Football

Now in ‘big-time evaluation mode,’ Texas’ Tom Herman could be contemplating staff changes

Longhorns coach admits current staff hasn’t gotten as much from talented recruited classes as they should

Posted November 25th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • There weren’t many questions about Texas Tech (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) during Herman’s weekly press conference.
  • “We’re all in this together, but at the end of the day the buck stops with me.”
  • “Am I the right man to do it? I believe I am, yeah,” Herman said.

Texas coach Tom Herman began laying the groundwork Monday for possible staff changes as the Longhorns head into a short work week for Friday’s regular-season finale.

There weren’t many questions about Texas Tech (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) during Herman’s weekly press conference. Instead, it was more big-picture discussion because, as Herman said, he’s in “big-time evaluation mode of everything throughout our program.”

“I’m not shaken,” Herman said of Texas’ 6-5 record. “I’m not going to bury my head in the sand. It’s my job to make sure that we play to the level that is expected at the University of Texas.”

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Herman can have moments of bare-bones honesty. It happened again Monday when asked if the coaching staff has done a good enough job developing all the talent assembled via three straight top-25 recruiting classes.

“No. No, we haven’t, I haven’t, the players haven’t,” Herman said. “We’re all in this together, but at the end of the day the buck stops with me.”

This coming from a coach who said his job is to “protect the culture, not feelings.”

“So a big charge of mine in the offseason is to find a way to get these guys better developed and put them in better positions to succeed,” Herman said. “Then comes the part where the players gotta decide, you know, I want to take the steps that are necessary to be developed.”

After his arrival at the end of 2016, Herman insisted his job was to “coach the coaches.” What comes next are critical offseason decisions. Herman, 44, has never dismissed any assistant in his four-plus seasons as a head coach.

Herman hired offensive coordinator Tim Beck initially to call plays at Texas but ended up taking over those chores himself in 2018, calling it a “collaborative process.” Beck remains the quarterbacks coach who talks to Sam Ehlinger the most during games.

Herman downgraded Derek Warehime from offensive line coach to tight ends coach in 2018 in order to hire Herb Hand from Auburn. This season, tight end Cade Brewer had 10 catches before suffering an ankle injury against TCU on Oct. 26. Ever since, the tight ends have contributed little.

Hand’s unit has allowed 32 sacks, the most in the Big 12. Three of Hand’s starters all got 15-yard penalties in the fourth quarter against Baylor. Guard Parker Braun was flagged for arguing with the referee, and Herman said “the whole offensive line will do some punishment today after practice” for Braun’s infraction.

Running backs coach Stan Drayton saw his group get thinned out by injuries in August, and the Horns rank sixth in the league in rushing (163.8 yards per game). Receivers coaches Corby Meekins and Drew Mehringer can celebrate Devin Duvernay’s 1,000-yard season, but injuries and inconsistency plagued others.

Defensively, Todd Orlando oversaw a unit that had an eye-popping number of injuries in the secondary. Cornerbacks coach Jason Washington and safeties coach Craig Naivar were constantly shifting the lineup based on who was available and who wasn’t.

Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando talks with his players during an NCAA college football game against Baylor on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Waco, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

The secondary desperately needed big help from the defensive line. But Texas ex Oscar Giles presided over a group that never generated a consistent pass rush. Orlando, also the linebackers coach, would send his guys blitzing from all directions to help manufacture pressure.

Add it all up, and the Texas defense allows 29.4 points and 444.1 yards per game, the third-worst total in the league in both categories.

Athletic director Chris Del Conte shifted most of the assistants to one-year rollover contracts and stopped giving out blanket multi-year guaranteed deals. Only Hand and Orlando are signed through 2020.

Asked specifically on Saturday if the staff had the team ready for Baylor, Herman said, “I’ve done a poor job. The buck stops with me. We’ll evaluate everything. We got a game in six days. I’m not going to comment about anything like that until after the season.”

While it’s noble to lay all the blame solely on the coaches, the players share some responsibility, too. Injuries are real, but Herman noted how Baylor linebacker Terrel Bernard “had surgery on his hand Monday and was practicing on Tuesday.”

Herman said a few other Baylor players were injured, but still played in the 24-10 Texas loss. “That’s a credit to (Baylor coach Matt Rhule) and his staff and his players and their fortitude,” Herman said.

Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, left, and Texas head coach Tom Herman shake hands after an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

The Longhorns have a lengthy injury list for this week’s game. Receiver Collin Johnson (hamstring) won’t play, and running back Jordan Whittington (sports hernia) just underwent another MRI on his injury. Duvernay (bruised knee) and left tackle Sam Cosmi (ankle) will be monitored this week, too.

Herman said assistant coaches can’t blame the players.

“You’re the adult,” he said. “You’re the one that does this for a living. So we’re never going to blame the players. It’s our job. We recruited them and their personalities, so it’s our job to find the right buttons to push, if you will.”

Herman said if the player isn’t using the tools that are given to him, “it’s still your job then to educate them on why it’s important to use those tools.”

Somehow, Herman said, “we’ve got to figure out this off-season where we failed in that area and make sure that that doesn’t happen again.”

Texas will honor 16 players as part of senior day festivities before facing Tech. Herman will be there to hug and thank them all. He plans on being at UT for years to come.

“Am I the right man to do it? I believe I am, yeah,” Herman said. “You’re asking me — I don’t know, did you expect me to say no, I’m not and walk off and drop the mic or something?”

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

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