Texas football head coach Tom Herman is faced with more questions than answers right now.
What will fall football look like during the pandemic? Are players who speak out on racial injustice having their voices heard? What does the depth chart look like?
Herman addressed some of these questions in a Sunday teleconference, where he discussed player activism, the state of the depth chart and preparation for the season opener against UTEP on Sept. 12.
“As we turn the page into this week, (our players) realize we’ve got a game in 12 days,” Herman said. “When that light now is finally at the end of the tunnel, you can definitely see the intensity level ratchet up a bit.”
The sense of urgency in preparing for UTEP may be compounded by the team’s decision not to practice last Thursday and Friday, instead using the days to discuss social issues following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23.
Herman said he is proud of the way his team handled the days leading up to Sunday’s practice.
“As coaches, we’re here to provide guidance, mentorship and ultimately support for the things that are important to the people we love, which are certainly our players,” Herman said. “(I’m) just really proud of them and their open-mindedness as well as their ability and want to be involved in their community and our society as a whole.”
Beyond ensuring that his players’ voices are heard as they continue the conversations both within the team and publicly on social media, Herman still has practical football challenges. These include the battles for the backup quarterback and starting running back positions and preparing for a season opener that’s less than two weeks away.
Herman said it’s irrelevant who takes the first snap at running back between sophomore Roschon Johnson, junior Keaontay Ingram and freshman Bijan Robinson, a five-star recruit. He anticipates that all three will take significant snaps and said he feels the team can win with any one of them, adding that the three backs will all be used in a variety of packages.
Regarding the quarterback battle, Herman said sophomore Casey Thompson seems to have beaten out freshman Hudson Card in the battle to back up senior Sam Ehlinger.
“If we play a game tomorrow, certainly Casey is much more game-ready (than Card),” Herman said, adding that he likes Card’s potential even though he did not have spring practice. “He’s got a very bright future ahead of him, and that should be an interesting battle for years to come.”
Now, less than two weeks from the Longhorns’ season opener against UTEP, Herman’s attention is turning to game-planning and preparations for the Miners’ visit to Austin. Texas will treat this week’s practices as a “mock game week” before holding a mock game scrimmage Saturday.
But if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that nothing is certain this fall season.
When asked about what has been normal this year, Herman smiled, laughed and jokingly said, “Next question.”