BEVO BEAT

The Whys of Texas: Super-sized mailbag takes us on a 6-6 roller-coaster of emotions

Posted November 29th, 2017

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Your trusted scribe started covering college football in 2001. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover multiple Big 12 schools and have gotten to know the pulse of different fan bases.

Reading the tea leaves locally leaves me with one unmistakable impression: Texas fans are close to their breaking point.

That’s my clear observation from a 6-6 season that represented more of the same old, same old. It’s the same average football these fans have tolerated since 2010.

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The Longhorns are merely four games over .500 since facing Alabama for the 2009 national title. This program is now eight full seasons into what’s likely to be a lost decade.

Solemn UT fans sit in the stands as the Longhorns play TCU at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on Saturday November 4, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Nothing crafted from this modern-day Underwood will soothe the masses. Sometimes, it’s best to just stand aside. And with that, we begin this week’s mailbag with sporadic commentary where appropriate.

As an ex-student and over 20 year season ticket holder, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so disappointed in a Longhorn season.

The decisions of the offensive staff this season were absurd. This staff did not play its best players consistently and did not let players get into any rhythm. The rotation of wide receivers and running backs made no sense all year. For instance, nobody can explain why (Kyle) Porter would be used in goal-line situations and while pinned up on your own end zone instead of a more powerful running back. The quarterback “power” running play was run ad nauseam and often ended drives or resulted in a turnover.

Mack Brown, Herman’s supposed mentor, brought in a “heavy” package in goal-line situations and ran the ball with a lead blocker behind the line’s best blockers. I don’t recall Mack Brown running shotgun quarterback throw back plays to try and gain 1 yard.

(Sam) Ehlinger may have a competitive nature, but he simply makes too many game-changing mistakes and was too inaccurate with his passing to not let Buechele have more playing time.  Obviously, Shane (Buechele) already had a year of experience to get rid of some freshman mistakes.

Finally, high school coaches know that with just over 2 minutes left in a game, facing third-and-2, its best to run the ball and make your opponent use a timeout or run off more time.  Especially if you have a Ray Guy award nominee punter who can likely pin your opponent inside their own 20.

— Keith H. via email in New Braunfels

Never thought I’d say this, but Texas badly misses Tyrone Swoopes and the 18-Wheeler package. Man, what a difference that would’ve made this season. But, as we all know, Texas coach Tom Herman did not watch any film from last season. Think the Horns could have used a short-yardage package near the goal line against USC in double-overtime? Nah, probably not.

After that 4th quarter failure (against Texas Tech), I am ready to fire Tom Herman. The only way to make that offense “offensive” is not to wash their uniforms for 6 weeks and not take showers for 6 weeks!! Do not understand why they continually play to the sidelines instead of going forward. Did UT invent the skyward pass this season? I thought football used the forward pass. Does Texas try to get to sophisticated with plays and go for mismatches where they have an advantage with more players on that side. That’s what I thought I heard one announcer say during the Tech game. Sorry for all the one-liners in this e-mail but hard to write a full editorial on this UT season. Too many one liner problems to solve!!

— Philip E. via email in Bastrop

Texas Tech defensive back Justus Parker (31) gets a hand on Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) during an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For what it’s worth, Ehlinger averaged 12.3 yards per completion during the regular season. Buechele averaged 10.3. For comparison, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (16.6), Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (15.3), West Virginia’s Will Grief (14.0) and Texas Tech’s Will Shimonek (12.0) had better totals in that department.

It was the most gross and inexcusable negligence to call a pass play on a 3rd and 2 while trying to protect a lead late in the game when the #1 objective is to run down the clock and #2 (assuming the offense could not get a 1st down) is field position (using the best punter in NCAAF). There. Is. No. Excuse. Period. Full stop. 

To give just one paragraph in which you rightly pointed out this absurdity just doesn’t do the situation justice. This was basic Football 101, and Beck proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he doesn’t even know the basics. Texas football deserves and should demand far better from it’s coaching staff, especially considering the salaries. That call was GROSS negligence demonstrating even worse judgment, and as such worthy of outright dismissal from the team. Sick to my stomach.

— Joe D. via email

Ehlinger accepted responsibility in the post-game scrum with reporters, saying he should not have thrown across his body to a receiver cutting back toward the middle of the field. But he should have never been in that position. That’s a running situation. Daniel Young couldn’t get 2 yards on 2 plays? If Herman didn’t think so, then the Horns didn’t deserve to win.

Just bad football. The 2017 Longhorns under Tom Herman ended as they started. An underwhelming inferior effort leads to an embarrassing home loss to an inferior team. The team was poorly prepared by the coaches, with questionable play calling, especially on the last pick by Sam when all Texas needed was to run the clock and let Dickson do his thing, and playing poorly in all phases, except the kicking game. 

