While Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott is agog for the start of Big 12 play Wednesday, he still understands the need for rest and recovery for his worn-out squad.
To Elliott, rest is much needed, “not just on the physical side but on the emotional side,” after he and the staff expressed concerns about the team’s emotional stamina.
He also feels that the last two days of rest helps Texas establish a regular schedule heading into conference play.
“With the schedule we’ve had, it has been very sporadic (and) hurting our ability to practice consistently,” Elliott said. “So I’m excited to get into a routine here getting into the Big 12 and having better practice opportunities.”
The new routine has been imperative and helpful in returning key pieces to full strength.
Sophomore middle blocker Brionne Butler is starting to work back into the lineup after sitting out the last eight games with a lower extremity injury.
“I think (Butler) is going to get some reps in practice today, so we’ll see where she is for Wednesday and Saturday,” Elliott said. “It’s an injury we’re going to be very careful with … so we want to do it right and have (Butler) for the rest of the long haul.”
Butler had an impressive 2018 campaign, tallying 130 blocks. If Butler can return soon, it would be a tremendous help in facing a conference that’s trending upward.
When asked about how the state of the Big 12 would hinder the Longhorns down the road, Elliott explained how he doesn’t feel the stature of the conference being diminished.
“The (Big 12) has two top five teams in the country with Baylor … (and) Iowa State,” Elliott said.
Wednesday, the Cyclones will be the first conference test for Texas. A “blue collar team” as described by Elliott, Iowa State travels to Austin at 9–3 and looking to continue its seven-game win streak.
Texas will look to continue to rebound from its loss to unranked Rice last week in Houston.
There was an element of concern, but Elliott quickly dismissed the loss as a hiccup. He gave the Owls credit and declared the loss could actually serve as a positive experience for the remainder of the season.
“I knew they were very good,” Elliott said, “Rice could run the table and be in the top 16 at the end of the season. I think our freshmen and sophomores saw how well teams can play against Texas.”
Although the Longhorns are under pressure to repeat as Big 12 champions, they have a good sense of where they stand. Texas has started strong in nonconference play with a 6–2 record, with signature wins against Minnesota and USC.
“We got everything we wanted out of (nonconference),” Elliott said, “We’ve played some of the best teams in the country, and I feel like we’re in the mix.”