Football

Texas coaches taking slow approach to naming a starting QB

Offensive coordinator Tim Beck had no issues with yielding the play-calling duties to head coach Tom Herman during the Texas Bowl

Posted April 5th, 2018

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Texas coach Tom Herman has been restrained this spring whenever he’s asked about the quarterbacks.

By all indications, Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele are alternating with the first-team unit, and neither truly has the upper hand on the starting position. Whether that’s good or bad depends on personal preference.

Frankly, there’s no need to rush a decision, either. Texas doesn’t open the season for another five months.

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Offensive coordinator Tim Beck indicated Thursday he’s not opposed to the idea of naming a starter this month. But the Longhorns appear a long way from doing anything concrete.

PHOTOS: Texas spring football practice on April 5, 2018

Three observations from Texas’ eighth spring football practice

“If one guy runs away it and clearly becomes a starter, I’m sure we’ll feel that’s maybe the guy we’re going to run out there first,” Beck said after Thursday’s practice. “I don’t know we’re sitting in (meetings) going we have to have a starter by the end of spring. I don’t think that’s the case at all. And certainly, fall camp they’ve got to prove it, too.”

Ehlinger has been the first quarterback on the field with the first team during the small windows open to reporters. But Buechele hasn’t been far behind.

Take Thursday, for example. Ehlinger came onto the field and connected with Devin Duvernay over the middle on the first play of a team period against air. The next play, Ehlinger missed on a pass to Collin Johnson down the right sideline.

In came Buechele. He executed two running plays with Toniel Carter. A few plays later, in came freshman Casey Thompson. Fellow freshman Cameron Rising has also rotated with the lower-level units.

“I think the two older guys, Sam and Shane, you can tell they are older guys,” Beck said. “Probably a little more calm than last year. The two younger guys, they’re swimming. When it gets out here and the bullets fly, you can tell they struggle a little bit.”

Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand talks to quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) during a Longhorns football spring practice at the Frank Denius practice fields in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Whomever the coaching staff selects, that person would be helped immensely by an improved running game. That was the biggest offseason priority, Beck said. “There was a variety of 2As all the way down,” Beck said.

Texas has multiple veteran offensive linemen returning next season and has a plethora of tight ends returning from injury. Run blocking should be a strength for new offensive line coach Herb Hand, who has almost three decades of experience. The problem has been the running backs themselves. Fumbles and injuries have held that group back this spring.

No play-calling issues: Thursday was Beck’s first interview with reporters since late December before the Texas Bowl victory over Missouri. In that game, Herman took over play-calling duties in part to experience firsthand the difficulties his offensive staff had been up against all season.

Beck said he did not take it personal. In his mind, Herman wanted to help and get more involved, Beck said.

“That’s how I took it,” Beck said. “I’m a professional here, and coach is the head coach. He makes those decisions, and my job is to go do whatever he asks me to do as hard as I can do it. And that’s what I did.”

Multiple times last season, both Herman and Beck said each offensive game plan was derived from weekly collaborative sessions with all offensive assistants. Beck said there have been no discussions yet this spring as to who will ultimately call plays on game day.

“All those guys as we game plan, this was never and has never been a one-man show,” Beck said. “And it won’t be a one-man show. It doesn’t operate like that on offense. It’s a group collaboration from coach Herman all the way down to our (graduate assistants) and interns.”

Watching Graham: Defensive lineman Chris Nelson continues to battle through practice with a massive protective sleeve on his left arm to protect an elbow injury. Nelson is wearing a green jersey, which indicates he should get limited contact.

One player that’s benefitting from extra practice repetitions is Ta’Quon Graham, who will be a sophomore this fall. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, not one to dispense hyperbole, said Thursday he’s “been really impressed with him.”

“Sometimes you look the part and you’ve got great strength numbers and then you go out there and don’t play the part,” Orlando said. “I think he’s been playing the part. That’s a guy I’m really fired up about.”

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

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