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All gas, no brakes, one possible broken foot on Texas’ first day of spring practice

Outside of WR Jake Smith’s foot injury, Longhorns get through first workout as players need to ‘get out of survival mode’

Texas receiver Jake Smith may have suffered a broken foot injury during the Longhorns' first spring practice on Tuesday, head coach Steve Sarkisian said.

Steve Sarkisian is an early riser. The Longhorns better double check their alarm clocks.

Texas football players began Tuesday with breakfast around 5:30 a.m., went through team and position meetings and then hit the practice field by 8 a.m. Spring football is off and running — all gas, no brakes, so they say.

There may be occasional blowouts, though. Receiver Jake Smith suffered what appears to be a broken foot injury, Sarkisian said afterward. Smith’s long-term status is unclear.

Otherwise, Sarkisian said “it was awesome to be back out on the field with these guys.” Well, it was for those who made it all the way through.

“I think we need to have more players continuing to finish practice strong and get out of a little bit of survival mode,” Sarkisian said.

Spring practice is closed to reporters, so all anyone has is Sarkisian’s word. Assistant coaches are also off limits to reporters, same as they were at Sarkisian’s previous employer. It’s worked out OK thus far for Alabama. Such is The Process, to borrow Nick Saban’s favorite phrase.

Sarkisian seemed impressed by Texas’ overall team speed, and known standouts like Bijan Robinson, Roschon Johnson and Jordan Whittington caught his eye. On defense, he doted on Anthony Cook and Josh Thompson as “probably the two that jump out.”

“Alfred Collins is a very gifted athlete,” Sarkisian said. The film from Collins’ freakish interception in the Alamo Bowl doesn’t lie. 

Texas defensive lineman Alfred Collins  smiles while walking off the field after beating West Virginia 17-13 at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday November 7, 2020.  [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

From the sound of things, the first day was … the first day.

“We have a very aware team. They know what it looks like,” Sarkisian said. "The players know by watching film when they’ve executed things correctly.

“And towards the end of practice, in the fourth quarter of practice, it was the same look, same play call and they didn’t execute it right,” Sarkisian said. “Well, that tells me we were fatigued. The fatigue got the better of us, and we weren’t mentally tough enough to fight through and to do right, even when we’re not as fresh as we were at the beginning of practice.

“But that's what football is,” Sarkisian added. “At the end of the day, it’s that ability to execute and to make those plays and do our jobs really well in the fourth quarter when we need it. So that’s what we’re trying to instill in these guys.”

Rotating QBs: Sarkisian said quarterbacks Casey Thompson and Hudson Card would both rotate with the first-team units throughout spring. Neither one appears to have an edge at the moment.

If anything, Tuesday was the quarterbacks’ first chance to take Sarkisian’s plays off the dry erase board and try them against live competition. Sarkisian hinted that the defensive X's outsmarted the offensive O's.

“We'd like to keep our eyes on the quarterback to create turnovers,” Sarkisian said. “And that definitely showed up today. I think we had a few interceptions with people getting underneath routes reading the quarterback.”

Sarkisian said there was limited defensive installation as the coaches and players all get on the same page. “You know, this system is predicated on attacking and creating turnovers and it was good to see that kind of come to fruition on day one,” he said.

Coaching the coaches: The head coach is also the program’s CEO. His job is to also coach the coaches. Sarkisian said that despite a staff of veteran assistants, “it was a new practice schedule for the majority of them, too.”

Offensive line coach Kyle Flood (Rutgers) and linebackers coach Jeff Choate (Montana State) have head coaching experience, so they have some idea what’s expected. Running backs coach Stan Drayton and receivers coach Andre Coleman both had to learn how Sarkisian wants things done compared to previous UT coach Tom Herman. 

“I thought all in all, they were wired into it and had the players ready to go,” Sarkisian said.

Going forward: Texas will now settle into somewhat of a regular practice schedule routine. Typically, the Horns will have spring practices on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. 

“It’s a pretty hefty installation for about five, six days,” Sarkisian said. “The key component is to learn from today and then build on today on Thursday, then so on and so forth as we move forward. So, it takes some real mental kind of want to dig into this thing to get yourself right so guys can play as fast as they can.”

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