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Spring football practice is very much like dating someone new: fun and light and dreamy and full of possibility.
The actually football season is very much like marriage: bills must be paid, results are tangible and questions are asked and must be answered daily.
Marriage is a lot harder.
The Texas football team is dating right now, conducting its spring practices with new players, new coaches and new promises. Tom Herman and his crew are hoping to turn the spring “dating” into a successful fall “marriage.”
To do so, the Longhorns need to make sure they accomplish four objectives before the dating ends in April:
1. Make sure you know more about the quarterback situation at the end of spring practice than you do at the beginning…
Last year Herman took great pains to make sure that everyone knew, at the end of spring training, that the Longhorns would be continuing to evaluate their quarterbacks when fall practices commenced. Texas would be better served this year by gaining clarity at the position long before the dog days of August arrive.
Is Sam Ehlinger ready to distance himself as the clear starter after winning the bowl game at the end of last season? Is Shane Buechele a viable option as a possible starting quarterback, or will his role now become that of a steady and reliable backup behind a clear-cut starter? Are newcomers Casey Thompson and Cameron Rising ready to contribute this season, perhaps even as potential starters? Will one of the newbies be redshirted?
These types of questions were impossible to answer at the end of last year’s spring practice; in 2018, for the Longhorns to continue to progress as a team, they’ll need to have more tangible answers to these questions than they had this time last year.
2. Make sure new co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Herb Hand is used decisively in both of his roles.
By all indications, Hand will be an invaluable contributor to the re-structuring and further fine tuning of the Texas offense. Obviously an improved offensive line will mean an improved offense in 2018, and an improved offense is the biggest of all the big-picture goals of the spring. If he is able to improve the offensive line – and based on his past experience/results, that’s a pretty safe bet – then he will obviously be able to contribute in the role of co-offensive coordinator as well. If he is a vital contributor in both areas, that should become obvious during spring practice.
3. Make sure there is clear commitment to running the football, and clear commitment to WHO is going to run the football.
Every year, everyone asks the same questions about the Texas running game: Who is the primary running back? Are the Longhorns going to fully commit to the running game? For years now – literally, years – the answers to those questions are “We don’t know” and “No.” For Texas to take the next step on this road to football recovery, the Longhorns need to find a couple of running backs who will get 90 percent of the carries and also make sure that whoever is calling plays is “all in” with their commitment to run the ball. Every year, whoever the Texas coach is at the time tells us that he wants to run the ball. And every year, it doesn’t happen. That needs to change, starting now, in spring practice.
4. Make sure the culture is in place.
Count me as someone who is tired of hearing coaches talk about culture. Every coach in America wants the same culture: hard work, commitment to team, accountability, no drama off the field, etc. No more talk. Just do the right thing. Starting now, in spring practice.
Conclusion: do well at dating and the marriage just might work.