Football

Texas getting awfully thin at running back, prompting Tom Herman to consider all options

Tristan Houston suffers knee injury three days after Cameron Townsend goes down, but the Horns are hanging onto the ball

Posted April 3rd, 2018

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Most outsiders who attend spring practice are issued a name tag. Others don’t need one at all.

Take Colt McCoy, for example. No tag required for Tuesday’s practice.

And then there’s Nate Boyer. His tag said it all — “Certified Bad Ass.”

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While former Longhorns are enjoying the sights and sounds of spring practice, coach Tom Herman is actively searching for more Boyers in the backfield. Unfortunately, Texas simply cannot catch a break.

Former Texas long snapper Nate Boyer watches a Longhorns football spring practice at the Frank Denius practice fields in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Running back Tristan Houston hyperextended his knee and will need further evaluation, Herman said after Tuesday’s workout. “I don’t think it’s ridiculously severe,” the coach said, “but last time I said that with (linebacker Gary Johnson), he’s out six weeks.”

The position was already thinning thanks to Kyle Porter’s ankle injury, which could sideline him another week and a half. The coaching staff moved linebacker Cameron Townsend over to running back last week, but Townsend suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s scrimmage, too.

Believe it or not, there was some good news.

“Zero fumbles on Saturday,” Herman said. “None again today.”

Every day that Toneil Carter and Danny Young get through without putting the ball on the ground must be considered a good one. Things have gotten so bleak, Herman said the coaching staff has toyed with the idea of moving receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey and/or Devin Duvernay to the backfield for depth purposes.

“But I think that would stunt their growth at the positions we’re pretty sure they’re going to play in the fall,” Herman said. “Right now, it’s business as usual in that room. If it gets any worse, we’re going to have to be able to get through a practice at least.”

Evaluating the scrimmage: Herman said he wants both the offense and defense to have good performances during an intrasquad scrimmage. That appears to have been the case during Saturday’s festivities, which were closed to reporters.

“The offense won the scrimmage on Saturday by one point,” Herman said. “Didn’t play great, but the one thing they did was they protected the ball and they scored touchdowns in the red zone.”

For example, the offense had a 10-play drive to open the scrimmage but did not score any points. The drive broke down with a penalty, Herman said. The defense forced 10 three-and-outs and stopped the offense 20 times on 28 third-down attempts. Herman did not single anyone out.

The Saturday scrimmage and Tuesday’s workout were the sixth and seventh practices this spring, respectively. Texas is allowed 15 workouts by NCAA rules, so the Horns are about halfway done.

“Certain things didn’t obviously go so well,” Herman said of Saturday’s scrimmage. “Then a couple of coaches said, ‘Remember where we were last year through our first scrimmage.’

“Are we better now than we were then? Absolutely,” he added. “There’s a lot less coaching of culture and effort, or demanding of that, and a lot more teaching. The guys understanding the expectations of practice, which allows us to develop our guys.”

Rather quiet: One thing was noticeable about Tuesday’s workout: it was awfully quiet.

Herman switched things up and turned off the booming hip-hop music that usually serves as a workout soundtrack.

“I wanted to do something different,” Herman said. “Sometimes, silence can be distracting when you’re used to chaos and noise. I wanted guys to have to bring their own juice — BYOJ. But most importantly, I wanted to hear guys communicate. I wanted to hear what was being said.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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