Camp tales: Our staff's observations from Texas' second day of football practice

Danny Davis
Thomas Jones
Austin American-Statesman
Just like Wednesday's opening practice of Texas' fall camp, we were given a media window today from the Longhorns' second day of practices.
Our staff observations:
Beat the heat, then beat Rice?
Contrary to sweatshirts and pants worn by some of the UT coaches at the Denius Fields and the fact that Thursday marked the second day of "fall camp," it was not cool on campus. For the second straight day, Texas practiced in the middle of the afternoon as temperatures topped 100 degrees.
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said this week that the decision to practice in the afternoon wasn't a matter of poor planning. This practice plan was quite intentional. The kickoff time for UT's season opener at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sept. 2 against Rice is set for 2:30 p.m. Last year, the high temperature on Sept. 4 was 91 degrees.
Practicing in the heat won't necessarily give Texas a homefield advantage. Rice isn't practicing in a frozen tundra known as Houston, after all. But Sarkisian said he wants the Longhorns to get acclimated to this weather.
Texas won't just practice in the afternoons this month. In fact, UT will workout in the evenings on Friday and Saturday and a morning practice is scheduled for Monday. Sarkisian, though, noted that "we need to get these afternoons in the books," because the Longhorns will only practice in the morning after classes begin on Aug. 21.
Texas quarterback Arch Manning puts his helmet on as he prepares to run drills Thursday during the Longhorns' second day of preseason practices at Denius Fields. The season opener is Sept. 2 against Rice.
Sticking to it at safety
Former walk-on defensive back Michael Taaffe, a graduate of nearby Westlake who earned two defensive MVP awards in state championship games, continues to make an impression on the Texas coaches. Almost eight months after receiving a scholarship, Taaffe raised some eyebrows Thursday by lining up at safety with the first team.
Fans shouldn’t read too much into that, however; the Texas coaches often scatter veteran reserves into starting rotations, and Taaffe seems more like a special teams demon than a potential starter in a secondary that features established safeties such as Jerrin Thompson, Jalen Catalon, Kitan Crawford, B.J. Allen and the versatile Jahdae Barron, who can play almost any position in the defensive backfield.
Texas' biggest arm
No question that Texas' Maalik Murphy has the strongest arm of Texas' top three quarterbacks. He whipped off a few 50-yard throws into a pretty good wind.
Family bonding
Sarkisian isn't usually asked about walk-ons after the first practice of the year, but there was a good reason for the coach to talk about one of his non-scholarship players on Wednesday. Sarkisian's son, Brady, joined the Longhorns this season. Wednesday was the first practice that the Sarkisians went through together at Texas.
A 6-1, 240-pound freshman from California, Brady Sarkisian is listed on the Texas roster as a linebacker. Sarkisian was rated by 247Sports as a three-star prospect in high school, and he received scholarship offers from Arkansas State and Marshall. Sarkisian announced last December that he'd join his father in Austin.
When asked about Brady after Wednesday's practice, Steve laughed and that his defensive-minded son "was on the other field. I didn't get a chance to see him." He then shared a light-hearted story about a team meeting on Tuesday.
"We assign seats in the team room for team meetings. Our operations people do that, I don't necessarily assign those seats, and he's like front and center, it's like four rows back, right in the middle," Sarkisian said. "And so last night when we were going through our philosophy, our style and things, man, I must have looked up and saw him 10 times. He must have thought I was lecturing him at home or something.
"A very cool moment. That's one of the cool things about what you get to do in this profession, that's one of them to have your son on your team and to be around them every day."
Gunning his motor
Special teams retains a special place in the game plan, which explains why the Texas staff didn’t allow any video during the special teams segment of the media availability. We didn’t see any kicks from Bert Auburn or Will Stone, and the returners relied more on a JUGS machine than new punter Ryan Sanborn.
But the return unit saw plenty of Crawford, a dervish of a gunner who was almost unblockable in coverage. A senior from Tyler who may force his way into plenty of playing time at safety, Crawford still looks like one of the best kick-coverage players in the nation.
Early looks at receivers
Longhorns freshman wide receiver Johntay Cook had several nice catches on Thursday. Senior transfer Isaiah Neyor had one noticeable drop, but also has been off forever. DeAndre Moore, another rookie wideout, has a really thick, powerful frame at 6-foot, 194 pounds.

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