Exceptional effort overshadows ‘sloppy’ execution in first Texas football scrimmage

Running back Keaontay Ingram and the Texas football team took part in their first scrimmage of the season Saturday, an outing that head coach Tom Herman said lacked sharp execution but included exceptional effort by the players who are eager to get the 2020 season started (photo by Don Bender / Horns Illustrated).

AUSTIN, Texas — COVID-19, be damned. There will be passes and tackles and blocks and touchdowns this season. 

College football is still a go for the Texas Longhorns and the rest of the Big 12 Conference, and there are drills and practices to be conducted, battles across the line of scrimmage to be won and positions to be fought for in the run-up to the truncated and delayed 2020 campaign.

These are extraordinary and challenging times to be trying to prepare a team for a season. Thus, Texas coach Tom Herman and his staff have adapted their plan to have the Longhorns ready to hit the ground running, with the first of the 10-game schedule currently set for Sept. 12 at home against UTEP.

Along the way there will be starts and stops, advances and setbacks. 

Herman, meeting with the media via a Zoom conference Saturday afternoon after the team’s first scrimmage, said the team had a collective “pep in their step” after the Big 12 Conference’s decision to move forward with the season.

“I didn't notice a change on the field, per se, but I noticed the change in their personality, their demeanor, for 24 hours a day,” Herman said. “By far, the hardest thing for these young men has been the uncertainty. We understand that the decision certainly is not final until we kick the ball off on Sept. 12, but I also know that gave us a lot more hope. 

“Our guys’ energy levels have been great from Day One on the field. The Big 12’s decision just added a little confidence to them and pep in their step but more so off the field than that on the field.”

The scrimmage, the Longhorns’ first since mid-December, was predictably sloppy, Herman said. 

“Expectations at least for me, personally, were tempered,” Herman said. “I know what first scrimmages in fall camp usually look like, and I also am well aware of the lapse in actual reps that that we've had leading up to this one. So, it was sloppy. I mean the effort was great. You know I would have been disappointed had we not seen great effort, but we showed that today. When it comes to the fine tuning of execution we have a long way to go, but we knew what to expect.”

Preseason camp carries more weight this season than it normally does, with two new coordinators on the 40 Acres, as well as the need to have depth ready to contribute mightily in case starters are affected by the coronavirus. 

Herman said last week that he’s preparing for the likelihood that 80 to 90 percent of the Texas roster will see the field in a game this year. That means looking beyond just the two-deep roster for big plays and to fill gaps created by injury and other situations.

“We are being cognizant that we need more blocks of just time devoted to the third group, but also the second part of that is making sure that those guys rotate in with the ones and twos,” Herman said. “The ones and twos need plenty of reps because their not quite in the shape that we're used to being in this this time of year.”

Herman said the first and second teams got about 40 reps each in Saturday’s scrimmage while the third unit got 12 to 15 with the threes. “It was a really good day,” he said. “The guys were excited — this was only our second full-padded practice.” 

Texas is moving forward with all its goals intact. Herman indicated that the Longhorns are not worried about the decision by the Big 10 and Pacific 12 Conferences’ to not play football this year. This group, he said, just wants to show what it can do on the field.

“They're still going to hand out a Big 12 championship trophy at the end of the season,” Herman said. “Our guys are eager to play – they understand that this inconvenience is not unique to the University of Texas. 

“The most mature, level-headed, rule-following teams are going to be the ones that have the best opportunity to win at a very high level this season, and our guys are completely bought into that fact.”

(photos courtesy of texassports.com)

Steve Habel

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 .

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