BEVO BEAT Football

Tom Herman, on the running backs: ‘The level of concern is high’

Posted August 26th, 2019

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Tom Herman’s first game-week press conference has come and gone.

What you need to know: 

1. Wide receiver Joshua Moore has been suspended for this week’s game. Also missing it, because of injuries — RBs Daniel Young and Kirk Johnson, and OL Reese Moore. OL Gerald Wilbon has tweaked his knee and is dealing with swelling issues, and is considered day-to-day. Starting center Zach Shackelford and starting tight end Cade Brewer are both fine, Herman said.

Moore was arrested earlier this month on misdemeanor gun charges. Herman said they’re still gathering information. But Moore won’t suit up Saturday.

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2. And your third-string emergency running back on Saturday will be … freshman quarterback Roschon Johnson, who’s spent the past week practicing there.

3. If the season started today, Herman said, the two starting cornerbacks would be Jalen Green and Kobe Boyce with D’Shawn Jamison and Anthony Cook backing them up. Sounds like Green is a starter no matter what, but Herman said those other three will keep battling this week for that second spot. And freshman receiver Jake Smith will handle punt-return duties.

The three best questions asked today:

1. A couple of them dealt with running backs, which we wrote about on Sunday — the top two backs, Keaontay Ingram and Jordan Whittington, were injured earlier in camp and Young and Johnson, their backups, are definitely out with injuries. Herman was asked three different questions at different times — what’s the level of concern there (“The level of concern is high.”); was Smith not an option instead of Roschon Johnson (“Jake’s head’s spinning just trying to play slot receiver right now.”); and whether Ingram or Whittington would be limited on Saturday (“They’re our only two, so I don’t know how you’d limit both of them, or what that would even entail for a game. … We need ’em. They’ve gotta go.”).

Herman described Johnson’s role as the third back: “Right now, that would be in case of emergency, break glass. Running back is a violent position.”

2. And, because of that running back depth, Roger Wallace asked whether there have been conversations with quarterback Sam Ehlinger about not putting himself at too much risk because of his hard-running style.

Herman’s response — grinning: “For three years, there’s been that discussion.”

“The quarterback is always going to be part of the run game based off of reads,” he continued. “… He is who he is. We’re gonna need him in the run game at key points during the season, but you would like to keep his physicality to a minimum, and we talk a lot about it.”

3. And kudos to our own Kirk Bohls, who followed up with a question that Herman didn’t really answer when originally asked.

Kirk wanted to know whether Herman has seen any common denominators in Texas’ last two season-opening upset losses to Maryland.

Herman blamed … UT’s class schedule?

“Every year is different, every team is different in terms of their psyche,” Herman said. “I will tell you the one area that we’ve adjusted the most is centered around the fact that we start classes the Wednesday before the game. Really very, very few schools have that issue. I called a lot of my colleagues. I remember asking Coach Swinney at Clemson, I said what do you do, every year our practice on the first day of classes is not real good? He says, well I never practice on the first day of classes. I said what if classes start the week of the game? He said I’ve been a head coach for, I don’t know how long, eight or nine years, and he said, ‘well that’s never happened.’ So it’s a very unique situation here at Texas and one that we’re handling a little bit better with our schedule. We’ll practice at night this entire week at 6:30, so these guys get off of class at 2 and will have a few hours to get that first day out of their system.

So Kirk followed up: “You know why you lost those two games, in restrospect?”

Herman: “We didn’t play good enough.”

The 10th-ranked Longhorns host Louisiana Tech on Saturday (7 p.m., Longhorn Network). It’s the Horns’ highest preseason ranking since 2010, the season following their BCS championship game loss to Alabama. Texas is 103-20-3 all-time in season openers. This will be the first time the two schools have played.

Louisiana Tech, out of Conference USA, was 8-5 last season and beat Hawaii 31-14 in the Hawaii Bowl.

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