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The Whys of Texas: Fans respond to critics —’For the love of God, have faith in Tom Herman’

Posted November 22nd, 2017

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Last week, the Whys of Texas mailbag was full of folks who had serious doubts about coach Tom Herman. “What are we getting for our money? A bubble gum chewing loser,” one fan wrote. Look out!

That prompted a wave of emails from fans taking the other side. And it’s amazing how people felt better about things after the win over West Virginia, a 28-14 decision that clinched bowl eligibility.

You cannot overstate the importance of Friday’s game against Texas Tech. The Longhorns have a chance to finish the regular season with a 7-5 record and close with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2009.

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A 7-5 Texas squad would look better to bowl officials. The early signing period starts Dec. 20, and Texas looks to land a top-five recruiting class. Get a bowl win just before New Year’s Day, and suddenly things look awfully impressive going into 2018.

On Tuesday, Herman said he the players seem to know that Tech is big one.

Texas head coach Tom Herman hugs quarterback Sam Ehlinger as Texas arrives to Milan Puskar Stadium before an NCAA college football game against West Virginia in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Every time I mention it, I get positive non-verbal feedback from guys in terms of intense looks, nods,” Herman said. “I think that there is a genuine understanding that, yes, ‘Have we improved over the last couple of years?’ They’re ready, certainly but this is a really big step for us, too.”

On to the mailbag …

From your article today, sounds like you are hearing from several folks who are down on the Longhorn football team based on their record.  And if all you saw was that record, you might think nothing has changed on the 40 Acres.

But the folks that think that aren’t watching the games. You can see a difference in how this team approaches its business from the teams we’ve seen the last 3 years. True, they aren’t quite over the hump yet. But the only game they’ve been out of is TCU (ignoring the aberration with Maryland). They have been in every other game, with chances to win. Yes, the offense is dreadful. Yes, the field goal unit is an adventure.  But they play hard and they play disciplined.  Neither could be said of Charlie Strong’s teams.

I am on board with what Tom Herman is doing.  I’d like to have seen a few more games end up in the “W” column, no question. But watching this team, you can see they are a completely different bunch than took the field under Charlie Strong. Those teams were embarrassing to watch. This one does play with heart, and they are figuring things out. With an improved offensive line next year (hopefully), I think you’ll see those close losses from this year turn into close wins next year.

Just didn’t want you only to hear from the people who are complaining. When you watch the actual games, there is a big difference in this year’s Texas team. Results will follow.

— Terry C. via email

I included Terry’s email in its entirety, because it’s a fairly spot-on gauge of where Texas is sitting at the moment. Yes, the team plays hard and has been competitive in every game although I am on record as saying that “playing hard” alone isn’t success. The coaches should get credit for getting the Horns to a point where they had a chance to win every game this season, maybe except Maryland. But as it’s been said numerous times, you are what your record says you are. Right now, the Horns are a 6-5 program. Things are looking up, but there is still a long way to go.

I’m a high school senior and I’ve been a Texas fan my entire life. When Texas lost to Alabama in the national championship in 2009, I was in fifth grade. So for most of my time being a Texas fan, they have been bad by Texas standards. Then former Urban Meyer assistant Tom Herman comes along, and he goes 22-4 and takes an average Houston team to beating Florida State in the Peach Bowl. I saw him as the next great college football coach. I was over the moon when he was hired. The season starts and I’m expecting big things. The USC and Oklahoma games are why I STILL think Tom Herman is going to be great. Now, I think Tim Beck is average at best and probably needs to go. I also think that coach Giles needs to pick it up in recruiting or get out. However, I’m seeing all this negativity from Texas fans. They have given up on Herman completely! I don’t get it. Am I insane? Thanks.

