Delay of opening game gives Herman, Longhorns some flexibility in preseason camp

17 Aug By
Texas football head coach Tom Herman said he is impressed with the Longhorns' commitment to the safety protocols laid out to help navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and added that "about 90 percent" of UT players will take only online classes this fall (photo courtesy of texassports.com).

AUSTIN, Texas — Football in the age of the coronavirus is a challenging and changing dynamic, but the Texas staff and coaches have excelled at keeping the 14th-ranked Longhorns on task and on schedule in preparation for their season-opening game Sept. 12 against UTEP.

It has been a lesson, for both the coaches and the players, in adapting and learning on the fly, and it has been one that has been successful so far, as Texas has not reported any players testing positive for COVID over the past several weeks. 

According to a release from the University of Texas Athletics’ Sports Medicine and Strength and Conditioning staffs there have been no new COVID-positive diagnoses in any of the student-athletes. The staffs continue to meet and exceed all Big 12 Conference health and safety requirements, including cardiac screenings.

“I don't know that you can emphasize it any harder than we have,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “Our guys are well aware of the necessary precautions that they need to take, and we’ve proven that we can do it with some extended time off.”

There have been plenty of news reports and posts on social media recently about breakouts among college students as they return to campuses for the fall semester. For the Longhorns, the safest way to keep players COVID-free is to make sure they stay in their "bubble" and stick to the protocols.

“Obviously, you know this isn't going away anytime soon, so the newness is going to wear off at some point,” Herman said. “We've just got to maintain our diligence. I think about 90 percent of our team will be taking online-only classes. 

“There's still a lot of other hours in the day. I think our guys have proven that they understand and can execute the steps necessary to maintain the standards that we have to maintain. Now it's just a matter of doing it over the course of an entire semester.”

Two players, defensive end Marqez Bimage and running back Daniel Young, have opted out of the 2020 football season over concerns about COVID-19.

“It’s 'wait and see' (about Bimage and Young) and hopefully they’ll rejoin our team on the field after the season,” Herman said. “Obviously we're in constant communication with them and they're doing a great job of staying in shape and they will do a great job with their academics.”

Herman said that the delay to Sept. 12 for the first game of the season will allow for some changes in the “normal” run-up to that first snap under the lights.

“We have a little bit more time to take this first part of training camp a little bit slower in terms of the amount of volume and workload that we're putting on our guys,” Herman said. “Our vision is to kind of get through this week and next week. That will leave us three weeks until game one. Then we will give the players a couple days off catch their breath, and when I say off, mean, off, off. No meetings, no nothing.” 

In other news:

  • This is the second straight season Texas has been ranked in the top 15 of the football preseason coaches’ poll, following a No. 10 ranking last year. The Longhorns have been ranked in the overall preseason poll at some point in all four years under Herman. The Longhorns won 25 games during Herman’s first three seasons at the helm, highlighted by a 10-win campaign in 2018 and an eight-win season last year. 
  • Maximum stadium capacity for football home games has been reduced to 25 percent, as well as for the AT&T Red River Showdown against Oklahoma in Dallas’s Cotton Bowl on October 10.
  • Results of an MRI have shown that Longhorns freshman wide receiver Troy Omeire sustained an ACL tear in his knee during Saturday’s scrimmage. It was a non-contact injury that will require surgery, and Omeire will miss the 2020 season.

Steve Habel is a senior contributing writer for Horns Illustrated. He has covered Texas sports since 1989 and was this magazine’s senior editor for 24 years. You can follow him on twitter @stevehabel .