One year ago — nearly to the day, on Aug. 28, 2017 — Tom Herman stepped to the podium at Bellmont and began his first game-week press conference as Texas’ head coach.
How Herman opened things up on Aug. 28, 2017: “I’m really excited to get the season underway. It feels like we’ve been practicing against each other forever; with the end of training camp, it will be nice to finally test our mettle against someone not wearing orange and white.”
And how Herman opened things up today: “It’s good to be back. … I’m really excited to watch them play. Every year you get to the point of training camp you’re so sick and tired of hitting each other. You go through spring practices and then pretty much the entire training camp, you’re only playing against Texas.”
Last year, of course, the Longhorns trotted out onto the field at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Herman’s debut game and dropped a 51-41 season opener to Maryland. This year, Texas will trot out at the Washington Redskins’ stadium — FedEx Field in Washington D.C. — for the first game of Year 2 in Herman era against Maryland again.
Last year’s first presser was dominated by reactions to Hurricane Harvey, which had just hit Houston. There were about 20 Longhorns from the Houston area.
Monday’s first press conference of the 2018 season was filled with talk about the depth chart, how Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele are handling things and who has and hasn’t had the best training camps. But the best parts came when Herman was asked twice — first by Orangebloods writer Anwar Richardson and then in follow-up fashion by the Statesman’s Brian Davis — about the play-calling.
Tim Beck is the offensive coordinator but it was Herman who took over play-calling duties for the Longhorns’ Texas Bowl win over Missouri.
“Are you calling plays, or is Tim Beck?” Richardson asked.
“We’ll all be calling plays on offense,” Herman answered.
Richardson asked for an explanation.
Herman: “It’s the same that went into the decision last year. There is not a play that gets called or suggested that does not have veto power by the head football coach, Tom Herman. I will be in charge of making sure the plays we run are the plays that we, as well as our staff, will be the most successful in said situation. So who’s saying ‘Deuce Right Zone Up Left’ is irrelevant. The responsibility of the offense’s performance ultimately lies with me.”
That was that. There was a question about the new punter, and then one about his thoughts on playing in a pro stadium, before Davis brought the conversation back to Beck.
Davis: “I can understand what you’re saying about Tim —”
Herman: “What am I saying?”
Davis: “That everyone’s involved in play-calling … but the minute this offense gets a hangnail, fans are gonna —”
Herman: “Fans. The minute this offense gets a hangnail … blame me and the entire offensive staff. We good?”
Davis: “When you see the criticism on Tim, is that just kind of the way it goes in this profession?
Herman: “Yeah. I got criticized at Ohio State and my boss took up for me. Major Applewhite got criticized at times at UH and I took up for him. Because it’s unfair. Again, game plans are formulated throughout the week and throughout the offseason, and an immense amount of collaboration between series of what we want to see and what adjustments we want to make. … This is Texas’ offense, not Tim Beck’s offense. Just like it was Houston’s offense, not Major Applewhite’s offense. That’s not how it works in college football. … The two voices that will be heard throughout a series on a play-by-play basis will be mine and Tim Beck’s.”
Other items of note from today’s presser:
1. The depth chart for the Maryland game was released. As previously reported, Ehlinger will start at quarterback and Calvin Anderson will start at left tackle. There are “either/or” situations at right tackle (Derek Kerstetter or Samuel Cosmi), running back (Tre Watson or Daniel Young or Keaontay Ingram) and kicker (Cameron Dicker or Joshua Rowland).
There weren’t any major shocks. One freshman has cracked the starting lineup — safety Caden Sterns, who’ll start opposite Brandon Jones.
2. Speaking of freshmen, Herman said to expect to see several out there on Saturday.
3. The Longhorns will switch things up for this week’s road trip. Their normal routine is to fly in on Friday and spend the day and night together, with a team meal followed by a team movie and games. Then on Saturday morning, there’d be a team walk-through at the stadium.
This week, however, players will do their walk-through during the day on Friday to get that out of the way. “So the guys can get the Ooo and Ahh out of playing in a pro stadium out of their system.” Herman said he did the same thing two years ago when Houston opened the season at NRG Stadium against Oklahoma.
But there’s more to it than just the oos and ahhs; Herman explained that on-field hashes and markers are different on a pro field than a college field, and that’s important for receivers to adjust their routes and spacing.
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