleans, which just might be in the market for a big man.

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3. You want to know Smart’s best evidence of strong play? “My favorite stat is deflections,” he said. “In my 10 years as a head coach, only one time have we had over 30 deflections in a game and lost, and that was to Georgia.” Texas averages in the high 20s. Hayes leads the team but he’d better since he’s the Sultan of Swat with 60 blocks, ranked 16th in the country. By Smart’s math, his guards should have a deflection every five minutes. “If every guy does that, we’ll have 40 deflections.” Texas had that many only in the first game of the season.

4. Kansas State, beat Kansas. Iowa State, take down the champ. Texas Tech, win the race or Chris Beard may get really angry as he’s wont to do after late dunks by walk-ons. But someone needs to end the Jayhawks’ streak of 14 straight won or shared Big 12 championships. “Or what? The world explodes?” Smart asked. “Hey, the players don’t care about 10 years ago.” Ten years? Try 10 minutes ago. But it does hurt the league’s rep to have the same standard-bearer every season. … Impressed with the job Mike Boynton is doing at Oklahoma State despite a depleted roster after kicking three players off the team. The Cowboys are still playing hard despite being so undermanned with only seven scholarship players available. “It’s kind of a moving target,” said the second-year head coach, who had 49 players sign up for in-season tryouts, including a team manager who was once a football walk-on. “We put a walk-on on scholarship, and then he (Trey Reeves) broke his foot. You can’t practice with seven guys. We watch tape, we shoot free throws, we talk about concepts. Four guys basically play the whole game. Hey, I saw Kam Hepa in a sweatsuit, I saw Andrew Jones, a McDonald’s All-American. I saw Brock Cunningham, who’s being redshirted. Texas has got players not even dressing who’d probably start for us.”

Texas head coach Karen Aston reacts to a foul call against Baylor during an NCAA women’s basketball game on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
5. Karen Aston has her work cut out for her because she has only two main weapons in Joyner Holmes and Sug Sutton — Danni Williams is a dangerous three-point shooter but can’t create her own shot — and the Texas women will go as those two go. The Longhorns are 3-3 in their last six games. “I had a pretty sleepless night,” the women’s coach said after a home loss to Kansas State, the fifth at the Erwin Center this season. “It’s no time to panic. We have a 20-win season but we have not gotten into a comfortable rhythm. But I think we can get that back. I’ve got to roll the dice.” That means playing some of her younger ones more and living with the mistakes, players like freshmen Charli Collier, Joanne Allen-Taylor and Audrey Warren. The Sweet 16 is a realistic goal now.

Texas head coach Mike White sits in the dugout at McCombs Field on Feb., 9, 2019. [Rodolfo Gonzalez for AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
6. The Dell tournament received commitments from 2017 champion Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and SMU’s Bryson DeChambeau, assuring five of the top 10 players in the world will compete.

7. Texas softball is off to a blazing 7-1 start, but new head coach Mike White sees big room for improvement in bunting, defense and higher quality pitches against better hitters. Asked if the team is opening some eyes, White said, “The polls are for the fans. We know the mistakes we’re making. We know we need to be at a bigger level to get to the top eight. We’re shooting for the College World Series. It’s like the big elephant in the room. That’s our mission.” Don’t bet against it.

8. Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to former Tom Penders tough guy Gabe Muoneke. Learned that former Texas center John Brownlee leases and develops office projects in the DFW area.

9. “Bohemian Rhapsody” rocked me. I’ve got the riveting Queen drama for Best Movie and Rami Malek for Best Actor for nailing it as Freddie Mercury. I’m a little worried about you if you weren’t moved by the Live Aid finale. Gave it 9 ducks.

10. Crazy prediction: LeBron James will never win another NBA title or even reach the NBA Finals.

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