Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) falls forward for more yardage after being tackled by TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Kee'yon Stewart (2) during an NCAA college football game at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Football

Whys of Texas: The phone lines are loaded with angry Longhorns, so go ahead, caller

Questions about the loss to TCU, lack of offensive creativity, injuries and recruiting all on tap as fans vent

Posted October 30th, 2019

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Last Saturday was a tough one for the Texas faithful. Sometimes you just have to open up the phone lines and let people vent.

Go ahead, Mike in Dallas, you’re on Hookem.com.

Q. I’m beginning to think our coaches are not worth a hoot in hell.

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A hoot in hell. Wish I’d thought of that line.

Let’s try Frances on line two. First-time caller, long-time listener.

Q. The $5-million dollar man better find another gear, and I am not for playing musical coaches again. We could not be any worse if all the starters were benched.

Well, $5.75 million this season, and that does not include an extra $1-million stay bonus he’s due on Dec. 25. But let’s not get bogged down with specifics.

Texas head coach Tom Herman stand for the Eyes of Texas after falling to TCU 37-27 during an NCAA college football game in Fort Worth, Saturday, Oct., 26, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Let’s hear from Ray. Go ahead, Ray. You’re on the air.

Q. Thanks for your article on coaches’ pay. The fortunes paid this coaching staff are a disgrace. I became a Longhorn fan in 1955 when DKR was hired to beat Oklahoma. I enrolled at UT in the fall of 1961. I saw the best football ever played in the 1960’s. I have three degrees from UT and bleed orange. I have never left a Longhorn game before the final second in 58 years until today in Fort Worth. The last 6 minutes of the TCU game were the worst defense I have ever seen. Disgusting. And now I find from the Statesman that some of our crybabies left with tears in their eyes.

Can we give TCU some credit for putting Saturday’s game away in the fourth quarter? Freshman Max Duggan had his best game of the season, no question. He had a 16-yard completion and a 14-yard run to get the Frogs moving. His 36-yard pass to Taye Barber was a sensational throw. Then Duggan just ran in the final 11 yards himself.

I actually watched Texas coach Tom Herman’s show on Longhorn Network this week just to see how he’d break it down. On several plays, he just flat called the mistakes what they were: “Busts.” He didn’t try to sugarcoat anything. It was the longest 20 minutes you’ll likely ever see on LHN.

As for Ray’s last comment, defensive tackle Keondre Coburn was holding back tears while walking off the field. “Yeah, I hate losing,” Coburn said afterward. “I feel like we worked so hard to be on that field, and then to come out with an L, the tears have to come.”

Frankly, I’d much rather see emotion like that rather than players walking off like zombies. I saw that plenty of times in late November in 2015 and 2016.

Texas Longhorns linebacker Joseph Ossai (46) walks back into the locker room after losing 37-27 to TCU Horned Frogs during an NCAA college football game at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Thanks for the call, Ray. Let’s try Gary. Go ahead, Gary.

Q. Maybe you should ask idiot Tim Beck why he became one dimensional. Because he did.

As stated on these airwaves before, all complaints about the offense and play-calling should go directly to the head coach. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck is merely the quarterback coach, in all reality. Herman directs the offense.

Let’s go to … Keith.

Q. Our defensive line only rushes 3 down lineman which allows the opponents offensive line to double team two of our three rushers.  This leaves only one defensive lineman with a chance to beat a block and pressure the quarterback.  We all know the results, minimal pressure on the quarterback.  Why won’t the staff add a fourth or at times a fifth defensive lineman to contain and provide a pass rush?

Is this coaching staff too stubborn to change?  Simply don’t have imaginative game plans?  Are unwilling to make in-game adjustments or changes?  Whatever it is, it’s driving me insane weekly.

Any structural changes, if Herman believes are what’s needed, will come in the offseason. It’s difficult to make that kind of change going into the final month of the season. It would be akin to telling the players, “OK, forget what we’ve told you from spring football until today, here’s what we’re doing now.”

