The Big 12’s Tuesday announcement about continuing the 2020 football season has made the Longhorns more hopeful off the field, Texas head coach Tom Herman said in media availability on Zoom Friday afternoon.
“I think by far that’s been the hardest thing for these young men, the uncertainty,” Herman said. “We understand the Big 12’s decision certainly is not final until we kick the ball off on Sept. 12, but I also know that they gave us a lot more hope than what was kind of floating around there over the course of the weekend.”
Saturday morning was the second time the team practiced in full pads, but not everyone made it out unscathed. Junior linebacker Juwan Mitchell and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Al’Vonte Woodard left the field with “stingers.” Later, freshman wide receiver Troy Omeire tweaked his knee in a noncontact scrimmage.
Upward of 90% of the team is taking classes online, and those who live on campus will be “somewhat isolated” in the San Jacinto Residence Hall. While these conditions will limit the players’ exposure to COVID-19, Herman acknowledged that their own self-discipline will dictate the success of the season.
“There’s still a lot of other hours in the day,” Herman said. “But I think our guys have proven that they understand and can execute the steps necessary to maintain the standards that we have to maintain.”
The excitement of the redeemed season will wear off as time progresses, Herman said, and the team will have to be vigilant in order to complete a 10-game schedule.
While Herman said Saturday morning’s play was a little sloppy, he was pleased with the effort, especially from younger players such as freshman running back Bijan Robinson and freshman linebacker Jaylan Ford.
Herman said he’s excited about Texas’ newest class and their buy-in to the program. On Friday, Texas landed 5-star quarterback and No. 1 player in the class of 2022, Quinn Ewers.
The pandemic could complicate recruiting from this point forward, particularly when coaches evaluate high school players who won’t take the field this season, but Herman said it shouldn’t be a problem for Texas.
“We’re offering some guys after their freshman year, especially their sophomore year,” Herman said. “For the most part, our evaluation process has been pretty much completed — certainly for the 2021 class, for the most part 2022 even. So you’re talking about the class of 2023 now, or guys that just finished their freshman year … so we’ve got plenty of time to evaluate them.”
The team still has a long way to go, as the Longhorns haven’t played football since December. But rustiness as a result of the pandemic won’t be an excuse, Herman said. Texas’ goal is to pursue a conference championship as long as the season is still in play.
“Around here, our standards and our sights are set on competing for a Big 12 championship,” Herman said. “We have the same roadblocks everybody else does, and that won’t change throughout the course of the season.”