Highlights from Texas head coach Tom Herman’s weekly press conference on Monday ahead of Saturday’s Kansas State game:
Let’s give Herman some credit for at least this: He was peppered with direct questions about his job performance and security right off the bat (and, truthfully, all the way throughout the press conference), and unlike a couple of weeks ago when he brushed back on questions about his future, the Urban Meyer rumors and recent recruiting hits, today he took each question and answered each one — to varying degrees of full answers, of course. He didn’t come off defensive like he did on Nov. 16. Just … directly evasive.
There’s no denying Herman knows all the speculation and grumbling that’s out there. He’s just choosing to focus on Saturday’s game instead of all that stuff.
“The sun came up,” he said. “.. So we wiped the tears from our eyes, picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and got back to work yesterday.”
Injury updates: Cornerback Jalen Green (high ankle sprain) is doubtful for Saturday. … Running back Keaontay Ingram, who got hurt early in the Oklahoma State game and hasn’t played since, is listed as questionable. He’s been dealing with a high ankle sprain, too. … And center Derek Kerstetter (ankle sprain) is in a walking boot and is questionable.
The Horns got Joshua Moore, Jordan Whittington and Keondre Coburn back from injuries last week.
State of the Horns: Trying to get things right again. Herman laid out goals to go over these final two games:
Make as good a bowl game as possible.
Secure a fourth straight winning season.
Win a fourth straight bowl game.
“Our guys are a very resilient group; they understand that we’ve got a job to do here,” Herman said. “That was not the last game. We’ve got a job to do, which is to prepare to make the most of an opportunity to go 1-0 in Manhattan, Kansas.”
On the job security front, Herman said he and athletic director Chris Del Conte spoke over the weekend and had “great conversations.” But he wouldn’t say what was talked about, nor would he confirm that he feels confident he’ll be Texas’ coach in 2021.
So, what went wrong, anyway?: The Statesman’s Brian Davis asked one of the simplest questions out there — “Coming into this season, you had a senior quarterback that a lot of us could have been a Heisman candidate, and a team with three top-10 recruiting classes. I genuinely want to understand why you think this hasn’t worked, and why you won’t be in the Big 12 championship?”
Herman sidestepped it.
“Well, I think any answer I give you right now is gonna come off as an excuse, and so I’m going to focus on Kansas State and an opportunity to go 1-0,” he answered. “We’ll evaluate the things that we did poorly and go back to work to fix those things in the offseason, but right now that wouldn’t be fair to our players if I were continually looking in the rearview mirror as to why certain things happened the way that they happened rather than prepare to beat Kansas State, and that’s what we plan on doing.”
Davis: “Along those lines, the fourth season in and no championships, which obviously is what you wanted and what you expected. Where do you think the standard should be right now for this program?”
Herman: “I think the standard should be where I always have expressed it to be, which is to be in the conversation and to be competing for conference championships in the month of November and December. We were there this year. We were there a short two years ago. And this year we came up three points short in our opportunity to advance to play another game. Inching our way towards that.”
Herman was then asked a follow-up by someone else: You always say things are better than before (his arrival after the 2016 season), how much different is this team — is it slightly better, is it a lot better?
Herman chuckled at the question.
“I don’t know the measurement of ‘better,'” he said. “I do know, again, that we’ve won a lot of games around here, a lot of big games, beaten our rival, we’ve beaten top-10 teams, we’ve played in New Year’s Six bowl games, so that’s for you to decide, and that’s for everybody else to decide how much better all those things are — 10-win seasons, New Year’s Six bowl games, beaten top-10 opponents. The measurement of ‘better,’ I don’t know. That’s for you guys to debate. But those are the things that had happened. That’s indisputable.”
A few minutes later, KEYE’s Bob Ballew looped back to his non-answer answers. “Tom, you’ve been pretty open with us in your four years here. I don’t remember a time in that four-year span you weren’t willing to talk about pretty much anything. Is there any reason today that you only want to focus on Kansas State? Is there too much distraction and you’re trying to rein it all in, or why do you not want to address some of those things today?”
Herman: “I didn’t say I didn’t want to address anything. I know the noise can be deafening and I don’t think that would be fair to our players to take any attention away from the focus that needs to be on the preparation to have an opportunity to go win a game in Manhattan.”
And then, immediately after that, another follow-up, revisiting his “standards” question from earlier: Do you think this season has been up to his standards?
“No. No, I don’t,” Herman said. “We’ve done some really, really good things and we’ve come up short in a four-overtime game, we’ve come up three points short and two points short in two other games. We’ve got to find a way to win those close ones in the future to get us over that hump.”
Then, two questions later, Davis tried again: “Talking about this season, do you feel like maybe you can win your way out of this situation or are you just worried that maybe the die has been cast after four years?”
Herman, with a soft chuckle: “Again, I’m extremely focused on beating Kansas State, not worried about winning my way out of anything, not worried about dies being cast or anything like that. We are full-steam ahead in preparation mode to try to win a conference game and give these seniors a fourth straight winning season at the University of Texas.”
Goodbye, Sam: (Cosmi, not Ehlinger.) Starting left tackle Samuel Cosmi, as expected, announced Sunday that he’s opting out of Texas’ final two games and will focus on prepping for the NFL draft. He’s been mentioned as a possible first- or second-round prospect.
“My initial reaction was just an enormous sense of pride,” Herman said, crediting the former three-star recruit’s development to coaching and UT’s conditioning program.
Who plays left tackle in Manhattan, Herman said, largely depends on the status of starting center Derek Kerstetter. During Sunday’s practice, with Kerstetter out, the Horns went with current right tackle Christian Jones at Cosmi’s left tackle spot, Jake Majors at center and Reese Moore in Jones’ right tackle spot.
“But that was a 45-minute practice,” he added. “We’ll play the shell game a little bit and give a lot of those guys some opportunity there to show if they are ready to take on a Kansas State team that, wow, are they good up front.
Expect more reps for freshman Andrej Karic and redshirt freshman Tyler Johnson as well.
The Texas-Kansas State matchup: The all-time series is tied 10-10, but Texas has won the last three, including a Cameron Dicker walk-off field goal for a 27-24 win in Austin last year and a 19-14 win in Manhattan two years ago. But the last four meetings have been tight ones, all decided by six points or less, including the 2017 game in 2017 that was a 40-34 Horns win in double-overtime.
Kansas State fell 32-31 at Baylor on Saturday.
Texcetera: Replacing Bujcevski … on kicks, not punts. When Bujcevski was lost for the season against West Virginia, it meant Texas also had to find a new holder for Dicker field goals and extra-points. Against Iowa State, it was sophomore long snapper Zach Edwards, a non-scholarship player who transferred from Oklahoma in 2019.
Saturday’s game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan kicks off at 11 a.m. It’s on Fox. The 17th-ranked Horns are 5-3, 4-3 in the Big 12 and the Wildcats are 4-5 overall, 4-4 in conference. Texas is a 9.5-point favorite.
Other conference games on tap — No. 23 Oklahoma State at TCU (11 a.m., ESPN2); Kansas at Texas Tech (11, Fox Sports 2); West Virginia at No. 13 Iowa State (2:30 p.m., ESPN); and Baylor at No. 11 Oklahoma (7, Fox).
Rankings are current as of Monday morning. They’ll all shift.
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