As Juwan Mitchell enters the transfer portal, Texas returns to the practice field
After a short break, Steve Sarkisian's introduction to the football players at Texas resumed Thursday.
The Longhorns, whose spring workouts were shut down March 24 because of what the school described as "student-athletes impacted by COVID-19 protocols," returned to the practice field in the morning.
"Clearly we had a little bit of rustiness, having the time off," Sarkisian said. "It was good to have remotely close to our full allotment of players, which is key. This time of year, we're trying to teach schemes on offense, defense and special teams."
There was one notable player missing from practice, however. Sarkisian confirmed reports that senior linebacker Juwan Mitchell, who led the team in tackles last season, has entered the transfer portal. He started 13 games over the past two seasons.
"We coach the guys we have," Sarkisian said. "We've got some good young players at that position."
Texas had three practices scheduled during a hiatus that lasted more than a week. Sarkisian said Thursday that Texas could have resumed workouts earlier, but the decision to delay the restart was his. He said he wanted to make sure that as many players as possible had passed their contact tracing tests.
Those who were available over the past seven days still participated in walk-throughs and conditioning, so it wasn't a vacation. On Thursday, players were back in action but not yet in pads. It also gave players a second taste of what a Sarkisian practice looks like.
Previously, the new Texas coach explained that his practices might not run as long as others across the country. For example, the Longhorns' first practice March 23 lasted 14 periods and two hours. Expect plenty of reps at these practices. Group work will be done at the beginning, and team periods will come later. The Longhorns might also do several drills at once to minimize idleness.
"A lot of people will say, 'Well, don't you need to be out there for three hours?' I assume we can keep the players' attention a little better for two hours, especially when everybody is active and everybody has things to do throughout practice," Sarkisian said then. "That's the goal. We try to keep the pressure on as if it were a game."
Ten freshmen who were early enrollees are already on the spring roster. And Darius Dunn, a cornerback and graduate transfer from McNeese State, is also on campus.
Texas has welcomed back two players who opted out of the 2020 season. Sarkisian said that both running back Daniel Young and receiver Dajon Harrison are back with the team. Defensive lineman Marqez Bimage and offensive lineman Willie Tyler did not return after opting out last fall.
Texas stole Chris Beard away from Texas Tech:Where are the Longhorns headed?
Young rushed for 589 yards and five touchdowns from 2017 to 2019. Harrison is still waiting to make his debut, but he was a three-star receiver in the Longhorns' 2020 recruiting class.
"When you don't play football for a year, when you're not around it for a year, sometimes (football awareness is) the part that's the slowest to catch back up," Sarkisian said. "Again, we're two days in, so it's hard to tell exactly where people are at. But it's good to have them back."
Texas announced that its spring game is still set for April 24. The Orange-White scrimmage, which will kick off at 1 p.m., usually serves as the 15th practice allowed by the NCAA during the spring. Sarkisian said if Texas isn't able to get the rest of its practices in before the spring game, the program will conclude its drills after April 24.