Brian Davis

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Eyes on Texas: Tom Herman is sidestepping all questions about Tim Beck for good reason

By taking any offensive blame himself, Herman keeps the pressure from rising on Beck

Posted August 30th, 2018

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When Tom Herman arrived at Texas, one of his biggest priorities was to stop the revolving door in the coaches’ office.

Assistants were coming and going at an alarming pace under Charlie Strong. Offensive coordinators came and went, some bringing lawsuits with them in the process. There were changes at various other positions for a host of reasons.

For any program to have consistency, you need consistent leadership.

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Perhaps that’s why Herman is so attuned to any criticism about offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Heading into this season, the second-year coach has stiff-armed all questions about who’s calling plays and who’s formulating the game plan.

If he had dumped Beck after one season, or even after a few games this year, he’d be going down the same path Strong did — a road to perdition.

“Fans, the minute this offense gets a hangnail, blame me and the entire offensive staff. We good?,” Herman said earlier this week.

He’s right, you know. Blame Herman, not necessarily Beck.

Herman was hired for his offensive expertise. He’s the one with veto power on the sideline. To Herman, the game plan is formulated throughout the week based upon an opponent’s personnel and tendencies. Frankly, he doesn’t care who’s the one actually relaying the verbiage to the quarterback.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger won the starting quarterback job, which means he and offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach) Tim Beck will be having lots of conversations this season. (Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman)

Herman saw how much blowback Beck got last year, even though some of it was undeserved. Was it Beck’s fault Texas had average quarterback play and injuries at that position? Was it his fault there was no standout running back? Was Beck responsible for the offensive line’s injuries, too?

Sure, these coaches are paid to coach ’em up, so to speak. But at some point, coaches can only do so much.

If Herman allows Beck to keep taking heat this season, then at some point it compromises the coaching staff. Opposing recruiters will use that against the Horns. Herman is then forced to make a change even if he really doesn’t want to. Public pressure, which then morphs into internal pressure from administrators and key donors, is a powerful motivator. You’d be amazed how smart administrators believe a change should be made after spending a few weeks reading message boards.

“Yeah, I got criticized at Ohio State, and my boss took up for me,” Herman said. “I got criticized at Iowa State at times, and my boss took up for me. (Then-Houston offensive coordinator) Major Applewhite got criticized at times, and I took up for him, because it is unfair. It’s absolutely unfair.”

For all the criticism Beck got last season, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando got the opposite in praise. Orlando could do no wrong, it seemed, and he won a significant pay raise. Orlando’s deal is now worth $1.7 million annually, the most ever paid to a UT assistant but also the going rate these days among his peers.


Still, let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment and examine three reasons why fans shouldn’t be so high on Orlando:

Strength up the middle: The Longhorns had the Big 12’s best defensive lineman last season in Poona Ford, a future second-round draft pick in linebacker Malik Jefferson and a Thorpe Award finalist in safety DeShon Elliott. This season, those three are being replaced by senior Chris Nelson, who’s coming off elbow surgery, senior Gary Johnson and freshman Caden Sterns.

Like anything else, there will be an adjustment period.

Looking for that pass rush: Defensive ends Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu both had four sacks last season. Who else is going to join them in the backfield? Johnson should get some sacks via the blitz. Otherwise, there’s not many clear-cut names you can automatically pencil in.

Who’ll knock it loose?: Elliott got headlines last season for his six interceptions, but he also forced a team-high three fumbles. Texas forced 13 turnovers last season, second-most in the Big 12. Who’s going to create them this season and give the offense a short field?

Now, three reasons why fans shouldn’t be so down on Beck:

Better quarterback play: By all indications, quarterback Sam Ehlinger has a better pocket presence now than he did last year as a freshman. He’s spent more hours than either you or I have thinking about those late-game turnovers. He’s out to keep the starting job all season long.

If Ehlinger keeps the chains moving, nobody will have any problems with the play-calling. Well, some will.

Healthy offensive line: For now — knock on wood — the offensive line is healthy going into the season. All five projected starters at the beginning of August will start Saturday against Maryland, including left tackle Calvin Anderson, a graduate transfer from Rice.

What’s even better is UT has solid backups in Denzel Okafor and Samuel Cosmi ready to go.

Motivated running backs: Surely, Tre Watson, Daniel Young and Keaontay Ingram are tired of hearing about the inconsistent running game, right? If any one or a combination of these three can create a spark, the entire offense will catch fire. The calls then become easy. Off-tackle left, off-tackle right.

Strategizing for the opener can be tricky. “You assume you’re going to get something similar to what you got last year, but who knows?” Herman said. “There could be something completely different, and you need to adjust.”

No need for Herman to adjust his stance on Beck now, either.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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