AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns are expected to open the regular season Saturday at 7 p.m. against UTEP at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after months of debate and uncertainty over the 2020 college football season.
In August, the Big 12 Conference decided to move forward with a modified, 10-game season, essentially becoming the swing vote among the “Power 5” conferences on the future of a football season after the Big Ten and Pac-12 opted not to play.
Four weeks later, the Big 12 and Texas are moving forward with its Sept. 12 opener. Capacity at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium will be capped at just 25%, which will result in fewer than 25,000 fans.
TCU has already postponed its scheduled non-conference game with SMU this weekend after positive COVID-19 tests within the Horned Frogs football program. TCU says the two teams are exploring other dates.
The minimum number of players required to play a football game in the Big 12 Conference this season will be 53, the conference announced on Friday. The total includes scholarship and walk-on players.
Longhorns head coach Tom Herman met with the media on Zoom on Monday for the latest within the Texas football program.
Troy Omeire (WR), Kelvontay Dixon (WR), Isaiah Hookfin (OL) are doubtful. Ayodele Adeoye (LB) was cleared to practice. Reese Moore (OL) is going to need another scope on his knee and will be out.
Safety precautions on game day for players and staff
“It’s not just us planning to take them. It’s a conference-wide mandate. I know it’s not a conference game, but we’re going to take every precaution. We’ll be tested on Friday morning as well as Sunday and Wednesday leading up to it. We’ll all have masks on, if you’re not a player, we’ll certainly have our masks on. My understanding that throughout the game will be a normal game. The masks on the sideline are certainly a precaution. The theory is that everyone on the sideline and in your locker room has tested negative within the last 24 hours,” Herman said.
Discussion among coaches and Big 12 leader about importance of a legitimate season
“There wasn’t a whole lot of (debate) with just coaches in there. We want a legitimate season, but we understand those decisions are made by people who are not coaches. There’s two ways to look at it: we’re going to get 10 games comes hell or high water… as long as you have 53 able bodies, you’re going to play. I think it’s important that we put our best foot forward in the postseason. Are we trying to win the game or play the game? It appears conference leadership has answered that question. The 53 able body is here to stay.”
How monumental would Big 12 title and postseason experience be in this season around pandemic?
“I think as we see more and more schools have hiccups along the way as we’ve already seen with a postponement in our conference. The more and more those things pop up through the season … our guys are going to realize truly how special this season is. If there’s an asterisk, I hope the asterisk says this was really hard. I think we certainly understand the gravity of this season and the challenges that are laid out in front of us. If you come away with this crazy season with a championship under your belt, you’ve done something truly remarkable.”
Approaching roster everyone being ready
“If we’re doing our job recruiting, you’re hoping that other than quarterback and offensive line, that your freshman can make an impact for you. This year is unique, I think you’re going to see almost every scholarship player get some meaningful snaps this season. We’re certainly getting a lot of work with the threes and fours … we’ve stayed after practice for some scrimmage work with the threes and fours. I think where you see it the most is probably on special teams. Used to be wary of burning a guy’s redshirt on special teams. Now it’s like play the kid … there’s nothing to worry about. I hope it’s a springboard that in the very near future we can get a five to play five and never worry about the redshirt rules. Our plan has been to rep our threes and fours more than we ever have and play on special teams because we know there’s no downside to it.”
How Herman will use special teams this year
“Not more heightened … people forget I was a special teams coordinator at Sam Houston State for three years. I don’t think we’re doing anything different. Some of the schemes and teaching progressions are different with Coach (Jay) Boulware here, but the importance is par for the course right now.”
Pros and cons of roster heading into season
“I feel great about our starting quarterback, I feel great about our veteran offensive linemen … the guys that have a lot of snaps under their belt. I feel great about the defensive front and the depth we have on the interior of the defensive line.”
“We lost our two leading receivers by a wide margin. The depth and consistency at linebacker has been a topic all offseason. Things I’m worried about is making it through the dang season. We’ve got to sustain this through a whole season … it’s certainly difficult but not impossible.”
What a home game will sound like with 25% capacity
“We get pretty cranked up just for scrimmages. I’m not concerned about our energy level, juice level. It’s been nine months since we played an actual opponent and we’ll play games in a parking lot at this point. How many people in the stands and who’s there is not really a concern right now.”
Which wide receivers are standing out?
“Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington have both had really good training camps and Tarik Black has certainly been a welcome addition to that room and that unit. Those are the guys that stand out right now.”
Will the recent grad transfers be ready to play?
Both (WR Brenden Schooler and RB Gabriel Watson) will be available. Schooler just got approved for practice a couple days ago. He’s picked it up really fast. Gabe is added depth. He’s a different skill set than we have in the room. Those guys in a year like this … you can never have too much depth. Those are veteran guys that will add a lot to their respective rooms.”
Is there an adjustment with a lot of new coaches on staff?
“Not a whole lot. A lot is made of it. These guys are all pros. They’ve all coached at very high levels and they understand the gig. The most difficult part of it was being apart from the team for so long. These aren’t strangers, dropping them in and saying ‘Hey, go coach.’ Football is football and these guys have done a great job integrating themselves.”
On Election Day and will players be allowed to wait in line on Election Day?
“Our team isn’t quarantined right now. This isn’t the NBA with a bubble. These guys go to the store. I don’t think standing in line to vote is any different than every day life. I have no hesitation allowing our guys to vote. The plan is to give them that Tuesday off to any football-related activities and provide transportation for those that want to go vote.”
Scouting report on UTEP
“Obviously, this team is 1-0. The old adage is usually true that teams make their biggest improvement from game one to game two and they’ve already played a game. They’ve had a chance to work out kinks that we’ll be probably still be working out. I think coach (Dana) Dimel does a great job offensively. Heavy dose of quarterback run game. Defensively, they jump in and out of fronts and play multiple coverages. Our offense, particularly center and quarterback, are going to have to be dialed in to different looks and blitzes that they can throw at us.”
What statement will Texas/Big 12 make toward racial equality?
“I know the Big 12 is going to have a sticker on the back of their helmet. Our guys are allowed to have some kind of message on their uniform this year. Our leadership council decided that we were going to have one unified message sewed into a patch on their jersey. We have a message, but I’m not sure the leadership council wants me to give it away.”
On what the offense will look like under new coordinator Mike Yurcich
“This wasn’t a necessity to blow up and start from scratch. Our quarterback had the second most productive season in the history at UT. I think one of the things that coach Yurcich has brought is a menu of tempo plays … you’re probably going to see us go a little bit faster, but the undulation of tempo is the best way to keep a defense on their heels. Probably tempo will be the biggest difference (on Saturday).”
On leadership role of offensive lineman Sam Cosmi
“Sam Cosmi is a great leader I do think he’s progressed in being more vocal … it has shown up through training camp. At the early stages of the pandemic, he led his unit remotely and he’s a guy we’re going to lean on.”
What will happen after the game for the Eyes of Texas song?
“I don’t know. The powers that be have yet to tell me exactly what’s happening. Our band is not going to be present. I don’t know, but we’ve got time to talk about it when I get some clarity on what is going to happen postgame.”