Longhorns close opening weekend of fall camp on high note

Ross Burkhart

With one full weekend of fall camp in the books, head coach Tom Herman feels like his team is practicing right at the level they should be.

The Longhorns have shown they have a lot of veteran presence returning, potentially impactful freshmen and community among the athletes and coaches through the team’s first three practices.

“I told the guys after practice,” Herman said during post-practice media availability. “The way that a head coach determines if it was a good practice or not is if both sides of the ball had success at different times, and that was the case today.”

Here’s what happened on day three of practice:

A stable of running backs

“We’re better because of development,” Herman said. “I think every single running back in that room is better and we’re better because of recruiting. Tre (Watson) and Keaontay (Ingram) certainly bring an added dimension and element to that room.”

The Longhorns’ trouble in the ground game was very notable last season, raising a lot of questions about how the coaching staff plans to focus on the running backs this season.

Watson, a graduate transfer from California, and Ingram, a true freshman, both bring a level of depth to the Texas backfield.

How much the two will contribute to the team’s plans remains unclear.

“You like to have someone step up and say, ‘I’m going to be the one that wants to be the feature back,’” offensive line coach Herb Hand said Thursday at a media availability. “But it’s going to take the whole stable, just like every other position. You’ve got to have quality depth to be able to play the type of schedule we play. In college football nowadays, you’ve got to have two or three guys you can really count on.”

Between the two newcomers, sophomores Toneil Carter and Daniel Young, the Longhorns could find themselves with a number of potential suitors for the starting running back spot.

“I’m not ready to crown them yet, don’t get me wrong,” Herman said. “I’ll never do that after one day in pads, but it’s obvious that we’ve developed at that position.”

Sterns stands out for DBU

When asked what the most impressive thing about that freshman defensive back Caden Sterns brings to the mix, Herman had a quick answer.

“Ball skills,” Herman said. “Well one, he’s physical. I saw that in the spring, obviously. We can’t see much here in these last three days, but the guy’s around the football. He had another pick today just off a tipped pass and he was right there to clean it up with a pick and he’s just always around the football.”

Sterns, a four-star recruit by ESPN, was ranked as the third-best athlete in the state during recruitment.

Expect defensive coordinator Todd Orlando to attempt to utilize Sterns right away, after losing four premier defensive backs last year.

A good problem at wide receiver

While Texas may not be decided on a starting quarterback, they have shown there’s no shortage of pass catchers.

It hasn’t just been the familiar names like juniors Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey making plays for the offense. Freshman wideout Brennan Eagles has been generating a great deal of noise during fall camp.

At 6 foot 3 inches and 225 pounds, Eagles’ large frame gives the Longhorns another option to play outside the numbers.

The mixed bag of receivers gives Texas a unique issue: too many hands and not enough footballs to go around.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Herman said. “It is a conversation everyday in the offensive staff room, how to get these young guys the reps. I mean, there’s only one football and there’s only so many pass plays in a game when you’re talking about the receivers.”

Over the course of the next few weeks, the pecking order at receiver should reveal itself, giving fans a closer look at who the team’s top targets might be this season.

“You’re going to see, I would imagine, quite a few receivers play, which is great,” Herman said. “That means they’re going to be fresh. But by the end of camp, I think we’ll have our go-to three or four guys. I think we’ll probably have another three guys that are going to play quite a bit.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Patrick Hudson left the field during practice Sunday after battling cramps. The Texas heat has been difficult to manage for the Longhorns after losing Toneil Carter to leg cramps one day prior.

After a break in the action Monday, the team will resume fall camp Tuesday.