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Breakfast with Bevo: Our report card for Texas’ 2017 season

Posted December 4th, 2016

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Good morning. Breakfast is served.

It’s December 4th — 339 down, 27 to go.

And 245 till Texas kicks off its 2017 season at home against Maryland.

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YESTERDAY: Alabama beat Florida for the SEC title, Clemson beat Virginia Tech for the ACC title, Penn State topped Wisconsin in the Big Ten, and Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State in Bedlam. Texas volleyball swept SMU in the second round of the NCAA tournament. In NCAA hoops, No. 1 Kentucky was beaten by No. 11 UCLA. Over at the PGA’s Hero Challenge, Jordan Spieth (-9) is tied for seventh and Tiger Woods (-8) is 10th in the 18-man field.

TODAY: It’s Selection Sunday — college football style, when bowl bids are announced. Alabama and Clemson are CFP locks, which leaves Washington, Penn State and Ohio State to fill the other two spots. And it’s Showdown Sunday for the 14th-ranked Texas women, who face mighty UConn in Connecticut (3 p.m., ESPN, 105.3). The Cowboys are off since they played on Thursday, but the Texans are at the Packers (noon, CBS). And PGA player — and former Horn — Wes Short Jr. celebrates his 53rd birthday.

TOMORROW: Heisman Trophy ballots are due, including the ones from Statesman voters Kirk Bohls, Cedric Golden, Suzanne Halliburton and Brian Davis. It’s Colts vs. Jets on Monday Night Football.

Dec. 4 has a sports history. On this date, the very last Big 12 championship game — or so we thought at the time, anyway — was played in Arlington, Oklahoma’s 23-20 win over Nebraska (2010); Latrell Sprewell, right after his $23.7 million contract was terminated by the Golden State Warriors, was suspended for a year for assaulting head coach P.J. Carlesimo during practice (1997); Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders, hours after winning the Heisman Trophy, closed out the regular season with a 257-yard, four-touchdown effort in a 45-42 win over Texas Tech in Tokyo (1988); the Orioles traded first baseman Eddie Murray to the Dodgers (1988); Georgia’s Herschel Walker won the Heisman Trophy (1982); the NFL’s 5,000th game was played, a 27-7 Bengals win over the Chiefs (1977); Syracuse’s Ernie Davis became the first black player taken No. 1 overall in NFL Draft history, by the Redskins (1961); Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas extended his NFL record to 47 games having thrown at least one touchdown pass with a two-touchdown day in a 20-15 loss to the Lions. The streak would end the following week (1960); and Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung won the Heisman, becoming the first player from a losing team to win it (1956); Army’s Doc Blanchard won the Heisman, the first junior to do so (1945).

Today’s sports birthdays: Carlos Gomez (31), Corliss Williamson (43), former NFLers Jeff Blake (46) and Terry Glenn (47); Sergei Bubka (53); Frank Reich (55) and Bernard King (60). Other notables: Tyra Banks (43), Jay Z (47), Marisa Tomei (52) and Jeff Bridges (67).

Trivia question: What was the last Big 12 school to win the Big 12 championship game that WASN’T Texas or Oklahoma? (Answer’s at the end of Breakfast.)

Top of the menu: Texas football.

Before we cover the coffin that was Texas’ 2016 season with dirt and somberly walk away thinking about having said goodbye to Charlie Strong, D’Onta Foreman and Kent Perkins, there’s still time for living in the past.

Last Sunday, Tom Herman was asked at his introductory presser his thoughts on his new UT roster. He told us that he honestly hadn’t had the chance to go over it yet. Fair enough. He was, after all, on Day 1 of the new job. This Sunday, our own Brian Davis is helping out, providing a unit-by-unit breakdown of the Longhorns’ expected 2017 roster, including who’s coming back and who to keep an eye on. And Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden have an Our Take, where they tackle Texas-specific questions and answers, including Strong’s best scenario for 2017, the biggest problem spot on the roster, how many games the Horns will win in Herman’s first season and how long it’ll take for Texas to make it to the Big 12 title game.

Point is, there’s still plenty to go over in terms of 2016.

In years past, we’ve done a weekly Longhorns report card coming off that week’s game. Didn’t do that in 2016, for better or worse, but here’s my end-of-the-year grades. Decided not to go with Pass/Fail, though that may have been easier.

