Tom Herman will win at Texas.
At least that’s what he’s saying.
“We will work day and night to make sure we bring Texas football back to its rightful place,” Herman told the Erwin Center crowd at halftime of Saturday’s Texas-Kansas game. After some raucous applause, he headed back to the Moncrief-Neuhaus athletic complex where he was hosting some of the country’s top recruits at junior day.
The feeling was palpable in the gym that day. Longhorn Nation already loves him.
They also loved Charlie Strong at one time, but he’s no longer around. If your name isn’t Saban, Meyer or Swinney, there are no sure things in this game.
Still, I can’t help but believe Herman will get things back to the elite level in a short time. Here are five reasons why:
1. The Big 12 will be down in 2017.
The Big 12 has fallen behind the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC, which just won its second national championship in four years. Oklahoma State figures to be the conference favorite and several schools are losing some big names — West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard, Oklahoma running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, Baylor quarterback Seth Russell and Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes.
The league will be younger offensively; Texas will have a chance to make some noise, especially if it can replace explosive running back D’Onta Foreman.
2. Herman’s staff is filled with Texas ties.
Moments after the Longhorns won the 2005 national championship over USC, Mack Brown was quick to mention Texas high school football during his on-field, post-game celebration. You can’t buy that kind of recruiting pitch; Brown’s next few signing classes reflected as much.
One advantage for Herman coming over from Houston was the assistants he brought with him who had already been recruiting the state hard.
Oscar Giles, UT’s defensive line coach, coached for Brown starting in 2005, where as defensive ends coach he helped shape future NFL players Brian Orakpo, Brian Robison, Tim Crowder, Sam Acho and Alex Okafor.
Jason Washington, UT’s recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach, grew up in San Antonio and spent eight years as an assistant at Texas State, Rice and Houston. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s early coaching roots are from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex; defensive coordinator Todd Orlando recruited Houston schools the last two years on Herman’s UH staff. And safeties coach Craig Naivar has coached in Texas for 18 of his 23 professional seasons, including the last two at UH.
The Longhorns have to regain control of those living rooms, especially in the fertile Houston area.
3. It’s not a scary schedule.
OK, that trip to USC could be a long one with Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Darnold quarterbacking the Trojans, but Texas’ first two games — against Maryland and San Jose State — are home games that UT will be favored to win.
Texas’ toughest games away from home will come against Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia.
4. There’s experience at key positions.
Strong played a lot of underclassmen the last two years. Those players have grown up and figure to be huge contributors this fall. Quarterback Shane Buechele will have to out-duel freshman Sam Ehlinger, but he’s battle-tested. Running back Chris Warren III has carries under his belt and there are at least five wideouts capable of starting.
The defensive line remains a concern, but linebacker Malik Jefferson will be motivated by a poor sophomore season and the secondary returns plenty of experience, especially cornerback Kris Boyd, who could be exceptional if he channels his energy properly.
5. Herman has an open checkbook.
Former athletic director Steve Patterson was tighter with the wallet than Strong would have preferred, but Mike Perrin appears to be throwing his full weight behind the new hire. Herman hired the coaches he wanted and soon will have the facilities he believes will turn the tide in recruiting. Needed upgrades are on the way for UT’s locker room and workout areas.
Herman arrived with a winning pedigree, as did Strong, but the guess here is his results will be different.
Texas is on its way back.