Football

Texas’ leaders still all-in with Tom Herman: ‘If you watch the games, we’re still fighting’

Senior Brandon Jones: ‘We know that splintering apart isn’t going to do us any good’

Posted November 26th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • “We just need to fix things technically on our part in executing the plays and all that,” Ossai said.
  • Like it or not, everything is magnified at Texas. And when the Longhorns aren’t doing well, like this season, there must be internal strife or some such.
  • Roach, Jones and Duvernay all plan on playing in Texas' upcoming bowl game.

Texas senior Malcolm Roach sure won’t miss the Austin media.

“From what I’m hearing from all my friends in the NFL,” Roach said Tuesday, “the media coverage here is harder than what you’ll ever see in the NFL — unless you’re playing like a superstar or something like that.”

Like it or not, everything is magnified at Texas. And when the Longhorns aren’t doing well, like this season, there must be internal strife or some such.

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Several players defended coach Tom Herman and his methods Tuesday, effectively pushing back on this outsider-driven narrative that he’s somehow lost the locker room during this 6-5 slog.

“You sense it, because no one’s given up,” linebacker Joseph Ossai said. “You see, if you watch the games, we’re still fighting. We still believe and we still have hope in him. We have hope in ourselves because we can get it done.”

Ossai also praised defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and raved about “his morals, his ethics, that’s a guy I want to play for.”

“We just need to fix things technically on our part in executing the plays and all that,” Ossai said. “We know we still have a handle on it. I have 100% faith in him. I would hope the other guys feel the same and I know they do, too.”

In times like these, the Longhorns’ leadership council looks awfully smart for ordering everyone in the locker room off Twitter. “Aw, man, it was very good,” said Roach, one of the handful of veterans on the council.

“That’s one big problem I think with my generation — we don’t communicate enough,” Roach said. “By doing that, getting off Twitter, we were able to communicate a lot more, adjust, learn a lot more about each other that we didn’t know about people.”

Roach said there are TVs in the locker room, so yes, information still gets through. “You just gotta know what matters. You got to know who you are and what you stand for,” he said.

Texas defensive lineman Malcolm Roach (32) celebrates a stop against Baylor in the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Waco, Texas. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Senior safety Brandon Jones said he believes the Longhorns “are only going to be as good and strong as we want to be.”

“I would say how we are in the locker room has stayed pretty consistent,” Jones said. “We know that splintering apart isn’t going to do us any good. This season isn’t over yet, and we still have a chance to end it on a good note.”

Tuesday’s weekly interviews with players focused mainly on the seniors and their time as Longhorns. But some reflected on their first meeting with Herman and that shocking initial team meeting after Christmas break heading into 2017.

“I’d have to say the first time I met him, he came into the team meeting and I was pretty upset,” Roach said. “I was sitting down in my seat and he said, ‘Who is this guy? Who is this guy?’ I was like, bruh, you recruited me at Houston, you know who I am. He was just trying to make an example out of someone and I was the one.”

Some fans clutched their pearls when it was revealed Herman had told them to bleeping sit up straight and pay attention. The next three months was a brutal grind where players had 6 a.m. workouts, and the nation learned about soggy pancakes, burnt hot dogs and pee charts.

Texas went 7-6 in Herman’s first season and then 10-4 in 2018 and won the Sugar Bowl. This year, with the program sliding backward, there are anonymous rumblings of player unrest and locker room turmoil, which is typical at UT during bumpy times.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) looks down before kicker Cameron Dicker’s field goal before the end of the second quarter against Baylor last week. Dicker made the kick but Texas lost the game, 24-10. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

Herman admitted Monday that this coaching staff hasn’t gotten the most out of the assembled talent; Texas, according to 247Sports, has three former five-star recruits and 43 who were four-star prospects. That’s similar to Oklahoma, which has 50 five- and four-star recruits. Both lead the Big 12 by a huge margin in that category.

Still, Herman said that whenever things aren’t going well, “the vocal minority gets a lot of the attention.” The head coach said his role is somewhat parental, and Herman wants the staff to “shower them with unconditional love.”

“We’re going to hold them to a very high standard, and when that standard is not met, we’re going to A, hold them accountable and, B, teach them, like a good parent, how not to make that mistake again,” he said.

Take the offensive line, for example. Senior center Zach Shackelford admitted the unit was punished collectively for guard Parker Braun’s unsportsmanlike penalty against Baylor. Herman said that Braun would be dealt with “punitively” for talking back to the referee.

“We did some activities, yes. It was not pleasant,” Shackelford said. “It was about what was to be expected.”

But that didn’t change how Shackelford saw Herman.

“His level of preparation every week is just crazy,” Shackelford said. “He’ll coach every player on the field and know what they have to do and know what coverage they’re going to be in. He knows what steps we have to take as an O-line. His attention to detail is just crazy.”

Seniors going bowling: Roach, Jones and senior receiver Devin Duvernay all said they planned on playing in Texas’ upcoming bowl game, wherever that may be. It’s counter to a growing trend in college football where seniors are now sitting out to protect their perceived NFL draft status.

Duvernay also said he thought senior receiver Collin Johnson wanted to play in the bowl game, but it’s still unclear whether he will. Johnson has already been ruled out of Friday’s regular-season finale against Texas Tech with his nagging hamstring injury.

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

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