AUSTIN, Texas (Aug. 7, 2020) — You think you are ready for some college football? Just think how the players and coaches of the Texas Longhorns are feeling about now.
The 2020 Longhorns got their first taste of organized team practice Friday when they opened preseason workouts at the Frank Denius Fields, and quite honestly, the Texas players were pawing at the turf and all but foaming at the bit.
It was the first time the whole team had been on the field together since its win over Utah in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on New Year’s Eve, with the more-than-seven-month break forced upon the Longhorns, and all of us, by the fear of the spread of coronavirus.
“December 29 — I looked it up — was the last time we had an entire team on the field for a practice,” Texas coach Tom Herman said, “and (this) was fun, and it was cathartic. It was therapeutic, and I know our guys really, really enjoyed being out there.”
Yes, there have been walk-throughs and coach-on-player meetings and strength training and conditioning galore. But COVID-19 took away the team’s spring practices and the annual Orange-White Scrimmage, and the season ahead is still in flux.
The Longhorns, who on Thursday were ranked 14th in the preseason USA Today-Amway Coaches Poll, is expected to play UTEP in their lone non-conference contest, in its abbreviated, late-starting schedule ... but they don't yet know when or really, for sure, if.
“Things are changing so fast and so often, if we plan anything beyond a two- to three-week stretch, we’re crazy — we’re wasting brain cells,” Herman said. “We’ve got a couple weeks planned out, knowing that we’re going to get a lot of information dropped on us here in the next five to seven days.”
Running back Daniel Young is the only player currently “weighing his options” over pandemic concerns and opting out. Herman was quick to say that Young, or any other player would get “whatever he needs from us.”
“We’re all kind of going through this for the first time together,” Herman said, “and I think the kids are very cognizant of that and they don’t hold us to a standard that is unreachable in terms of us having all the answers.”
Wide receiver Jordan Whittington and linebacker Prince Dorbah were held out of the team portions of Friday’s workout as a precaution, but both participated in individual drills.
The players have full faceshields on their helmets, which Herman said they like better than wearing a mask under their helmets. Players are staying six feet apart when they can, and the periods in practice are expected to be 12-15 in duration.
Since the Longhorns don’t employ a huddle, they are not an issue. “We were ahead of the curve (on huddles),” Herman chided.
Texas is set to play a 10-game schedule, with contests against all the Big 12’s teams and the non-conference tilt versus UTEP. Gone are the much-anticipated rematch with LSU in Baton Rouge and a third non-conference game against South Florida. The college football world is keeping its collective fingers crossed that all goes off without a hitch – or worse.