Longhorns offensive play-caller Jay Norvell spoke with the media on Thursday. Here are the highlights of what he talked about.
It sounds like the coaching staff is preparing to play even more freshmen than usual against Texas Tech be it out of necessity or simply because the player has earned their way onto the field.
“Getting some of our young guys some repetition, focusing on a couple of areas we want to get extra reps on that we think we’re going to need in this game,” Norvell said when asked what the focus was in practice this week.
The staff is unsure at this time if D’Onta Foreman will be able to play after having successful surgery to repair his pinky earlier this week. Johnathan Gray [toe] is listed as day-to-day but I’m told he’ll be ready to go.
If those two aren’t able to go, or are limited, you can expect to see a lot of Chris Warren and Kirk Johnson against the Red Raiders.
“If those guys aren’t able to play, Chris is going to have to play and so is Kirk Johnson,” Norvell said. “Both of those kids have gotten a lot of reps this week and they are prepared. It’s good, it’s good. Young guys have been working hard. They have a lot of enthusiasm. They are excited and bring energy to the practice field. We are getting them a lot of reps.”
Norvell is excited to see what both freshmen can do.
“They are very different,” he said. “Chris is a bigger back. He’s almost 250. Kirk isn’t quite as big but he’s more of a slasher, a jitterbug. He works really hard. He’s a joy to see practice.”
Another name to keep an eye on is Roderick Bernard, who the coaches have moved from wide receiver to running back to help with depth.
“He’s done a lot of good things at practice,” Norvell said. “He’s completely different than those other guys. He’s got a lot of speed and quickness. We will give all of them an opportunity.”
Norvell said the message to the quarterbacks won’t be any different if it’s Warren-Johnson getting the lion’s share of carries against Tech.
“They are well aware that we have young kids that are going to play,” Norvell said. “We will have young kids at WR too. We expect those guys to run the ball whether D’Onta is ready to play or not. I don’t know that there is a different message.”
Freshman wide receiver DeAndre McNeal has been pretty vocal on social media about his abilities and wanting to get more of an opportunity to play this season.
Norvell was asked about that and basically said that McNeal needed to focus more.
“DeAndre had some other issues that had kept him off the field,” he said. “I’m sure he feels like all these freshmen, that they can do more. He just has to be more consistent and understand what we are doing, and practice at a consistent level. You just don’t hand out playing time like it’s Halloween candy. You’ve got to earn your way on the field. Like most young guys he’s got to be more consistent.”
Norvell didn’t specify what “other issues” have kept McNeal off the field.
“He’s got to be more accountable and more reliable in the way he goes about his business here at Texas,” Norvell said. “That’s part of being on this football team.”
Tech does a lot of different things, kind of a combination of everything we’ve seen this far. They are an odd front and an even front. More of a variety of looks than we’ve seen from specific teams. It’s nothing we haven’t seen.
As for Jerrod Heard, Norvell simply wants to see progress.
He feels like he saw some from heard in Morgantown but that it got overshadowed by all of Texas’ turnovers, two of which Heard was a part of.
“We want to see continued progress,” he said. “The most disappointing thing about the West Virginia game was we executed more plays than we had all year. You don’t see the results of it because of the turnovers and the penalties. We were really good on third down, 50 percent. Jerrod threw some great balls and made some great decisions.”
One area of Heard’s game that Norvell definitely needs to see improvement from is his wherewithal to throw the ball away instead of taking sacks.
“He took a sack when he should have thrown the ball away,” he said. “Those are things he has to get better at. He’s an athletic guy and has confidence in running away from people. But sometimes he’s got to cut bait and throw the ball away.
“We have to improve throwing the football and continuing to be better on third down. We’ve got to keep pressing. Jerrod has got to do a good job of reading the field, going through his progressions and being an accurate passer. Those are things we continue to work on with him.”