For some reason, we have an abundance of questions from Jim this week in the Whys of Texas mailbag.
Jim hails from North Texas, Georgetown and San Antonio, apparently. Probably all points in between, too. He’s even got multiple cell phone numbers. Burners? Ah, who knows.
It’s Thanksgiving, and I promised the lovely Mrs. Davis that I wouldn’t stay up too late answering readers questions this week. Even Statesman scribes Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden thought last week’s opus was just too much. “I scrolled on and on and on,” Bohls said.
OK, quick and tidy then. We got turkeys to carve and turkey trottin’ to do Thursday morning.
On to this week’s mailbag …
Q. I know you write about Tom’s pre game pep talks, but they must be ignored. Very rarely do they come on the field fired up and ready to take prisoners. There is no “kick ass and take names” as the saying goes. Why, why, why? Truly a mystery! I know Tom has made many coaching mistakes, but this team is comatose when they walk on the field. — Jim No. 1
Were Texas fans not entertained by Tom Herman’s head-butting ways before the Baylor game? Frankly, I didn’t think much about it, other than here was a coach trying to get his team fired up. If Texas was 10-1 or something like that, people would just laugh. But when you’re 6-5, it becomes a punchline on SportsCenter. This got way too much attention, in my view.
Tom Herman is AMPED. pic.twitter.com/S7EVkIwy57
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) November 23, 2019
As for why the team starts slow, it is truly a mystery. At this point, I’ve given up trying to figure it out.
Q. Tom Herman bad cop? Wow, another great joke. We need to love each other and not hurt anyone’s feelings. We hold hands and sing Kumbaya after each loss. Granted we are not very good but no one is expected to feel accountable? Group hug! It’s hard being a Longhorn fan. You would think after 10 years, we could get it right. — Terry
Herman was asked about his status as the “bad cop” during Monday’s press conference. That refers to an old adage about coaches. The head coach is typically the “bad cop” and the assistants are normally the “good cops.”
“Yeah, my job is to protect the culture, not feelings,” Herman said. “This comes up anytime you’re not experiencing the success that you want, the vocal minority gets a lot of the attention. Go ask Sam Ehlinger if he thinks I’m bad cop, or Collin Johnson, or Devin Duvernay, or Malcolm Roach or Joseph Ossai or Keaontay Ingram. The list goes on and on of guys that know and understand how much I care about each and every one of our players, and it’s important to me.”
Frankly, it’s hard to gauge how players truly feel about Herman. With reporters, they’re going to say all the right things. But let’s be honest, does anyone really think Nick Saban is a touchy-feely type? He seems to be doing all right. There are only two ways you can truly tell how the locker room feels. First, watch how hard they play during the games. I think Texas is OK in that department. And second, watch the transfer portal. We won’t really know if there’s going to be a mad dash to leave until after the regular season is complete.
Q. It’s now pretty obvious that Tom Herman is not the man to lead Texas out of the football wilderness. Well, at least, the Longhorns are eligible for a bowl game, along with a bunch of other also-rans. — Jim No. 2
As of now, Texas has three legitimate bowl options — Camping World, Texas and Liberty. There’s a long-shot possibility that Texas could land in the Alamo, but that would mean Oklahoma beats Baylor in the Big 12 championship game and somehow gets into the College Football Playoff. Right now, who knows how the CFP will shake out.
The Texas Bowl seems unclear mostly because the Horns were there in 2014 and 2017. The Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla., actually picks first among those three listed above, and that bowl could grab UT because it’s rare to have that big of a brand name.
Of course, all of this depends on how the final week of the regular season shakes out. Bowls typically don’t like to have teams coming in off losses.
Q. If the ratings of high school football players means anything, then perhaps Texas is getting out coached. The combined total of all four and five-star players on the rosters of Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, Iowa State, and Baylor probably does not equal the number at Texas. May be perfect time to beg Ivy League to add a new member. — David
According to 247Sports, Texas has 48 players on the roster that were considered five- or four-star recruits. Oklahoma has 50. TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State have mostly three-star athletes. So there’s no question that Texas and OU scoop up most of the talent on the recruiting trail. But coaches must develop that talent, too. That’s why Herman was so matter-of-fact Monday when asked if this coaching staff has gotten the most out of these recruits. “No, no we haven’t,” he said.
Q. Is there any way to Not pay Herman’s million dollar bonus is December? The announcers said it. This team scored 38 against LSU and has regressed through the year. If Tom Herman was an honest man he would refuse the million dollar bonus he gets in December. He sure doesn’t deserve it. — Jim No. 3
Herman is due a $1 million stay bonus on Dec. 25. I actually covered Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Bob Knight during the previous decade when he decided to give back his salary after one bad season. That made national news. Knight’s actual contractual salary — not his total compensation, mind you — was about $600,000, if memory serves. That was a nice gesture, but Herman should not feel compelled to give back his agreed-upon bonus. I mean, would you?
Q. Must be something in the water at Texas. They have a little success and immediately slide back into entitlement. That phrase “We Are Texas” should be outlawed. Never have liked that egocentric phrase. — Jay
Talking with the seniors on Tuesday got me thinking. Do you realize these players were freshman in 2016 when Tyrone Swoopes dove across the goal line against Notre Dame and ESPN’s Joe Tessitore screamed out “Texas is back, folks.”
I actually found the video I shot that night from the sideline. Yeah, it still holds up. Man, listen to that roar.
Q. So Poor Lil’ Tommy (PLT) Herman lost another football game. As a University of Houston grad I can’t sympathize with his struggles. He was too big for UH, and now he’s way over his head. You should have been careful what you wished for, PLT, you got it and you can’t handle it. Not ready for prime time. Serves you right. You got above your raisin’. Go COOGS! — Bill
Wow, a Cougars fan from the top rope! Next I’ll be getting emails from Houston mega-booster Tilman Fertitta.
Q. I know there is still a regular season game left and you have your own questions but I had a couple of questions I would like to hear Coach Herman’s thoughts on. Given the 2019 performance, the 2019 Seniors departing and the uncertainty with predicting player performance, what is a likely 2020 outcome? — C. Karr
Well, Herman isn’t likely to answer that question until the 2019 season is completely finished. That said, Texas will have a senior quarterback coming back in Sam Ehlinger. The running game should feature Ingram and freshman-to-be Bijan Robinson, assuming he sticks with Texas and dsigns. The offensive line will need to be rebuilt, though, and the receiving corps is losing Duvernay and Johnson.
My worries are on the defensive side. Texas is losing Roach and D’Andre Christmas-Giles and Gerald Wilbon up front. Who’s going to play alongside Keondre Coburn? Ta’Quon Graham needs to have a serious offseason or he’ll get bypassed.
I do like the linebackers. Joseph Ossai and Ayodele Adeoye need to get bigger, stronger, faster, etc. And the secondary, led by Caden Sterns and Jalen Green, should be back to full health.
Let’s see how Herman shakes up the coaching staff, if he changes it at all, before putting Texas on any sort of pedestal in 2020. The whole completion of this program’s leadership will likely change in December and January.