Quarterbacks: B

Shane Buechele fared just fine, especially considering he was a freshman who graduated a semester early so that he could enroll here in January and take part in spring drills. Good call. He impressed us in the spring game and carried that over to the fall, completing 60.4 percent of his passes and reviving the long ball in the Texas offense, connecting on throws of 80, 75, 75 and 72 yards. He was steady and played it mostly safe. He had only one 300-yard game, but flirted with three more (296, 291 and 280). For the season, he was 236 of 391 for 2,958 yards, with 21 TDs and 11 picks. Keep an eye on how he progresses or regresses with Herman’s new offense.

Running backs: A

Hard not to give the best grade on the team to a 2,000-yard rusher who led the nation and is a Doak Walker Award finalist. Foreman had 323 carries for 2,028 yards and 15 TDs. That’s the second best single season in UT history behind Ricky Williams. Foreman’s five best games all came in the second half of the season, including 341 yards vs. Texas Tech, and 250 twice against Kansas and Baylor. He broke Earl Campbell’s 39-year-old record with 13 consecutive 100-yard games. There wasn’t much behind him (Chris Warren III got hurt early, and Kyle Porter averaged fewer than four carries a game), but Foreman proved you could give it to him 50 times (literally) and it would be OK. It’ll be the CW3 show in 2017, if he can stay healthy.

Wide receivers: B-

Would have graded higher, but points were taken for the lack of that one go-to guy that never separated himself from the pack. Seemed like every game, there was a new receiver who led the team. Still, Armanti Foreman (34-420-3), Jake Oliver (33-358-0), Jacorey Warrick (30-360-3), Dorian Leonard (29-397-3), Collin Johnson (28-315-3) and Devin Duvernay (20-412-3) all had their moments, as did former QB Jerrod Heard (24-266-3). And they’re all coming back with the exception of Warrick.

Tight ends: Incomplete

How else can they be graded? It’s been awhile since the tight end position figured into the Texas gameplan beyond blocking. In terms of the passing game, it was Andrew Beck (4-82-2) and Caleb Bluiett (2-11-0) — both converted defensive players.

Offensive line: B-

Foreman had the huge season. Buechele was sacked 30 times, or a little more than twice a game. There was some mix and match going on up front because of injuries, but Connor Williams was a constant again at left tackle, Zach Shackelford came in as an early enrollee and started at center, Perkins was steady and Jake McMillon was key with his versatility. Patrick Vahe was a freshman All-American at guard in 2015 but ran into problems later in the season, benched against Kansas and Baylor. There were reports that he had conflicts with the coaches. The line needs him back in 2015 form for 2017.

Defensive line: C

Sophomore defensive end Breckyn Hager (only one tackle off the team lead with 64 tackles, plus 13.5 tackles for loss and a team-high six sacks) and freshman Malcolm Roach (33 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks) should only get better. But we didn’t get much from the tackle spots. The defense didn’t get gashed on runs up the middle like we saw in 2015, and that starts up front, but the Horns’ D-line really wasn’t that disruptive. Defensive tackle is one of Herman’s critical spots to recruit over the next two months. Texas could really use an Ed Oliver-type. Or two.

Linebackers: C

Malik Jefferson continues to be mis-used. He’s an outside linebacker that should be disrupting the offensive backfield, not in the middle where he’s been largely used the past two years. So make MLB another spot Herman must address. Anthony Wheeler led the team in tackles. Edwin Freeman had nine TFL and three sacks. But that was about it. We’ll see what Erick Fowler brings to the table next year, whether Jefferson can be moved back to his natural OLB spot, and what Herman can do by way of recruiting.

Defensive backs: D

At least the Horns stopped getting burned downfield on all the long passes we saw over the first half of the season — UT gave up 15 passing TDs in the first half of the season, but only seven over the last half. Still, that first half of the season was enough to warrant the final grade. Kris Boyd was playing well by the end of the season, but what happened to Davante Davis and Holton Hill, who regressed from 2015? And safety was a wreck all season. Yes, Dylan Haines led the team with four picks, but they don’t make up for all the missed tackles and bad angles. It should be Brandon Jones’ year to step up in 2017, and Boyd, Hill, Jason Hall, P.J. Locke III and DeShon Elliott will be back too.

Special teams: C-

Shouldn’t be graded that low when you have Michael Dickson, a Ray Guy Award finalist at punter who averaged 47.4 yards per kick. But Trent Domingue was a roller-coaster of a graduate transfer, beating Baylor on an end-of-game field goal but missing key ones against Kansas State and West Virginia, not to mention the blocked kicks against Notre Dame and Oklahoma State. By the end of the season, there just wasn’t any confidence in him. And the return game was a mess. Herman has to find a kicker to sign.