— Connor F. via email

Connor sort of veered off the road at the end there, didn’t he? But like Terry, he makes some valid points. The USC, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State games were all heart-breakers in various fashion. But no, Connor, I don’t think you are insane. Herman has simply inherited a program where fans are tired of losing and mediocrity. You said it yourself; this has been going on since the Alabama game. Texas has more money than anyone else in college football. The university is the flagship institution in best high school state in the union. And yet, it’s a program that’s now just five games over .500 this decade. That’s dreadful, and no amount of angry emailers are going to change me of that view.

Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams (55) signals touchdown during an NCAA college football game against West Virginia in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

More B. S. from Herman. The O-line now has 10 games, Shackleford about 16, Vahe about 25. Buechele’s release is slooooow, that’s why he gets sacked so much and they never call the long ball, which admittedly is his best throw, once against Kansas. A real shame we didn’t hire James Franklin. After 12 years as a Foundation member I think we may be done. The fans want wins, not excuses. 

— Dan B. via email

Quick fun fact: Former UT President Bill Powers wanted James Franklin. Or, at least he wanted then-athletic director Steve Patterson to look at Franklin. But Patterson wasn’t keen on that hire. He went hard after UCLA’s Jim Mora, who just got fired himself, and got turned down. Texas eventually hired Charlie Strong. For whatever it’s worth, Franklin is 34-17 in four years at Penn State.

Hey, how about that offensive line against West Virginia? It’s amazing what having a healthy All-American-caliber player at left tackle does for the unit, right? Just from the eyeball test, Connor Williams looked outstanding in his return from a major knee injury. But Texas lost guard Patrick Vahe to a sprained knee ligament. He will be out against Texas Tech. Sigh. This team cannot catch a break.

Herman and company are building a program that can compete year after year. Since Brown let things go to hell after 2009, we have wallowing around in a mud hole. Patterson and Strong were terrible hires although Strong never had much support. The people who complain about coordinators have no clue. Look at TCU and Oklahoma State. We need continuity, not back biting. 

— James H. via email

The spring semester is likely to be the final one for current men’s athletic director Mike Perrin. Right now, he should be credited with helping UT President Gregory L. Fenves get Herman on board and then green-lighting basically anything Herman wanted. This coaching staff has learned firsthand about all the internal bureaucracy, but generally speaking, Herman and Co. have to feel the full support from UT administrators. So it’s up to this staff to get it done.

It really upsets me that theses so-called “Longhorn fans” are already saying Coach Herman isn’t suitable for TEXAS. Whether we believe it or not, he’s building here at Texas. Did Coach Strong have some good recruiting classes? Yes! But that’s for what he saw he needed at Texas. Every coach has their vision on what they want at the location they are coaching at and no different here!!!! 

For the love of God, have faith in Herman. I was born and raised in South Texas, played football all my life and more than any of these idiots saying Herman isn’t our guy, I BLEED BURNT ORANGE!!! I want Texas back at the top more than anyone but I also know Herman IS THE GUY AND CAN DO IT! Am I tired of the loses? YES! Am I tired of not being in the top 10? YES!! We finally have a coach that can TURN things around and who ACTUALLY gives a crap about the University because he’s been here before and knows what Texas fans want and deserve. So to sum this rant up, if you’re not with Herman than get the hell of the Texas fan bus or SHUT THE HELL UP! HOOK ‘EM! 

— Val C. via email

Texas fans cheer after a 28-14 victory over West Virginia in an NCAA college football game in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Val’s email touches on one major aspect of this program I’ve always loved — unbridled passion. If that means four exclamation points, so be it. Fans should be demanding excellence, not “playing hard” after three losing seasons. I actually was impressed when UT announced earlier this week that roughly more than 5,000 tickets remain for Friday’s game against Texas Tech. That means the players could see a pretty good crowd on Friday.

And quickly, can I just say how glad I am this game is no longer played on Thanksgiving day. Once the Texas A&M series ended, this “tradition” should have disappeared, too. Fans shouldn’t have to cut short their holiday plans to hustle down to Royal-Memorial Stadium to see TCU. (No offense, Horned Frogs.)

