Football

Texas offensive assistants understand the challenge of rebuilding Longhorns

Posted February 16th, 2017

Story highlights
  • Assistants spoke with brutal honesty. “What we perceive Texas to be is not where it is right now,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said.
  • Most assistants held back their opinions on players or have yet to form anything concrete. Some haven't watched Texas' 2016 game film.
  • New play-caller Tim Beck says he's excited to work with quarerbacks Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger, and that Jerrod Heard is staying at receiver.

More than a month before making his Texas head coaching debut in 2014, Charlie Strong said that if his coaching staff bleeped this up, “We have no one to blame but ourselves.” Three years later, he’s now coaching at South Florida.

Reporters got to meet new coach Tom Herman’s offensive staff on Thursday, and to no one’s surprise, they feel the exact same way.

It’s crystal clear that Herman’s assistants understand how the Longhorns logo sewn onto their golf shirts has broad, powerful appeal. But it’s also a brand that’s been damaged by three straight losing seasons and incredible staff turnover. They all acknowledge this latest UT rebuild won’t be easy.

“What we perceive Texas to be is not where it is right now,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “It’s not the Texas that we know it to be right now. If that’s not motivation enough, when you come to a place where you’ve got all the resources, you’ve got all the support, you’ve got everything you freakin’ need and you’re sitting in a hotbed of talent, it makes you hungry.”

Texas offensive line coach Derek Warehime answer questions from the local media about his offensive line strategy for the Texas Longhorns at the Moncrief Athletics Complex, UT campus at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas offensive line coach Derek Warehime answer questions from the local media about his offensive line strategy for the Texas Longhorns at the Moncrief Athletics Complex, UT campus at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Drayton, who left the Chicago Bears to become an associate head coach at UT, was just getting warmed up.

“If you have a competitive spirit about you, just a little bit, you want to be the one to get this place back to where it used to be,” he said. “You want to have your name on that, as a player and a coach.”

New receivers coach Drew Mehringer was the offensive coordinator at Rutgers last season. He, like Herman, Drayton and the other staffers, don’t really care what happened last season. “Let’s evaluate the situation where we are right now,” Mehringer said.

If Herman’s favorite word — “alignment” — was said once on Thursday, it was said a thousand times.

“The mood of the (coaches meeting) has to be one that is constantly honest and constantly evaluating what we have done, good or bad, and are we winning or not?,” Mehringer said. “And if we’re not, why are we not?”

During Thursday’s hour-long session, there wasn’t much talk about individual players or even Xs and Os, really. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck did say he’d like to have more depth at quarterback. This spring, it’ll be sophomore Shane Buechele and freshman Sam Ehlinger battling it out. If third-stringer Matthew Merrick can hold his own, the Longhorns likely won’t go looking for a summer grad transfer.

Texas running back Chris Warren III (25) cuts around the corner behind the block of Texas offensive lineman Alex Anderson (63) knocking down UTEP linebacker Dante Lovilette (45) during the first quarter of action held at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Texas running back Chris Warren III (25) cuts around the corner behind the block of Texas offensive lineman Alex Anderson (63) knocking down UTEP linebacker Dante Lovilette (45) during the first quarter of action held at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The quarterback will preside over a predominately no-huddle offense, Beck said. Also, he said Jerrod Heard will start spring practice at receiver. There are currently no plans to pull him back over to quarterback. Spring practice begins March 7.

Drayton is high on running back Chris Warren III, among others in the backfield. Offensive line coach Derek Warehime got bug-eyed just mentioning left tackle Connor Williams’ ability. Mehringer praised Collin Johnson, and as for John Burt’s disappointing 2016 season, “Everything in the past is the past,” he said.

Tight ends coach Corby Meekins sounded optimistic about the two recruits UT just signed, Cade Brewer and Reese Leitao. At this point, it’s still unclear how the tight ends will function exactly under this new administration.

It’s also clear they are keeping an open mind. Herman has said numerous times there is no depth chart and he hasn’t watched any film from last season. Same for Beck.

“I don’t want to evaluate a kid who’s a true freshman in an offense we aren’t even running,” Beck said. “That doesn’t make much sense. I’m going to look at it and start saying, ‘Well, he can’t do this. Can’t do that.’ I don’t know what he was taught. I don’t know what they were doing. That’s not fair to that kid.”

Some of these players may be hesitant to open up, too. The receivers are on their fourth position coach in four years. The offensive linemen are listening to a third different coach in as many seasons.

Herman and his staff will provide stability, or so it’s hoped.

“The No. 1 thing you have to do is get into the trust tree with them, so to speak, through spending time and getting to know their stories,” Warehime said. “They need to get to know your story, getting them to know your family and getting them to understand that you truly do care about them.

“They’ll do whatever you ask of them as long as they know you have their best interest in mind.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email [email protected].

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