AUSTIN (KXAN) — After two days in just helmets and two more in helmets and shoulder pads, the Longhorns finally held their first practice in full pads on Wednesday.
The first full-contact practice of training camp came after an NCAA-mandated off day on Tuesday.
“There was a lot of chirping and talking, which was good,” Herman said of Wednesday’s practice. “You get a lot of guys out there wanting to prove how tough they are, and I don’t mean you prove it by talking, but you could tell guys were into the physicality of the day.”
Herman noted the importance of training camp in establishing a physical culture by simply noting how many more practices they get in a condensed period of time compared to the season.
“This is the most live action they’ll get for the entire season,” Herman said before pointing out that only 24 of the 36 practices during the regular season are in full pads.
“We have 25 just in preseason, so this and spring ball [are the most physical practices].”
Here are three more takeaways from the first practice in full pads:
Sam Ehlinger, Devin Duvernay, tailbacks Keaontay Ingram and Jordan Whittington on offense and nose guards and safeties on defense are impressing early on.
It should come as no surprise that Ehlinger is a name that keeps popping up when coaches are in meetings or studying film, but the fact that Herman pointed him out is a good sign of both his maturation and leadership.
Receiver Devin Duvernay has caught his coaches’ attention from his move to slot receiver from wide out.
“I think Sam’s obviously doing some really good things,” Herman said. “Just how impressed with are with Duvernay and his ability to transition in there, and then the two tailbacks, there’s some dynamic qualities there when they get out in the open field.
It sounds like there’s a dearth of talent with the safeties, with both Brandon Jones and Caden Sterns leading the way.
On the front end of the defense, the Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo are standing out as the anchors of the defensive line.
“I think the two nose guards in Keondre and Moro, and then all of our safeties,” Herman said. “We’ve got, really, six starters at safety. Josh Thompson and Chris Brown, even though they’re listed as backups right now, those guys are making a case for getting on the field. On third and long when we jog out our sub package, we’ve got one d-lineman in the game, two linebackers and the rest are DBs, we can run and hit on that side of the ball.”
First week in pads is about establishing how physical Texas wants to be.
“Put your face on somebody,” Herman said when asked what the goal was for the first week of practice. “We pride ourselves on our physicality. You can’t be a physically dominant team on Saturdays if you don’t practice that way. Our practices are very physical. We wanna see the guys that embrace that culture and those that have some work to do, it’s our job to teach them how important that is.”
Herman noted that this is the most full contact Texas will have all season by pointing out that during the year, they have just 24 out of 36 practices in pads compared to 25 all during camp.
“This is the most live action they’ll get for the entire season,” Herman said. “This and spring ball [are the most physical], so for the guys that were here in spring, there’s really no issue. It’s the guys that got here in June that need a little learning.”
Now that the pads are all on, the groundhog day routine starts to set in.
One of the benefits about the start of camp is there are milestones to help break up the monotony of camp, be it when shoulder pads are added or you go full pads, the first week is filled with change and excitement.
Now that they’re in full pads, the light at the end of the tunnel that is the first game against Louisiana Tech can seem far, far away.
“We’ll do some things to keep it fresh in terms of different drills,” Herman said. “I know our sports science staff, we’ve changed the length of our practices. Each practice isn’t going to be as long. We’ll kind of undulate in terms of time on the field to try to make sure that we’re keeping them as fresh as possible. I think it’s something we constantly talk about is refocusing and going 1-0.”
Herman did note that they’ll avoid going full pads on back-to-back days to help keep them fresh for the opener on August 31.