College Sports

March 18, 2014

Texas football enters Phase 2 under Strong: spring practice

New coach Charlie Strong says spring drills are about refining fundamentals.

Texas coach Charlie Strong has divided the calendar year into five phases, beginning with winter conditioning and culminating in the actual football season.

The second of those five phases began Tuesday afternoon with the Longhorns holding their first spring practice. Strong said he’s liked what he’s seen from his team so far in terms of work ethic and leadership, but that he’ll continue to work on speeding up the tempo as he continues to prepare players for his first season as their head coach.

“It was a good day for the first day,” Strong said. “There’s still work to be done. We’re nowhere near where they should be and we’ve got a long way to go. … We’re not trying to win a game. We’re just trying to build guys and see what we have as a football team.”

Quarterback David Ash, who suffered multiple head injuries and missed 10 games last season, was on the field throwing passes. He was joined in the quarterbacks group by Tyrone Swoopes, his backup last year, and Miles Onyegbule, a quarterback at Arlington High who went to Texas as a wide receiver.

Strong said he would like to have his leader on offense be the quarterback but wouldn’t commit to putting that tag on Ash.

“That’s a position if we can get the right guy there, we have a chance,” Strong said. “ ... We want to see where Ash can grow.”

John Harris and Jacorey Warrick made one-handed grabs during the portion of the practice open to the media, but the highlight of the day might have come during one-on-one drills between wide receivers and defensive backs.

Walk-on quarterback Trey Holtz lofted a ball up for grabs for wideout Kendall Sanders, who leaped and caught it at its highest point above a flailing Quandre Diggs.

As for Strong’s plan, the first phase was winter conditioning, a stage in which Strong said you can “find out who your team is.” After spring practice, where “you refine your fundamentals,” the third phase starts with summer conditioning, which is important to Strong because of the fact that he can begin working with the freshmen on the team.

“When you get to preseason camp, now you really feel like it’s time to build this football team,” Strong said of the fourth phase, fall camp. “And when you get into the season, which is the fifth phase … you have a chance to show everybody what you have done. But you only get 12 opportunities, and you can’t waste one.”

Those five phases are part of a plan that could be called “Operation Get the ‘T’ Back.” Strong has emphasized doing just that throughout this off-season. His players wear a reminder of that on the back of their workout shirts so they know how important it is to get the toughness, trust and togetherness back in the program.

“It’s about toughness. It’s about mental and physical toughness,” Strong said. “You want guys you can depend on because, once you depend on them, then you can trust them. Everything is togetherness because that’s how you develop a team. … It’s about getting the ‘T’ back.”

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