The swaggering, swash-buckling savior from Houston doesn’t stick his chest out anymore. Going 6-6 in your first season at Texas will take the starch out of any coach.
Tom Herman, the one who turned the Longhorns inside out upon his arrival, looked visibly shaken after Friday’s regular-season finale against Texas Tech.
Asked about his team’s week-to-week inconsistency, Herman said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. They’re kids. We’ve got to figure that out, obviously.”
Malik Jefferson is not a kid; he’s months away from becoming a millionaire. If anything, the junior linebacker might consider skipping the bowl game to protect his draft status.
Neither is Connor Williams, DeShon Elliott or even freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who has faced reporters win or lose while highly-paid assistants are shielded from post-game Q-and-As.
“When recruits and kids look at me, I hope they understand that if you’re at a program in the situation like I am, just keep pressing forward,” Jefferson said. “Never give up. The people around you are going to make you better.”
The Longhorns (6-6, 5-4 Big 12) now must hope that Camping World Bowl officials in Orlando, Fla., will look past their 27-23 loss to the Red Raiders. If the Camping World Bowl passes, Texas could land in the Texas Bowl in Houston.
David Fletcher, executive director of the Texas Bowl, told the American-Statesman that his group would “certainly consider Texas.” It’s still possible Texas could face a 7-5 Texas A&M squad, although SEC officials hold major sway in which teams go where for undisclosed reasons.
The Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., and Cactus Bowl in Scottsdale, Ariz., are also possibilities.
“We are dead set in making it our mission in life to make sure that these seniors go out with a positive experience, with a win in the bowl game, wherever that may be,” Herman said.
Texas has not played in a bowl game since 2014, so any bowl game would be welcome. Getting into the postseason means 15 extra practices in December.
For all intents and purposes, the 2018 season begins now, something Herman surely realizes. He’s the one who must fix this struggling offense, not offensive coordinator Tim Beck, the target of many fans’ ire.
On paper, the offensive line will not appear to be dramatically better. Williams, who missed most of the season with a knee injury, could go into the NFL draft. Jake McMillon, who has already graduated, is probably leaving the program.
Texas should get injured linemen Patrick Vahe, Elijah Rodriguez, J.P. Urquidez and Patrick Hudson back, but younger, unproven players are left to fill in the gaps.
Just two weeks ago, Herman said the Horns needed to find a “difference-maker” at running back. Perhaps that is freshman Danny Young, who played sparingly early and still finished the regular season as UT’s second-leading rusher.
Herman must figure out how to solve the comical rotation at receiver. Armanti Foreman was benched over what his father believes was Herman’s personal grudge against his son. But Foreman was an obvious difference-maker — when he played. He still finished the regular season with a team-high four touchdown catches.
Receivers coach Drew Mehringer has escaped criticism this season even though his unit underperformed. In August, it was widely accepted the receiving corps was the strongest, deepest position on the entire roster.
Defensively, Jefferson is likely gone, and it’s thought suspended cornerback Holton Hill will leave, too. Elliott, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, has to think about his future. Defensive tackle Poona Ford is a senior and played his final home game on Friday.
Even punter Michael Dickson, a two-time Ray Guy Award finalist, will have people in his ear whispering that he should go pro.
Herman enters into this offseason with uncertainty above him, too. Men’s Athletic Director Mike Perrin’s contract runs out in August. There are currently no signals UT President Gregory L. Fenves has made serious inroads on finding Perrin’s replacement.
“We’ve still got room for improvement,” Perrin said about the Horns’ 6-6 standing. “Overall, I did see improvement from game to game. It wasn’t a straight line up.”
It may not be a straight, long line at the box office much longer, either. Texas fans, some of whom are shelling out tens of thousands every year, have to be weary of all the mediocrity. The Horns are 13-11 at home since the start of the 2014 season and 22-27 overall.
Herman was supposed to change all of that. While he never slammed Charlie Strong by name, Herman never hesitated to take swipes at UT’s recent past.
Now, he’s one bowl loss away from finishing with the same record Strong had his first season. Texas is facing the possibility of its fourth-straight losing season.
“I don’t have a good answer for you,” Herman said.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post After staggering to 6-6, Texas coach Tom Herman facing questions; ‘I don’t have a good answer for you’ appeared first on Hook ‘Em.
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