Next year, Texas will play at Kansas the day after Thanksgiving. Insert your own joke about the possible crowd size here.

Hope your week is well! I’m sure you get a lot of emails so thank you for reading mine when you can. I watch the Coach Herman press conferences and I recognize that the media tries to be tactful when asking questions and tries to not be too critical and make Coach Herman mad…understand…

However I have a question that I would like to ask Coach Herman that frustrates the heck out of me!!

“Coach Herman, you often quote the definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results! You might call that the Texas offense but I would say it is CERTIFIABLY INSANE  TO RUN THE READ OPTION WITH SHANE BUECHELE, NOT ONCE BUT OVER AND OVER WITH THE SAME RESULTS….LOST YARDAGE!!”  THE LINE CAN’T BASE BLOCK AND SHANE IS NO RUNNING THREAT! JUST RUN TO THE BALL CARRIER CAUSE SHANE WILL PROBABLY STILL BE THERE TOO! DIDN’T TCU TACKLE BOTH AT THE SAME TIME!!

I cringe every time we run that play and the defense is in the back field before Mr. Excitement (Shane) can hand off the ball! When your line can’t block one-on-one, why not run old fashion run plays, traps, pulling guards, student body left, counters, bootlegs, roll outs and tell Shane to throw the ball before the receiver makes his break!! 

— Terry B. via email

First off, can we agree that Terry’s B. abundant use of all caps is a clear sign of his passion? I’ve given up trying to figure out what offensive coordinator Tim Beck is going to do on a week to week basis. That being said, what we saw against West Virginia is exactly what Herman has long envisioned. A dynamic running game that features the running back and quarterback is the base. Yes, the Horns needed to get a little more out of the passion game, but it was a terrible weather day for throwing against the Mountaineers.

The one person who has a legitimate beef after the WVU win is Shane Buechele. The sophomore started the game and played the first two drives. He was betrayed by some offensive penalties and a bad drop by John Burt. Freshman Sam Ehlinger came into the game on the third possession, as was pre-determined by the coaches, and never looked back. He threw two touchdowns and led the Horns to the win.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will start on Friday against Texas Tech, according to coach Tom Herman. Nick Wagner/American-Statesman

Ehlinger will start against Texas Tech, Herman said on Monday. It’ll be interesting to see if Buechele gets into the game on the third possession or if the Horns stick with Ehlinger. I said this on Twitter on Saturday and will say it again: When Sam Ehlinger is in the game, stuff happens.

I have been a UT fan since i can remember. I do believe Herman is the right coach for this team. He is changing the mentality that has been here for a while (this includes Brown). My problem is his unwillingness to get rid of something thing isn’t working namely Beck. 

Beck, even with his aide, still can’t put together a solid game plan and that has left a lot of fans disgruntled…including myself. I feel it has cost UT games (not Maryland) which, a lack of a run game, puts pressure on a young QB to have to win the game. 

Have ever seen Texas run a draw? When was the last the last time you saw them run a screen pass to a tail back? I keep waiting for Herman to demote Beck and take over play calling duties, but he hasn’t, and keep wondering if he feels some kind of duty to him? Bottom line is the performance of his football team, and if it’s not happening then i think the coaches need to be held accountable to the players just as much as the players need to be held to the coaches.

— Gary C. via email

Herman has already said that this offensive staff will return next season. He sees no need to make any changes, and really, why should he? Think about all the injuries this unit has battled through. Now, if Texas was at full strength for the entire season and the Horns still had all these offensive woes, I’d openly question about changing the play-caller. But losing Williams, Elijah Rodriguez and Andrew Beck for the bulk of the season was damaging. Cade Brewer is now lost with a torn ACL. Patrick Vahe is out against Tech. And both quarterbacks have missed games due to injuries.

Let’s see what happens in the final two games, but I’m far more interested to see what Beck and his offensive mates come up with for 2018.