Coaching: D

Strong had to demote defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and take over the defense himself for the last half of the season. The Horns showed up flat against Cal, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Kansas and TCU, and those last two were the final two games of the season, when Texas had to win only once to make a bowl game. And let’s face it, just losing to Kansas may have warranted an F. There was a coaching change made for a reason. Kudos for the Sterlin Gilbert hire — the offense made vast statistical jumps from 2015 in scoring (6 more points a game), first downs (+8 per game), rushing (+15 yards per game) and passing (about 100 more yards per game), though it did devolve into basically three plays: Foreman up the middle, a quick Buechele pass to the sideline or a bubble screen, and a Buechele shot downfield. Passes over the middle were non-existent. Herman’s draining the swamp and hiring his own staff. So 2017 will be a blank canvas.

What else is being written out there?

Our advance of Sunday’s Texas-UConn women’s hoops game centers on this tough early portion of the schedule, which has seen the Horns fall to the Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11 teams in the country. Texas volleyball swept past SMU in the NCAA tourney’s second round on Saturday, right into the Sweet 16. Here’s our match coverage. Here’s a nice read from former AA-S staffer John Maher on former UT track coach Stan Huntsman, who was buried on Saturday.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram touched base with Chuck Filiaga, a 6-7, 330-pound offensive lineman from Aledo who visited with Herman in Austin on Saturday. He’s believed to be the first visit of the Herman era.

AROUND THE BIG 12: Saturday’s results — 9-Oklahoma 28, 10-Oklahoma State 20; 16-West Virginia 24, Baylor 21; and Kansas State 30, TCU 6. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Gil Lebreton took on the TCU offense (or lack therof) in the Horned Frogs’ loss. Here’s the Waco Tribune-Herald’s game coverage of Baylor’s loss in Morgantown. Also, Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre is saying he’s not in the running for the Bears’ opening. Seems like it’s Houston, not Baylor, that’s generating the bigger names. Here’s The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson’s take out of OU’s Bedlam win, and it looks like the Sooners will play in the Sugar Bowl and the Cowboys will go to the Alamo. Oh, and there’s this: OU quarterback Baker Mayfield says he’s coming back for his senior season, so the Kyler Murray era in Norman will have to wait just a little longer. And The Oklahoman covered both sides of Bedlam, including a piece on the big plays given up by OSU’s defense. The Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten took Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State to task for its “uninspired” performance. Kansas State’s volleyball season ended with a second-round NCAA loss to Ohio State.

AROUND THE FORTY ACRES:

Football: Tom Herman’s contract was approved Saturday afternoon by UT regents, a guaranteed $25 million deal. And Boise State’s Bryan Harsin has interviewed for the Oregon job. And on the Major Applewhite front, reports out there have Les Miles and Lane Kiffin being interviewed for the Houston opening.

Swimming and diving: The Texas men picked up wins and top national times from American record-holders Clark Smith, Will Licon and Jack Conger on the final day of the Texas Invitational at the Texas Swim Center. Smith produced the top national time in the 1,650 free (14:32.77). Licon produced the nation’s top time in the 200 breaststroke (1:50.76) and Conger, the Olympic gold medalist in the 800 free relay, set the top national time in the 200 butterfly (1:40.24). The Texas women collected wins from Tasija Karosas (200 back), Madisyn Cox (200 breast) and Remedy Rule, who had a personal best time of 1:53.97 in the 200 butterfly. And the 400 free relay (Rebecca Millard, Claire Adams, Cox and Karosas) set the top national time, 3:12.29.

On Dec. 4, 2015: Robert Loggia died. That guy was in more than 200 movies, from “Scarface” to “Big” to “Independence Day,” but if you think his best role was as Texas State Fightin’ Armadillos assistant coach Wally Riggendorf in “Necessary Roughness,” raise your hand.

On Dec. 4, 1956: One hell of a great jam session happened at historic Sun Studios in Memphis — Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. You can still hear what they produced if you hunt for The Million Dollar Quartet.

On Dec. 4, 1954: The very first Burger King opened, in Miami. And 62 years later, it’s the No. 2 fast food chain in the country, behind only McDonald’s.

Trivia answer: The last Big 12 championship game winner that wasn’t Texas or Oklahoma was Kansas State, which shocked the top-ranked Sooners 35-7 in 2003. After that, either the Sooners (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010) or Longhorns (2005 and 2009) won the title game.

OK, Breakfast is over. Thanks for stopping by.

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