Texas head coach Tom Herman held his first press conference of the season on Monday, ahead of spring practice. As Herman discussed the state of the Longhorns, two things popped out: they’ve made significant progress in the weight room, and a few players are dealing with some injuries.
Sophomore tight end Cade Brewer will be missed most of all. He injured his ACL in practice late last season and needs more time to recover.
“[Brewer] will be out for the entirety of spring” coach Herman confirmed.
As a freshman in 2017, Brewer played in 10 games and had 9 receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came in a signature overtime win against Southern Cal. Brewer will likely take on a greater role in 2018 as he was developing into a reliable red zone option. Although his stats may not be remarkable, his two receiving touchdowns tied that of leading receiver Collin Johnson; who caught 54 passes for 765 yards.
Two players were listed as able to practice but with limited or no contact. Redshirt freshman linebacker Russell Hine tore his ACL in fall camp ahead prior to last season, and did not play in 2017. Senior defensive lineman Chris Nelson will also be limited during spring practice. Last season, Nelson started 7 games and had 18 tackles, but was nursing an elbow injury that lingered into the offseason. On the spring prospects of Hine and Nelson, Herman confident they wouldn’t be held back very long.
“They should be good to go very quickly.” Herman said.
Two players were listed as unable to practice but might return before the end of spring camp. Sophomore O-lineman Patrick Hudson tore his ACL in the second game of 2017 against San Jose State. Junior running back Kirk Johnson played special teams in the opener against Maryland, but did not play the rest of the season. Herman hopes to get at least get a week of workouts out of Hudson and Johnson before the end of spring practice.
Another junior running back, Kyle Porter, was listed as questionable for spring practice. He rolled his ankle during a drill just before spring break. In 2017, Porter played in 12 games, started in three, was part of a four-running back committee that included Daniel Young, Chris Warren III, and Toneil Carter; all of whom return in 2018. In 2017 rushing yards Porter ranked third with 261, behind Warren (314) and Young (373). He also ranked second in rushing touchdowns with four.
A notable absence from the spring injury report was junior quarterback Shane Buechele. Buechele injured his hip against Missouri in the Texas Bowl, and in January underwent surgery to repair a torn adductor/abdominal muscle. In 2017, Buechele played in 9 games and threw for 1,405 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. His spring performance will shed light on who will start under center for the Longhorns in 2018, as Buechele will once again be competing with sophomore Sam Ehlinger. Last season Ehlinger also played in 9 games and threw for 1,915 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Will Herman throw the keys to any one RB or QB in 2018, or will he continue to use the committee approach? The results of spring practice may help answer that question.
It wasn’t all bad news in the press conference, though. Herman couldn’t give enough praise to the strides the team had made in the weight room. Herman claimed that 40 players have power-cleaned at least 300 pounds, 33 players had cleared 500 pounds on back squats, and 46 players have at least a 36-inch vertical.
“I know those numbers might not mean a whole lot to the lay person,” Herman said. “but that’s big-time improvement.”
“That is a testament to the development that goes on during the season for a lot of these young guys. They work out one extra day a week during the season and it paid big dividends.”
A players specifically have stood out in the weight room. Kris Boyd’s 38.5-inch vertical would be good for 9th at the NFL Combine, and Herman called out Breckyn Hager, Ta’Quon Graham, Samuel Cosmi and Marqez Brimage for power-cleaning 350 pounds.
“I told the team,” Herman said. “I’ve actually told them numerous times, I’ve never been more excited to coach a team than this one.”