Longhorns finding identity in fall camp

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Fall camp is the time to forge team identities and create internal momentum heading into the season. With Texas now practicing in full pads, it’s full steam ahead for the beginning of the season. Here are some of the top storylines as fall camp continues:

Eagles’ emergence

When receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey declared for the NFL Draft after last season, it left a 6-foot-4, 225-pound hole in the Texas offense. So far, it looks as if similarly sized wide receiver Brennan Eagles will fill those big shoes in the upcoming season.

As a freshman, Eagles played in 11 games but recorded just one catch for 35 yards. In offensive drills Wednesday, the sophomore took a majority of the first team reps at the Z receiver position. After Devin Duvernay, shifted back into the slot receiver, where he played as a freshman under former head coach Charlie Strong.

“We’ve got some youth right now in (wide receiver Josh Moore) being a true sophomore and (wide receiver Jake Smith) being a true freshman, so in order to get what is now our best three guys out there in the starting lineup, Brennan was in that group,” Herman said. “Brennan has taken to the starting job pretty well.”

Health above all

As Texas looks to contend for the Big 12 championship, one thing is certainly on the minds of both coaches and players: staying healthy.

“We take that very seriously,” Herman said. “It’s what we call being a pro. We tell them all the time, ‘Your body in peak physical condition is the greatest gift that you can give the team.”

Herman noted that on-field practice time is reduced this year to keep players as fresh as possible before the grind of a 12-game regular season.

The Longhorns were hit with a pair of minor injuries Wednesday. Defensive back DeMarvion Overshown sat out of practice with a mid-foot sprain. Running back Kirk Johnson left practice in a sling after landing on his shoulder and will be evaluated for a clavicle injury. Herman does not expect either injury to be serious.

The backfield is in good hands

Last year, running back Keaontay Ingram averaged five yards per carry while splitting touches with Tre Watson. With Watson leaving, Ingram has been preparing himself for the increased workload. 

“Keaontay Ingram is 20 pounds heavier and running a mile per hour faster,” Herman said. 

Just below Ingram on the depth chart is Jordan Whittington. The freshman is a Swiss Army knife in terms of his abilities and has been a bright spot for Herman after enrolling early in January.

“It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in 20-something years of coaching, how a guy —  who had never played the position before in his life — took to it that naturally,” Herman said. “He’s our second-team tailback right now, and we’re expecting some big contributions.”

New wave of leadership

A new year comes with new leaders and players stepping into new roles. On a revamped defense, defensive end Malcolm Roach has become a prominent voice on the defense even when he isn’t speaking.

“Being a coach’s son, I know when to talk up,” Roach said. “I know when to sit back and let Brandon (Jones) talk. I know when to sit back and let (Ta’Quon Graham) talk.”

Roach, a senior, has been through two different Longhorn regimes and is now the elder statesman on the defensive line. 

Lined up yards behind him is standout safety Caden Sterns. Despite being in only his second year in the program, he hasn’t let his youth become a barrier to leadership.

“I think anybody can be a leader,” Sterns said. “Experience, it matters, but at the same time it’s the same game you’ve been playing since you were young.”