Football is going to look a little different this year for the Texas Longhorns.
Forget the fact that the team will be playing in the middle of a global pandemic with limited fans in the stands or that the season may be abruptly canceled halfway through. Having six new coaches, including two new coordinators, is a challenge in and of itself, particularly when the team did not have the opportunity to install new offensive and defensive schemes in the spring.
Even so, the Texas locker room is excited about the upcoming season. Senior defensive end Ta’Quon Graham said he still has much to look forward to.
“I’m very excited for this upcoming season,” Graham said. “But what I’m mainly focused on is getting the defense down and as well getting comfortable and building our team back together because we were separated for so long.”
Several months and a new defensive coordinator later, Chris Ash, Graham and the Texas defense are adding a new scheme to their playbook, featuring four down linemen and a plethora of twists and stunts to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
“Playing in this new scheme is something that we all really were excited for,” Graham said. “I’m just excited for my teammates as well as myself. We get to play on more edges, and we get to play more freely.”
Head coach Tom Herman is excited to develop the 20 true freshmen from Texas’ latest recruiting class, including four-star defensive linemen Alfred Collins and Vernon Broughton, who have both received praise from teammates and coaches.
“Those are big, big strong humans,” Herman said in an Aug. 7 press conference. “They don’t know whether the ball is pumped or stuffed right now, and that’s OK. But they’re going to figure it out, and it’s going to be fun to watch.”
On the offensive side of the ball, freshman running back Bijan Robinson has senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger excited about having another option in an already loaded backfield.
“Bijan is obviously an incredible talent, (a) freak athlete,” Ehlinger said in an Aug. 18 press conference. “He gets the ball, and sometimes, I just want to watch him run. It’s just really, really fun to watch.”
Texas will welcome back redshirt sophomore receiver Joshua Moore and redshirt freshman receiver Jordan Whittington, who converted from running back last season. Moore missed the 2019 season after being charged with unlawful possession of a loaded gun last August, while Whittington only appeared in one game before missing the remainder of the season with a hernia injury.
If the season goes the way Herman thinks it could with players missing time due to injuries or exposure to the coronavirus, young recruits will be put on the spot to “figure it out” fast. Herman said his staff determined that 80%-90% of the scholarship roster can expect to see the field in this year’s 10-game season, meaning young players will need to make progress quickly.
Herman can’t yet put a percentage on his confidence level that they will play a full 10-game season and learned just two weeks ago that the first game of the season will be Sept. 12 against UT-El Paso. But one thing is certain — the Longhorns are ready to play.