Tim Beck is going to get Herman canned. After 11 seasons as foundation members, the last 4 of which have been miserable, we can watch on TV, and watch teams where they play the game right.

— Dan B. via email

I truly wonder how many Longhorn Foundation members think long and hard before putting down their deposits each season.

Please hear me out and let me know what am I seeing incorrectly. I am grateful that we will play in a bowl game because we will have additional practices to help Sam Ehlinger move to running back, his natural position, and to give Tom Herman enough time to scout other offenses to see who he wants to hire as offensive coordinator. Clearly neither Sam nor Tim Beck are successful at their positions and both have had more than enough time to prove themselves.

Sam is not a quarterback, he does not have the arm strength, accuracy, touch or decision-making ability. He single-handily lost us four games — the fumble at USC, the 4th down out of bounds pass vs, OU, the overtime INT vs. Oklahoma State and the 2 INTs in the last minutes vs Tech. He is our best running back and with the move he can continue to be a leader but will not be involved in making decision in key situations. He can be the next Christian McCaffrey.

As far as Tim Beck, I can not fathom a smart man, much less an offensive guru and top-notch coach sticking with a coordinator that did not adjust, change or learn in a whole season. We need to move on from Tim Beck and hire the Todd Orlando of offense. Help me, Brian, am I seeing something wrong or different from Tom Herman? I think the extra practice time will be ideal to accomplish these steps. Your thoughts?

— Juan C. via email

One thing about the quarterback position. Texas cannot say its quarterback of the future is on campus currently. (Fellow UT beat writers know this is where I pound the table for emphasis.) Buechele and Ehlinger will have to battle two incoming freshmen next season, both of whom will be Herman’s selected recruits. Maybe Buechele transfers, maybe not. But neither Buechele nor Ehlinger can say they are the entrenched starter going forward. It should be wide open again. Ehlinger has simply made too many game-changing mistakes to dismiss.

Texas Tech defensive back Douglas Coleman III (25) runs with the football after intercepting a pass by Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger during an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. Texas Tech defeated Texas 27-23 in the season finale. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Your question to Herman about third-and-2 — why call a pass play with 2:30 to go in the game up by 4? — was more than appropriate. Tech dropped 8 constantly with a 3-man rush. Yet Beck-Herman force a true freshman QB into low probability good outcome pass plays. I think the press needs to further question the coaching/play calling at Texas. It is diabolical.

Graduated from UT 34 years ago. The level of disappointment is record. We can’t take much more of this. Texas does less with more better than anyone in college football. Fans are flummoxed beyond belief. And salt in wound Perrin not going to be replaced by Fenves? Good Lord. 

— Ron M. via email

If you missed it, Herman was asked in the post-game press conference why he didn’t run the ball on third-and-2. As the head coach, he has the final say on all play-calling matters. Or, he has to live with the consequences at least. The following is taken straight from the post-game transcript: “We weren’t running the ball very well regardless of down and distance. We felt like in man coverage, ran a little switch route, popped. Hit him, pretty much end the game. If not, felt like Sam [Ehlinger] was doing a really good job scrambling, that he would scramble and try to get us a first. Got to do a better job coaching them in those end-of-game scenarios, how to handle that.”

And it’s probably a waste of time directing any anger toward current men’s athletic director Mike Perrin. His contract expires in August. He most likely will not be the AD when next season begins. That’s a completely different topic for another day, but that’s UT President Gregory L. Fenves’ biggest offseason priority.

Coach Herman says the Texas team are “kids.” Well those kids map the future of a multi-million dollar enterprise called the University of Texas. How they play affects recruiting and therefore  affects our team’s standing for years to come. It sounds like to me like the inmates are running the asylum. Enough lovey stuff. Kick their butts!!!!! Kids, my butt!!!!! Those kids insure your salary, Tom. You’re not their friend, YOU ARE THEIR COACH. LIKE WITH A PARENT, WHICH YOU SEEM TO WANT TO BE, TOUGH LOVE IS NECESSARY!  Both my degrees, BA and JD, are from Texas. I’m sick of this lovey-dovey crap. ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!! I’M TIRED OF BEING THE LAUGHING STOCK OF THE BIG TWELVE.

— Prueitt via email

These “kids,” as Herman called them the last two weeks, aren’t kids at all. I can’t see Darrell Royal or Fred Akers calling them kids. A few of them are months away from becoming multi-millionaires. These are young men who signed up for two full-time jobs — going to school and playing major college football. They face pressures of all kinds on a daily basis. But I do believe that pressure is one of the reasons you come to Texas. There are plenty of small schools out there that have football teams with no spotlight. The glare here can be intense at times.

