In his 23 years as a football coach, Kirk Thor estimates that a half-dozen of his former players have turned into coaching colleagues.
The veteran head coach at Mansfield Lake Ridge isn’t surprised that Drew Mehringer is one of them.
Mehringer, 29, is Texas’ new passing game coordinator and the wide receivers coach. Last year, he served as Rutgers’ offensive coordinator.
“I know there is a lot of pressure in wins and losses, but coaching is a motivation game,” said Thor, who coached Mehringer at Mansfield High. “I think Drew got that out of his teammates; I think he got that out of himself. His teammates were better when he stepped that on the field, and I could see that as a coach.”
A dual-threat quarterback for Thor, Mehringer signed with Rice in 2006. A freshman year knee injury, however, ended his career. He stuck around Rice’s program as a student assistant for the next three seasons, which allowed him to work with an offensive coordinator by the name of Tom Herman from 2007-08.
Mehringer eventually followed Herman to Iowa State and then to Ohio State, working as a graduate assistant at both schools. After co-piloting a James Madison offense that averaged 35.7 points per game in 2014, he rejoined Herman for a year as Houston’s wide receivers coach. The following season, he was a 28-year-old offensive coordinator in the Big Ten.
Rutgers, however, went 2-10 in 2016. Among the 128 FBS-level schools, only UConn (14.8) scored fewer points per game than the Scarlet Knights (15.7). No team averaged fewer than Rutgers’ 283.2 yards per game.
Those statistics were a wake-up call for the young coach.
“Anytime that you fail — and that’s on a single play, that’s a game, that’s losing a recruit, anytime that you don’t win — you need to evaluate what happened and what went wrong,” Mehringer said. “If you do it a number of times, there’s something that’s not working and you need to evaluate what happened. You have to be honest with yourself, and sometimes that’s not easy.”
Mehringer described the decision to leave Rutgers for Texas last December as a “no-brainer.” The departure — even though it can be seen as a demotion, position-wise — gave him a chance to work at his home state’s flagship school. It also reunited him with Herman and seven assistants with whom he worked at Houston. Mehringer also was at Ohio State at the same time as UT running backs coach Stan Drayton.
At his new job, Mehringer inherits an experienced group of receivers. Texas is expected to return players who had 169 of the team’s 241 catches from 2016. Armanti Foreman led the Longhorns in receptions (34) and receiving yards (420), and is one of five Longhorns who caught three touchdowns. Six players on Texas’ spring roster had at least 18 catches.
“You have every animal in the zoo. You’ve got the tall ones, you’ve got the fast ones, you’ve got the mean ones,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “Drew is going to have his hands full, because there is going to be great competition.”
Mehringer is the fifth coach in as many years to coach Texas’ receivers, following Charlie Williams, Jay Norvell, Les Koenning and Darrell Wyatt. Jerrod Heard, who’s coming off a 24-catch season, described his new coach as personable and detail-oriented.
“Coach is a great teacher,” Heard said. “He explains everything in detail and makes sure we understand what we have to do and why. He lets us know our purpose for everything.”
In January, Herman told reporters that he believed all of his assistants aspired to be head coaches. Herman reasoned that “if you don’t want to be the best at your craft, then you’re probably a bit misguided.”
A month later, Mehringer referenced that answer when he was asked about his future. The hiccup in New Jersey behind him, he’s getting a chance to once again prove himself.
“I think at some point, everybody in this program that’s coaching around here wants to become a head football coach,” Mehringer said. “When, where, how, I don’t know yet. If we take care of business now, I think those things tend to take care of themselves.”
Editor’s note: This is the fourth of an occasional series profiling Texas’ new assistant football coaches.