Week three of preseason practice for the Longhorns came with a unique twist. Head coach Tom Herman took his team beyond the confines of Frank Denius Fields to a place where normally only UT intramural squads go — the Wright-Whitaker Sports Complex. With opening day now less than two weeks away, here are four headlines from the Longhorns’ third week of practice.
Buechele, Ehlinger still battling
Many have assumed for a while that the starting quarterback job has been sophomore Shane Buechele's to lose. And that still may be the case. But Herman has not pushed that narrative for one second, remaining adamant that it's an open competition between Buechele and freshman Sam Ehlinger. Herman was critical of Buechele's play following Thursday's practice, saying the Arlington native needs to cut down on the mistakes.
“It’s a much more complex offense than what (Buechele) is used to,” Herman said. “I think at times he reverts back to just, hey, take the snap and throw it to who I think is going to be open on this play, and that’s not always the case. You got to read defenses, you got to adjust protections, you got to put people in motion, you got to do a lot of things in our offense.”
Following Saturday’s scrimmage, Herman still wasn’t ready to name a starter, but he reiterated “that if we played a game tomorrow, Shane Buechele would start.”
Beck injury raises concern at tight end
A significant blow to an already suspect position group came at Wednesday’s practice when senior Andrew Beck suffered a fractured foot in what Herman described as a non-contact injury. It’s the same foot Beck broke during spring practice, which caused him to miss extended time.
“I feel awful for Andrew Beck,” Herman said. “Worst case scenario, it’d be another surgery and many, many months (of rehab).”
Herman said Beck will be out at least 6-8 weeks. An upcoming CT scan will provide more information on the severity of Beck’s injury and whether or not he’ll need surgery.
The loss of Beck only exacerbates Texas’ glaring question mark at the tight end position. Outside of Beck, the group is wildly inexperienced, leading Herman to describe his anxiety level at tight end “at an all-time high.”
“Maybe one of these guys — Garrett Gray or Kendall Moore or Cade Brewer — proves to us that they deserve to be on the field quite a bit,” Herman said. “So we’re giving them every opportunity to do that.”
Peyton Manning pays a visit
Former NFL quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning dropped by practice on Thursday and spoke with the Longhorns. Coincidentally, Manning played for a different UT (the University of Tennessee, to be exact) during his college days. On Twitter, Herman thanked Manning for stopping by to “speak to our team and staff about winning championships.”
“The biggest thing that (Manning) said that stuck out to me was he said that you have to love to be coached,” sophomore safety Brandon Jones said. “If you’re 95 percent good and you want to get that 100 percent, like Coach Herman told us, you have to be able to love coaching and take that coaching and change your game.”
Depth still a concern
It’s unfair to claim that what makes or breaks year one of the Herman era will be whether or not the Longhorns can stay healthy. Texas has depth concerns in many critical areas, at quarterback, running back, and both the offensive and defensive lines. On Thursday, Herman was asked if he has 22 dependable backups right now.
“No,” Herman said. “Oh my gosh, no. But I don’t know that anybody does.”