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Tom Herman: ‘The clock’s ticking on the regular season’ for bowl-hopeful Texas

Posted November 6th, 2017

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Tom Herman’s weekly game-week press conference has come and gone. Here are the highlights:

1. Rumors began to circulate this past weekend that freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger — who’s missed the last two games while under concussion protocol — might be done for the season. But Herman tried to shoot that down quickly.

In fact, he tried to get out in front of the question in his opening remarks, giving an injury update for Ehlinger. He said Ehlinger went through non-contact practice on Sunday and would be evaluated this afternoon “for his inner-ear problem, I guess is the best way to say it.”

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Still, it was the first question he received: Is it possible that Ehlinger may not play again this season?

“I have not heard that,” Herman said. “This type of injury is not one that’s typically more than a couple of weeks, if at all. Today he thinks it’s going to be all signs point go, but even if not, he will be re-evaluated every couple of days. Nothing long-term.”

2. Other injury updates: Center Zach Shackelford and running back Toneil Carter also went through non-contact practice on Sunday and are expected to be cleared for contact on Tuesday. Nickel back P.J. Locke III “is still on the mend,” and Herman said he’d put him in the doubtful or questionable category for this week’s game. And Jeffrey McCulloch has a high ankle sprain that will probably put him out for a couple of weeks.

He also was asked for a Connor Williams update.

“Close,” he said. “He’s been working out. Day-to-day at this point. I think we’re hopeful for maybe this week, but still I would say ‘probable’ is too optimistic.”

3. Another rumor that’s been floating around is that wide receivers coach Drew Moehringer would either take over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Tim Beck or at least play a bigger role. Herman shrugged both of those off, stressing the need for an offense to have continuity at the coaching level for things to fall into a rhythm. And he said play-calling already is a collaborative thing since he, Beck and Moehringer constantly discuss during games what plays are working, what plays aren’t, what they’re seeing and what possible calls to play.

4. The offensive line came up a couple of times. Herman used the word “serviceable” two or three times when describing his front. He pointed out left guard Patrick Vahe, as someone who’s gotten better. He credited the growth of Terrell Cuney (“He’s been around the program a long time that probably everyone forgot about but has started the last couple of games at center, and even for him, where he came from in the spring to now to even be serviceable is a testament to him and coach Warehime.”). And he pointed out his two backup tackles, freshman Derek Kerstetter and redshirt freshman Denzel Okafor, “even the thought of putting them in the game in training camp was a big-time reach, and they’ve worked, like I said, to at least become serviceable.”

“We’ve got a lot of improvement still to go there,” he said. Twice he mentioned that Kerstetter’s “not going to gain 20 pounds over the next three weeks” and also that the real fix to the front line won’t come until national signing day, offseason workouts and spring football.

When asked what the coaches can do to fix it, Herman instead opted for the word “mask.”

“Fixing the problem is probably a very tall order to expect in three weeks,” he said. “… The biggest thing we can do as a staff is to mask the insufficiencies as best we can.”

By that, he meant asking the quarterback to get rid of the ball quicker, to set up more double-teams on blocking schemes and to get the ball out wide and into the perimeter.

5. Joshua Rowland missed another field goal on Saturday night. Herman was asked whether he expects to see Rowland head out onto the field for Texas’ first field goal try against Kansas.

Mitchell Becker’s name came up in the answer.

“Depending on how practice goes — we had a 2-minute drill yesterday that ended in a field goal, and Mitchell Becker was the one that kicked it. So I think that’ll just — who do I expect? I don’t know who to expect.”

Herman said that perhaps no other position is easier to grade than kicker. “You either made it or you didn’t,” he said. Rowland is 7 of 14 on the season.

6. As far as bowl games, the math is simple: Texas needs two wins in its last three games to get to a bowl-eligible six.

“The clock’s ticking on the regular season and opportunities to win a football game,” he said. “Regardless of the opponent, we’re going to attack the opponent this week as we have every week, to go 1-0 this week.”

Texas and Kansas kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday. It’ll be carried on the Longhorn Network.

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