Texas held its first practice of the season on Friday, and the media was granted access to around 20 minutes of drills. Here are three observations:
1. On Thursday, Texas coach Tom Herman told reporters that running back Tre Watson and tight end Cade Brewer would be limited as practice got underway this week. Sure enough, both Watson and Brewer were wearing green (non-contact) jerseys at Friday’s practice. Watson and Brewer both suffered season-ending knee injuries during the 2017 season.
A graduate transfer, Watson ran with Shane Buechele and took the No. 2 reps during much of the practice that was open to the media. Sophomore running back Daniel Young, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry during his debut season, handled the first-string snaps.
Over 37 career games at Cal, Watson ran for 1,390 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had five receiving touchdowns. In the Golden Bears’ wins over Texas in 2015 and 2016, Watson ran 14 times for 38 yards.
2. Due to a series of knee and hamstring injuries, junior running back Kirk Johnson has played in one game since the start of the 2016 season. He has not carried the football since he turned three touches into 32 yards against Texas Tech on Nov. 26, 2015. He missed UT’s spring game in April with an ailing ankle.
Johnson practiced on Friday and is one of seven scholarship running backs on UT’s roster. On Thursday, Herman said “He’s going to have to compete. In order to compete, you got to stay healthy.” Texas receiver Collin Johnson said his older brother could turn some heads if given the opportunity.
“My brother is one of the strongest individuals I know,” Collin Johnson said. “To go through all of those injuries and still basically have the positive mindset he has now is unreal. I can’t take credit for encouraging him. My dad (former UT All-American Johnnie Johnson) can’t take credit for encouraging him. It’s just simply on Kirk.
“He’s just an amazingly strong individual. I just hope and pray he gets his chance this year to show what he can do because he’s an extremely talented athlete.”
— Texas Longhorns (@TexasLonghorns) August 3, 2018
3. Texas has built a makeshift memorial near a light pole at the Denius Fields for Frank Denius, the practice field’s namesake. Denius, a war hero and UT booster, passed away on Sunday at the age of 93. Herman recently told reporters that Denius missed three home games in the last 57 years.
Herman said the team said a prayer near the memorial before practice. Herman was also outfitted in a “Cobra Strike” t-shirt that honored Denius’ military service.
Texas coach Tom Herman wore a black Cobra Strike shirt at practice today to honor Frank Denius and his war service. pic.twitter.com/jZJMLTRWdk
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) August 3, 2018
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