There is little doubt that 2019 is a Big 12 championship-or-bust season for the Texas Longhorns.
Even the head coach thinks so.
“We’ve got to win our conference,” Tom Herman said Wednesday on national signing day.
Herman, entering his third season, said his goal every year is to be in position to win the league title in November and December. “We did that this year. Now, we’ve got to take that last step to winning it on the field.”
Ten wins, a Big 12 championship game appearance and a Sugar Bowl victory in 2018 has raised expectations. That momentum continued in recruiting. Wide receiver Bru McCoy’s transfer from USC to Texas moved the Longhorns’ 2019 signing class up to third overall nationally, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Four-star offensive lineman Javonne Shepherd from Houston North Forest joined the Horns on national signing day and became their 24th signee. It’s the second straight year UT finished in the top three — the first time Texas has gone back-to-back years with top-three classes. Seventeen players have either five- or four-star rankings.
“I think recruiting is headed in the right direction,” Herman said. “I think we’ve got the right players.”
Herman confirmed Wednesday that all 10 assistant coaches will return next season. Safeties coach Craig Naivar will become co-defensive coordinator, and tight ends coach Derek Warehime will take on special teams duties.
“We’ve got the right coaches, the right athletic support system,” Herman said. “We’ve got the right athletic director.”
Herman said construction crews will break ground on the south end zone expansion of Royal-Memorial Stadium in May. The $175-million project will feature eight suites, a new end zone club and allow UT to totally remake the football complex.
The 2019 squad will have a youthful tone, and Herman said “certain things have to go your way.” But overall, things are looking up.
“I think all of the pieces are in place to be successful,” he said.
With only one new Longhorn signing a national letter of intent on Wednesday, there wasn’t much else to do but take a big-picture view.
McCoy will be the central focus during the offseason as Texas compliance officials fight for his eligibility. The five-star Maxwell national player of the year signed with USC in December, enrolled in classes in Los Angeles and then changed his mind after offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury left USC for the NFL.
A UT source told the Statesman there is no timetable for a waiver decision from the NCAA. School officials are purposely not saying much about the situation. And Herman said his role in the waiver process would be “very minimal.”
“I think every situation is unique, you know,” Herman said. “I applaud Bru and his courageousness to say, ‘Hey, this is not where my heart is, and I’m going to do something to change that.’ But as far as timetable, I have no idea. I would assume before the season starts.”
On the field, McCoy easily could fit into the multi-use slot receiver role that Lil’Jordan Humphrey had last season. McCoy (6-3, 205) had 152 catches for 2,605 yards and 34 touchdowns during his high school career. He was the No. 1-ranked athlete in the country.
“There are a lot of big receivers, but there are few that have the body control and the ball skills that Bru has,” Herman said. “So what that means is that makes him pretty versatile.”
McCoy is a high-profile recruit from California. The Longhorns signed 12 out-of-state players in the class of 24. The class is ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 but Herman went out of his way to stress that UT will continue to look hard at in-state players.
“Again, and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, I’ll say it until I retire here: If we can sign 25 kids from the state of Texas that we believe can help us win a national championship, that is nirvana,” he said. “That is the plan. That is the ideal.”
Under Herman and player personnel director Derek Chang, the program has become rather choosy, too. Texas gave out 137 scholarship offers during the 2019 recruiting cycle, according to 247Sports. That was the second-lowest total in the Big 12 — Oklahoma State offered 114 — and was one of the lowest in the nation.
Clemson (which has the nation’s 10th-ranked class) gave out 162 offers and Alabama (No. 1) had 287, for comparison. Texas A&M (No. 4) gave out 195.
“It is nice at times when you see some of the experts validate your evaluation too,” Herman said.
Herman has some down time forthcoming, but not much. Spring practice begins on March 11. The annual Orange-White spring game is April 13. This month, strength coach Yancy McKnight will oversee offseason workouts.
The 2019 season begins Aug. 31 at home against Louisiana Tech. Until then, every decision made in the football building is geared toward the overall goal.
Will this class help Texas win the Big 12 in 2019 or not?
“We’ve still got some guys in that locker room that aren’t completely bought in,” Herman said. “So we are constantly evolving. We’re constantly improving. But we feel like the necessary components to continue to take steps are in place right now.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.