Longhorns kick off preseason practice

Michael Shapiro

With 33 days remaining until the Longhorns begin their 2017 campaign, Texas kicked off preseason practice early Monday morning. As the sun slowly rose over the Frank Denius Fields, the burnt orange completed its first organized practice since spring camp, running through drills and 7-on-7 competition. Here are four takeaways from day one of preseason practice.

No starting QB announced yet:

Texas fans will have to wait a few more weeks to know who will be the starting quarterback against Maryland on Sept. 2. Head coach Tom Herman said he doesn’t plan on making a decision until the Longhorns begin their preparation for opening night, which he anticipates will be mid-August at the earliest.

“We’ll have three weeks of healthy competition,” Herman said. “Then the guy that’s the starter needs to take every rep with the ones.”

Sophomore Shane Buechele is expected to be the Longhorns’ starter to begin next season. He started all 12 games for Texas in 2016, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 21 TDs. Competing with Buechele is freshman Sam Ehlinger, a four-star recruit per 247Sports. Herman said he’d like to see more decisiveness from Ehlinger as preseason practice continues.

Longhorns show improved conditioning:

Herman wasn’t happy with Texas’ conditioning in the spring, most notably on the defensive line. And he wasn’t discreet in his displeasure, either. “I think we’d know a lot more (about our team) if some of these really fat guys lost some weight,” Herman said in March.

But summer workouts seem to have done wonders for the Longhorns as they approach August. The team has shed over 500 pounds of total body fat since the spring according to strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight, and added 300+ pounds of lean muscle mass.

“It’s noticeable, we have much more stamina,” Herman said. “There’s been a night and day difference (compared to spring practice).”

Pacing is key:

More than four weeks of practice in the Texas heat is a grind, and the Longhorns will be pushed physically as August wears on. But Herman acknowledged Monday that he’ll have to curb the intensity of certain practices in order to keep his team fresh heading into September.

“Having them here for four-and-a-half weeks, that can get a little cumbersome and monotonous,” Herman said. “We’ll find ways to break it up, but it is something we certainly have to be mindful of.”

Herman said the Longhorns will be in shorts for a majority of this week. They will transition to full pads Friday.

Receiving corps look crowded:

The wide receivers room will be packed with available bodies this season, with a plethora of players jockeying for playing time. Two sophomores, Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, seem to have spots secured at the top of the depth chart, but it’s unknown who will join them as Texas’ third and fourth receivers.

One wideout who stood out Monday? Redshirt freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. Herman noted that the Houston native needs to add some weight before opening day, but was otherwise complimentary of Hemphill-Mapps’ efforts following the morning’s practice.

“Reggie had a great spring and a really good summer,” Herman said. “He’s explosive in and out of breaks. He’s got good ball skills, and you can tell he’s got a good feel for the game.”