I have been critical of Herman for paying attention to a lot of things that do not win football games while not fixing significant issues with the Horns. I see we have one D-line and two O-line recruits for next year. Given that both are failures this year in an overall sense, why is he not making it happen on recruiting? I know there is a long way to go but it looks like we have an uphill battle in this area of need. Not up to another year of excuses. Injuries are part of the game, so what have we done to add some depth? The play-calling is suspect at best and I see he is keeping Beck. I will remind you that the folks in these parts were glad to see him leave Ohio State.

— Robert M. in Dayton, Ohio, via email

At the moment, Texas is poised to sign two offensive linemen (Reese Moore from Seminole and Rafiti Ghirmai from Frisco Wakeland) and one defensive tackle (Keondre Coburn from Spring Westfield). The Horns will probably lose Williams, who is likely to jump into the NFL draft, and senior nose guard Poona Ford. The rest of the offensive line should return intact — Vahe, Zach Shackelford, Jake McMillan and Derek Kerstetter. Same goes for the defense. Ford is the only senior up front on the two-deep roster.

Remember, Texas should get Rodriguez and fellow offensive lineman Patrick Hudson back from injury. Denzel Okafor should be better after another offseason in the weight room. Keep and eye on Sam Cosmi, who’s redshirting.

When you look at the big picture, it’s not as dire as it may seem. But there’s no question this coaching staff needs to coach up the players they have.

Can someone please ask Herman, if you want to keep your coaches together because of unity, why does Shane have to throw to different players every week. There is not one tandem together. How is he suppose to get rhythm throwing? Every receiver is different. Oh, I forgot this guy didn’t have a good practice. It is the end of season and still not a good practice??

— Marcus H. via email

One assistant coach who has skated this season from any scrutiny at all is receivers coach Drew Mehringer. I find it comical that Collin Johnson isn’t a 1,000-yard receiver. He’s got a team-leading 695 yards. Armanti Foreman hasn’t played much in weeks and STILL leads Texas with three receiving touchdowns. Lil’Jordan Humphrey has clear play-making potential, but we didn’t see it until the back half of the season. Marcus brings up a great point. One, two or even three receivers should be go-to targets in crunch time. Instead, everybody gets a participation ribbon and one or two catches a game. This is the same football program that turned John Harris into a 1,000-yard receiver in 2014. It’s truly baffling.

Texas kicker Joshua Rowland (49) hangs his head after missing a field goal against Kansas State on Oct. 7, 2017. Rowland missed two of his four attempts. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Brian, I, like so many frustrated UT fans, cannot understand the kicking problem.  I am not one to question the coaching, although I have my share of “Why was that stupid play called?”.  But I do feel like the kicking situation is directly related to coaching.  Herman’s stupid position of not treating kicking like any other aspect of the team has to rub these guys the wrong way.

My real question here, though, is why is Chris Naggar never mentioned?  He is a walk-on, of course, but comes with quite a pedigree as well as some impressive video performances. Has he even been given an opportunity, or is his high school record a fluke?

— Jeff K. via email 

If Herman didn’t try another field goal the rest of the season, I wouldn’t argue with that. But you cannot say he doesn’t put an importance on kicking. He’s going to sign a kicker for two consecutive years. Joshua Rowland simply hasn’t held up his end of the bargain. He was 7 for 14 on kicks before getting benched for Mitchell Becker, a fifth-year senior. If Herman isn’t trying Naggar, it’s only because the Arlington product hasn’t turned heads in practice.

The Longhorns are set to sign Lake Travis kicker Cameron Dicker in December. He’s considered the No. 1 kicking recruit in the nation.

Have a question for the Whys of Texas postseason edition? Contact Brian Davis at bdavis@statesman.com.

The post The Whys of Texas: Fans respond to critics —’For the love of God, have faith in Tom Herman’ appeared first on Hook ‘Em.

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