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Texas coach Tom Herman’s words often are very guarded after the first scrimmage of the pre-season. Sunday was no different as he offered some praise and rational explanation behind what he saw in the Longhorns’ closed practice.
However, the names he listed in his injury report were notable because it consisted of two young players seen as difference-makers for the 2019 Longhorns.
Herman said sophomore RB Keaontay Ingram “tweaked his knee” and sophomore DB Caden Sterns “rolled his ankle” during the scrimmage. He added that the on-field examinations for both “looked promising” but qualified that stating they’ll know more once the two receive thorough evaluations.
Sterns’ ailment is significant as he is one of the few returning starters to defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s defense. However, Texas’ success recruiting the safety position and recent praise from Herman and Orlando the backup safeties means there are others that could soften the blow of Sterns’ absence.
Any sort of extended absence from Ingram could have an impact on the look of the entire offense, who Herman said won the scrimmage Sunday.
In addition to Ingram’s injury, senior Kirk Johnson is out for up to six weeks with a sternoclavicular joint sprain. That leaves two scholarship running backs available in freshman Jordan Whittington and junior Daniel Young.
Herman said he has no plans to put a green, non-contact jersey on that duo. If they needed to move a player to RB to bolster depth, Herman mentioned freshman Jake Smith as an option. He noted it wouldn’t be fair to Smith’s development as a college wide receiver to go to RB simply to be a backup.
“We’ve got a couple of walk-on guys that are doing a really good job,” Herman said. “They know the offense and perform well. If this is something that carries into the season, we certainly have to figure something out because we are not going to survive with two scholarship tailbacks.”
According to Herman, the offense defeated the defense in the scrimmage but it took a last-second effort for offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s side of the ball to top Orlando’s.
“The offense wound up winning but it took the final two-minute drive for that to happen,” Herman said. “Defense kept it close with some disruption in the backfield. They had a lot of TFLs. I thought they did a really good job on third down.”
“I’m very pleased with where we’re at after nine practices.”
Both Sam Ehlinger and Casey Thompson received effusive praise from both Herman and Beck in the past week, but Herman was hesitant to continue that trend Sunday.
“Good,” Herman said on their performance. “No issues.”
And that was that.
He went into more detail about other positions in the midst of depth chart battles including cornerback and offensive line.
Orlando and corners coach Jason Washington’s current assignment is to replace two graduated seniors with members of talented recruiting classes they’ve brought to Texas. Sophomores D’Shawn Jamison, Anthony Cook, Kobe Boyce, and Jalen Green are all vying for the two spots available.
Herman said that group was “up and down” in the scrimmage.
“I thought they did well in run support,” Herman said. “(The offense) caught some 50/50 balls on some guys that I think we need to do a better job of playing the ball in the air. I thought their run support was good, and assignment-wise they didn’t turn anybody loose.”
Switching to the offensive side of the ball, Herman is still searching for guys to round out a “top eight” group of offensive lineman he can feel good about.
If Texas had a game Monday, Herman said his starting OL left to right would be Samuel Cosmi, Junior Angilau, Zach Shackelford, Derek Kerstetter, and Denzel Okafor. Herman confirmed Kerstetter is the current backup center.
Georgia Tech grad transfer Parker Braun is another player that made the cut for the top eight, but Herman is still searching for two or three more to add to that group.
“Tope Imade is making progress,” Herman said. “The two young tackles are making progress in Reese Moore and Christian Jones. If we played tomorrow they wouldn’t be game ready but I’m pleased with their trajectory.”