I have been watching the Longhorns since Roosevelt Leaks was the running back. I have seen the good and the bad. This is what I personally think needs to happen before the Horns get back to where they should be.

I feel that Herman can be a good coach but he first must take himself down a notch or 2. His arrogance when addressing media questions during his LHN interviews tells me he needs major personal improvement, which would include how he handles his players and coaches. I don’t have a problem with his philosophy, but I do have a problem with how he appears to put that philosophy to work.

— Jim E. via email

I personally don’t have any issues with how Herman has handled himself in press conferences. I’ve literally seen and dealt with all kinds. But Longhorn Network is a blessing and a curse for UT coaches. Things that fans would normally never see are now broadcast all over the nation and streamed all over the world. Who knows who’s watching? LHN: They televise, you decide.

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

You know I had never been a Texas fan until Charlie Strong arrived and just decided to support him and the team once he was hired. I’ve told folks he did not get enough time for reasons I will not go into but I do think there will be a “mass exodus” of Texas talent to the NFL from this existing team. Additionally, I suspect that 6 Longhorns will be drafted in the NFL next spring, all coincidentally recruited by Charlie Strong. 

Great pointers in (Monday’s article) on certain folks dodging the press. I have grown so tired of folks just “dissing” Coach Strong and the folks that were here before, its seems nobody wanted to say look it’s on us now and it continued after the first game and on and on. Additionally, this deal about some non-practice warriors not playing needs to be rethought. Some players perform better “under the lights” than they do in practice and I think that is overlooked here. I continue to pull for them and wish them luck but with the mass exodus to the NFL it will not get any easier for Herman and his staff. 

— Brunswick M. via email 

After the first game this season, we were told that neither Tim Beck nor Todd Orlando would talk with reporters after games. Herman said he thought it was best that the team have “one message.” Orlando is the first UT assistant ever paid $1 million annually. Beck is high six-figures. Both are more than capable of handling themselves with us. Historically, Texas has always made both coordinators available after games. Not so this season. Players — you know, the “kids” — have to come out and answer tough questions win, lose or draw.

Is this really about to be the new trend in college football? I don’t know how Connor Williams can call himself a lifelong Longhorn if he’s abandoning his team when they really need him. How frustrating for goodness sake he hasn’t even had a chance to play in a bowl until this year.

— James H. via email

Frankly, James, the answer to your question is yes. This is the new normal in college football. Why should any athlete, especially those projected to be first-round picks, risk injury playing for a 6-6 team in a lower-tier bowl game? Williams is projected as a first-round pick who had to bust his tail just to get back into game shape this season. Why risk it? NFL scouts doesn’t care if you play in the Texas Bowl or not. If I’m the head coach, my advice would be this: if my team is playing in the CFP or a New Year’s Day game, you are playing. If not, then don’t.

Williams’ decision means he will leave Texas without ever playing in a bowl game as a Longhorn. Think about that for a moment.

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

I was really disappointed by the Connor Williams comments you mentioned in your Sunday article. Why was he upset with the referee and why did he act so Immature and voice profanity? Speaks volumes about his lack of character. Will he be disciplined or will Herman ignore misbehavior like Mack Brown did?

—Thomas P. via email

As the Tech game concluded, Williams was standing over a game official screaming “That’s bull—” several times. He had to be pulled away. Williams wasn’t out of control, but it was definitely an out-of-character moment for him. My guess is frustrations probably boiled over at that moment. If Williams was staying, he wouldn’t incur the wrath of any coach. And shouldn’t. It’s not like he shoved the guy.

I applaud Chris Warren for transferring.  Buechele should follow him along with the rest of the team before Herman can screw them up any more than he already has. It would give Tommie time to figure out where the goal posts are located. What an incompetent idiot and UT hired him!

— Bill H. via email

If you were surprised that Chris Warren III announced his decision to transfer on Monday, you haven’t been paying attention. A source close to the junior said Warren is weighing his options and hasn’t made a final decision yet on where he’s going. A career 1,150-yard rusher is walking out the door and isn’t even remotely looking back. That speaks volumes.

Who can blame them? Also, Warren is a step slow for the pros at RB. He should consider TE.

— David M. via email

From the long-term view, Warren may have a better chance to reach the pros as a tight end. That’s going to come down to his attitude about a position change. I know this: Warren believes he can be a solid contributor as a running back. Whether he truly can is subjective.

Would not be surprised is Shane elects to leave next. Herman’s staff with their holier than thou attitude brought this season to its inevitable conclusion. I warned you about Beck and the feeling from OSU fans wishing him good riddance. Herman’s blind loyalty to his staff is going to our continued demise if he elects to keep them on board.

