Observations from Texas’ opening practice

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Head coach Charlie Strong stands on the sidelines during a game against Oklahoma State in September. The Longhorns started practice for the 2016 season on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ football season is officially underway.

The Longhorns took the field for an open practice on their first day of training camp Saturday morning. Head coach Charlie Strong and several players met with the media after practice to discuss their first day and the upcoming season.

Here are some of the top observations from day one.

The Longhorns are physically imposing

Strong makes a point to recruit the tallest and strongest players he can find.

“I believe big guys beat up little guys, and you can’t get enough of them,” Strong said.

And it showed during the first day of practice. The team added eight freshmen of 300 pounds or more this offseason. Strong said the roster is the “much bigger” than last year, and he’s excited to add depth in the trenches.

“That’s where you’re going to win games,” Strong said. “If you can’t put pressure on people, if you can’t block people, you don’t have a chance.”

Even to the players, Texas looks the part of a big, physically imposing team.

Senior linebacker Tim Cole said he’s relieved to see so many bulky players on the defensive line. He hopes they can command more blockers up front and make things easier for the linebackers.

“The gene pool out here is crazy,” Cole said. “I’m happy the [300-pound linemen] are here.”

Freshmen will need time to adjust

Texas is making a clear transition to a youth movement. Over 15 freshmen saw significant playing time last season. And the Longhorns are set to add more freshman playmakers to the starting units with another top recruiting class on campus.

But a shift to a younger lineup won’t come without growing pains. The freshmen often looked lost today while adjusting to their new practice format.

“They’re freshmen — it was a tough day for most of them,” senior defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. said. “It’s a learning curve… the constant movement, some of them weren’t ready for that. But I think for the most part they’re going to learn.”

Strong said the coaching staff won’t go easy on the freshmen. He said they will make players repeat each drill non-stop until they master the technique.

“A young guy didn’t know how to pursue to the ball, so we blew the whistle to line up again,” Strong said. “He didn’t know again, so we blew the whistle to line up again… [they] will probably be out there until he gets it right.”

Duvernay highlights talented young receiving corps

The Longhorns struggled to produce in the passing game in 2015. The team finished dead last in the Big 12 in passing offense last season with just 145 yards per game.  

But with an influx of young talent this offseason — the Longhorns added five receivers in the 2016 class — new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert has a variety of options outside.

Freshman wide receiver Devin Duvernay particularly stood out as playmaker during the first practice. Standing at 5-foot-11, he brings top-notch speed, a strong frame and explosive route-running to the slot.

The freshman drew some hollering from teammates after burning sophomore defensive back P.J. Locke III and reeling in a deep ball at the beginning of practice.

“He has some speed and he listens [to his coaches],” senior receiver Jacorey Warrick said. “He seems like a quick learner.”