Tom Herman was in a really good mood.
Might not mean a thing or it might be a very good sign, especially after he lost both his starting right tackle and his best tight end to perhaps season-ending injuries and as he is still waiting for one of his top running backs to mend and two freshman backs to grow up.
None of that stopped him from gushing over his Texas defense, which for the third consecutive Saturday won the scrimmage against the offense.
That clearly is an optimistic sign, given how Longhorn defenses have been in full retreat for a good while now. The defense didn’t win anything last year.
Asked if he was encouraged by that, Herman said, “Very much.”
Then, he added, “We’re going to win with good defense.”
The first-year head coach understandably knows the necessity of a good defense. He even cited research that he said shows since the Bowl Championship Series, every national champion save one (Auburn in 2010) had a defense ranked in the top 25 nationally. “And,” Herman said, “they had a kid named Cam Newton. I think they ranked 32nd in defense”
Yeah, that Newton guy was all right.
And officially, Auburn had only the 53rd-ranked scoring defense, giving up 24 points a game, and the 60th total defense in yardage, allowing 368 a game.
But Herman’s point is valid. Despite the high-scoring affairs that the past two Alabama-Clemson national title games were, a strong defense is essential and was a big reason those two teams got to that game.
Shane Buechele hasn’t reminded anyone of Cam Newton. At least, not yet.
“We’re not dynamic there,” Herman said of the position. “It’s not Vince Young. It’s not Braxton Miller. But we’re good enough to win with.”
And Herman all but named the sophomore his starting quarterback Saturday. He jokingly asked if he needed to make it official with a depth chart on Facebook or something and acted as if it were no big deal when he knows it is.
He’s implied all along that Buechele would be the guy. And no one expects anything different.
But when he expressed surprise that the press was all that interested in an actual announcement, I reminded Herman it was he who brought up Newton as a difference-maker.
The bottom line is if Herman thinks Buechele is good enough at quarterback and the defense is improving that fast from a unit that finished 89th in scoring defense (31.5 per game) and 94th in total defense (448 per game), that’s major progress.