Silence is deafening, and good news usually doesn’t come with it.
For head coach Tom Herman and the Longhorns, however, a quiet offseason brought in a highly ranked recruiting class, new coaching staff and an instant-impact group of early enrollees.
As the offseason comes to a close, the Longhorns will don their pads and open the first week of Spring Football. Here are four things to look out for heading into it:
Texas not only saw improvement through its incoming recruiting class, but also in its current players as well. As with any offseason, most player improvement comes from the weight room, and this year proved to be no different.
“I know these (weight room) numbers may not mean a whole lot to the lay person, but that’s big-time improvement,” Herman said. “We’ve had a magnificent couple of months developing our players in the weight room and on the field.”
Herman also noted a positive change in player demeanor heading into spring practices. He noted Texas’ bowl win in December as a turning point for the team, as it played and won that game without many of its key players.
“We’ve got guys that want to be here,” Herman said. “There is a tremendous amount of positivity in that locker room right now.”
With several departures, more leaders have emerged in the locker room. Among them include wide receiver Jerrod Heard, defensive linemen Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager and linebacker Gary Johnson. Expect these players to lead the way for Texas in the spring.
During the offseason, Texas lost key defensive players in linebacker Malik Jefferson, strong safety DeShon Elliott and cornerback Holton Hill to the NFL Draft. In addition, defensive lineman Poona Ford also declared his intention to play at the next level.
However, returning players like senior defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, junior linebacker Gary Johnson and senior defensive back Kris Boyd should lead the way in filling these voids on defense.
From week two of the 2017 season, Texas’ starting quarterback was always a question mark up until kickoff. Unsurprisingly, Herman isn’t afraid to point out his team’s shortcomings.
“We’ve got to get better at quarterback,” Herman said. “We’ve got to see how much development we’ve had.”
Spring football should set the stage for what will be a contested battle for the starting spot up until the start of the 2018 season. Among this year’s candidates are sophomore Sam Ehlinger, junior Shane Buechele, who just completed recovery from his offseason surgery on a torn adductor muscle,
and freshmen Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson.
Work on offense
Apart from the quarterback position, Texas’ offensive struggles aren’t anything new. During Texas’ 33-16 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl, Herman took over play-calling duties to help out an offense struggling in all phases of the game.
“I missed it (calling plays),” Herman said. “We weren’t playing to the level of offense any of us wanted. I figured I could spark some added productivity.”
In addition to questions surrounding the play-calling situation, Texas lost star offensive lineman Connor Williams to the NFL Draft, leaving Herman and offensive line coach Herb Hand with a big hole to address. Look for Samuel Cosmi to help address these issues along the offensive line.
Texas’ inconsistency in the backfield also caused problems over the season, so look for the Longhorns to address their running game during the spring as well. Junior running back Kyle Porter sustained an ankle injury earlier this offseason and is questionable to return for spring practice. This will leave sophomore Toneil Carter and Danny Young starting off with the brunt of the reps in practice.