— Robert M. via email in Dayton, Ohio

I’d like someone to explain to me the reasoning for the quarterback rotation in the final two games. Buechele played the first two series against West Virginia and didn’t really do anything bad. The offense had two ill-timed penalties, and John Burt dropped a long pass. But Buechele was fine. Ehlinger came in and we never saw Buechele again. Then, Ehlinger started against Tech, Buechele played the third series and did well. He completed three passes, although one was wiped out by a penalty. The offense went three-and-out, and we never saw Buechele again.

If the whole idea was to play Buechele to keep him interested and prevent him from transferring, that type of usage would only make me want to transfer. It’s clear Herman likes Ehlinger, but the freshmen had way too many critical mistakes at times.

Brian, hopefully you guys will ask the hard questions after the Black Friday debacle. On the one yard and third-and-2, our 245-pound running back is on the sideline. Totally unexplainable. Worse, you still see undersized Porter trying to make it to the line of scrimmage. Herman has to drop the same line and be accountable. You, Kirk and Golden have to ask follow-up questions and not allow Coach to spin you aside.  Keep asking the questions your fans would ask. Thanks. 

—Dave S. via email in Plano

That’s what we hope to do anyway in our brief interactions with Herman. You know what’s odd, he never sticks around after press conferences to talk more informally. Once the press conference is over, Herman is out of there like a lightning bolt. So it’s difficult to establish a better relationship and find out what he’s thinking without the TV cameras rolling.

Well, the first shoe has fallen at Texas.  Juniors leaving prior to their senior year — I don’t think football is fun anymore at UT. The second shoe, decommits for the 2018 incoming freshmen may be next; if this materializes, UT will be in real trouble. Todd Orlando, the third shoe, might leave or stay — if he stays, it likely is to save Herman’s job.

I think UT has learned its lesson—they will stay with Herman at least 3 years to save face (and their butts), and perhaps even 4 years to save buyout money. I only in-vision doom and gloom on the 40 acres, and very few orange towers.  Loses in 2018: OU, TCU, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Maryland and USC.  Toss-up games: OKSt., Baylor, Iowa State. 

— J.D. via email in Laredo

Say this for Herman and his staff: Recruits are not backing out. The Longhorns are likely to sign a top-three signing class on Dec. 20, the first day of the new early signing period. I haven’t thought about the 2018 schedule much, although I am looking forward to the trip to FedEx Field for the season opener against Maryland. Should be a great visit to D.C.

In your article this morning you stated that school officials would pass on a UT vs. A&M matchup.  Which school has determined that, who determined and when?  Seems strange to me that recently both school’s officials indicated interest in a playing again but now they have already made the decision to not do such.  

— Jimmy H. via email

Texas officials aren’t “scared” of Texas A&M, as much as the goofballs on Twitter would love to believe. The Longhorns simply do not want to restart the rivalry by backing into a game against the Aggies where both teams have mediocre records. And they don’t want bowl officials getting the benefit of the financial pop. This rivalry will start up again, but it will be played in Austin or College Station — or the College Football Playoffs.

Texas Bowl-Texas-Texas Longhorns-Texas A&M-Texas A&M Aggies
Patrick Lewis #61 of the Texas A&M Aggies prepares to snap the ball against the Texas Longhorns in the second half of a game at Kyle Field on November 24, 2011 in College Station, Texas. Darren Carroll/Getty Images

Howdy,

I know there are a lot of people who are against an A&M-UT match up anytime soon but for the record, there are a lot of us (who may not be as vocal) who would love to see the rivalry rekindled.  Regardless of who is favored by the bookies, it is a rivalry game whereby usually the team who wants it the most and is the best prepared will likely win in today’s world of parity.

There are too many Texas families with ties to both schools who would like to see the game renewed if for no other reason than bragging rights for the next year and until the next game.  Maybe as Texas continues to grow by leaps and bounds the population will be represented by more non-natives and therefore get less support for the game – but I, for one (and my family – and all that we know…) would love to see the game played again – regularly too, not just in a bowl as some choose to shout as “the only way.”

I think the fans are often much more “rabid” and hateful to each other than the players and coaches themselves because they all seem to know each other from high school, recruiting wars, all-star games, etc.  It really is just a game!  

— Robert L. via email

I’ve said this before and will say it again, both schools should want this rivalry restarted for their season-ticket package. Have you looked at the Big 12 home schedule Texas has in future years? The best possible game is Oklahoma State, Texas Tech or TCU. If you have one marquee matchup (LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, etc.) and then add A&M, now you’ve got something you can sell to the masses. Same goes at Kyle Field. A&M should want to host Texas on the years it plays at Alabama. Maybe Jimbo Fisher can address that next week.

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

The post The Whys of Texas: Super-sized mailbag takes us on a 6-6 roller-coaster of emotions appeared first on Hook ‘Em.

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