Did quarterback Sam Ehlinger make it to Texas’ first spring practice workout on Monday? Check.
Did he look good? Well, it’s tricky. Players wore helmets, jerseys and shorts, so it’s difficult to tell. Even coach Tom Herman himself says what the Horns did Monday “is not real football.”
Maybe rephrase the question. Did Ehlinger look like himself? Yes. Then, double check.
For most fans, that’ll be all they need to know or care about after the first of 15 spring workouts. As long as Ehlinger remains upright and healthy come mid-April, UT spring football will be considered a raging success.
Monday was more about gauging newcomers like freshmen Bru McCoy, Jordan Whittington, Roschon Johnson and DeGabriel Floyd. Needless to say, all passed the eye test with flying colors.
McCoy (6-3, 215) lined up at the X-receiver position, the same spot as Collin Johnson, and looked ready from the first snap. Coaches are proceeding as if he will get an eligibility waiver from the NCAA after his transfer from USC. Herman said there is nothing official yet, though.
“Work ethic, competitiveness,” Herman said when asked about McCoy. “You should see the kid in the weight room. He’s grunting and groaning and screaming. He’s not afraid to work. He’s just so versatile.”
Whittington (6-1, 215) went through the same running back drills as veterans Keaontay Ingram and Daniel Young. It was hard not to think about his wild exploits at Cuero last fall. He caught passes in the flat from Johnson (6-2, 215) and turned upfield in a flash.
“Jordan Whittington,” Herman said, “I’m excited to see him in pads because he looked very natural back there in the backfield.”
Texas was the only Power Five-level team in the nation last season without a single offensive play longer than 50 yards. By adding McCoy, Whittington and receiver Jake Smith (this summer), Texas is accumulating a fair share of playmakers. Using them correctly is another matter.
“There’s a lot of really good plays that get called, but you’ve got to have guys who can break tackles, make people miss, outrun guys,” Herman said. “We feel like we’re starting to get there at the offensive skill positions.”
On the other end of the field, Floyd (6-2, 240) got acquainted with teammates and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. The linebacker from Westlake Village, Calif. will have to work his way into the rotation with Joseph Ossai, Jeffrey McCulloch and Ayodele Adeoye.
“All the young guys, it’s really cool when you have an established culture in your program,” Herman said. “You either love football and love to work or you’re going to figure it out real quick. It’s been real nice to see them assimilate as well as they have.”
Overall, the Longhorns just looked thicker, beefier. Seventeen players are now listed at 300 pounds or more. Two years ago, the roster had 18 players weighing 300 pounds, but some of those were inflated when 280 or 290 pounds actually sounded about right. This year, defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon tips the scales at 335 pounds while defensive tackle Keondre Coburn and offensive lineman Tope Imade each check in at 340.
Herman was practically giddy about the players who have gained weight, like offensive linemen Reese Moore, Christian Jones and Junior Angilau. “Sam Cosmi is up to 292, so we’re hoping to get him up to 300 pounds by training camp,” Herman said.
Credit goes to strength coach Yancy McKnight.
“The winter offseason, I’m going to toot his horn for a minute, but we’ve go the best strength coach in America,” Herman said. “I would expect that to be pretty normal around here each year for guys to look better and better.”
The only spring injuries of consequence are the ones that keep players from being ready for August practice. On that front, Texas is doing about as well as possible.
Herman said offensive tackle Patrick Hudson has chosen to retire after suffering three season-ending injuries over the years. Hudson will stay with the team in a player development role. Coburn experienced a kidney flare up for the second time in the last seven months and will be sidelined. “They’ve actually biopsied a piece of muscle to dig in there and find out what’s going on,” Herman said.
Collin Johnson is recovering from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, but few expected fellow starting receiver Devin Duvernay to be out as well. He’s suffering pain in his pubic bone, Herman said, but played through it all last year. He’s expected to return after spring break next week.
Junior transfer linebacker Caleb Johnson (6-0, 235) is expected to join the fray in two weeks after getting past a shoulder injury as well. Safety Brandon Jones is also sitting out the spring after offseason ankle surgery.
If some of these names are new to UT fans, that’s OK. Herman and his coaches are just now in the beginning phases of figuring out how to replace Charles Omenihu, Gary Johnson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Andrew Beck.
Spring football is important for them, too.
“It is a little discouraging not seeing a lot of those faces, because I miss ’em,” Herman said. “But these guys who are poised to take their place, we have a ton of confidence in.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.