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Texas under Tom Herman: Winners eat steak, losers eat hot dogs

New Texas coach Tom Herman has established a hierarchy that appeals to his players' stomachs. Ricardo Brazziell /Austin American-Statesman via AP

AUSTIN, Texas -- At Texas, the winners eat steak. The losers get burnt hot dogs.

Before the Longhorns opened spring practice Tuesday for the first time under new coach Tom Herman, they gathered Monday night for a team dinner at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. This was their first champion's dinner.

Just as they did at Houston, Herman's staff began sorting Texas players into three distinct groups during winter conditioning. The gold guys are the ones who handle their business and do everything right. The green guys are progressing toward gold status. The troublemakers go in the crimson group.

On Monday night, players found out where they've been grouped to start off. Two of the "gold" players and leaders on defense, senior linebacker Naashon Hughes and junior defensive back P.J. Locke, say their gold status earned them a glorious feast.

"I had the whole 9 yards," Locke said. "So I had the ribeye, I had the shrimp, I had the chicken, I had the dessert, I had everything."

Herman said 31 Texas players are starting off in the gold group, a number he called "pleasantly surprising." If you're a crimson guy, you ate from a different buffet on Monday night.

"It was Bush's baked beans, hots dogs and burnt burgers for the losers over there," Hughes said. "The winners got steak, shrimp, pasta, cheesecake and a triple chocolate cake."

Locke said he accidentally wandered over to crimson side of the room when he showed up to eat. He won't make that mistake again.

"First thing I saw, they had white bread, buns, burnt hot dog weenies," Locke said. "That's all I saw, and then my coach grabbed me and said, 'What are you doing over here?'"

The perks don't stop there. Hughes said gold guys get to live off-campus, set their own study hall hours and get better gear. Creating that hierarchy is critical to Herman's system of accountability. If you succeed and lead, you get rewarded. If you can't meet the standards and cause problems, you get penalized.

"Crimson is rough," Hughes said.

Herman conceded that the gold, green and crimson grades can be a bit imprecise early on during winter conditioning. Coaches are just getting to know the players and are spending time out on the road recruiting.

By the end of spring practice and summer conditioning, he'll know for sure whether a player deserves to be gold.

"I don't expect anybody to be in the group in January," Herman said. "They better be in July, or they're probably not gonna play."