The problem with this defense, as even the most novice have ascertained, is there is no pressure on the quarterback from the defensive line. Most pressure from the quarterback has come via the blitz. Coburn, Malcolm Roach and Ta’Quon Graham have tallied just three sacks. That’s not enough. They did have some four-man fronts against TCU, albeit not on every down.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Horns use Joseph Ossai in November. That’s someone who played defensive end in high school and is accustomed to putting his hand on the ground.

Tyler has a question. Go ahead, Tyler.

Q. Which player do you think will mean the most to have back from injury?

Ah, good question. The Longhorns are scheduled to get a slew of players back for the Kansas State game on Nov. 9. That includes safety Caden Sterns, defensive backs B.J. Foster and DeMarvion Overshown, linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch and running back Jordan Whittington.

I know most of you out there want me to say Whittington. But I’m going to cop out and go with the trio of Sterns, Foster and Overshown. This pass defense, which ranks last in the Big 12, needs all the healthy bodies it can get.

Nobody wants to ask about this non-pass interference call? Interesting. Figured people would have been blowing up about several missed calls against TCU. Oh well.

Jordan, you’re in the Whys of Texas. Go ahead.

Q. Which has hurt Texas more this season: Critical injuries or poor player development?

This is a judgment call, and the answer depends on how angry you are at the moment. Frankly, you cannot overlook the injuries in the secondary. It’s like all of the team’s major injuries are concentrated one area. That said, the defensive line and linebacker corps has been healthy, for the most part. Overall, the group has been average to below-average at times, obviously.

Offensively, quarterback Sam Ehlinger has blossomed under this coaching staff, yet he put up his worst game of the year against the Frogs. The run game has been wildly inconsistent. Devin Duvernay, a Charlie Strong recruit who has now played two-plus years under Herman, has been sensational.

It’s way too soon to write off this team or this season. There are four games left, which could swing the balance of everyone’s perceptions. Let’s revisit this question in totality in early December.

Mark, go ahead, sir.

Q. Who wants Texas to hire Urban Meyer and dump Tom Herman? I do! Like and share!

Yeah, OK. Enough of that nonsense.

Let’s hear from Zack.

Q. How long do we give Herman? His ceiling is 10 wins. Giving him a new defensive coordinator, buys him the excuse of another underperforming year as well. As in, “We’re installing a new defense.” Do we really need to suffer for 3 more years before people realize Urban is sitting right there?

What’s with our audience today?

Chelsye, what you got?

Q. What in the world would make you think Urban Meyer WANTS to come to Texas?

Never dreamed I’d have to say this, but Texas is not dumping Herman for Urban Meyer. And UT officials would never even consider Meyer considering his history. It’s just not happening.

Mitymouse, your thoughts?

Q. How many recruits do we have to lose before the coaches understand there’s a problem?

Texas did lose two commitments last week, but the 2020 class is still ranked fifth nationally. So in my mind, that’s not an end-of-the-world scenario.

Kaden, you want to talk some sense into this crowd?

Q. We’ve gained more than we’ve lost. Yes, losing guys isn’t a good thing. But some come and some go, and a few bad games isn’t the end of the world. Our injuries are the worst we’ve had in a long time. Can’t bash a team that has so many injuries.

While this is true, the Texas media contingent — myself included — are merely holding Herman and his staff to a level they themselves want to be held to. Herman thought this was going to be a special year. Everyone in Moncrief did. Yes, injuries are part of the game, but at Texas, you are expected to win despite all obstacles. That’s why you get the big bucks.

Bob, you have another recruiting question?

Q. One of the things that sticks out and not much mention of is the number of four- and five-star players going out of state. OU has 43 players on it roster from Texas. I understand the Texas schools can’t get them all but they should get the majority.

Honestly, the Texas schools do get the majority of in-state recruits. It’s just that we hear mostly about the big names. Right now, Texas has a commitment from five-star running back Bijan Robinson from Tucson, Ariz. Fourteen recruits have four-star status. No school can get them all. Texas is doing fine on the recruiting front, seems to me. It’s about signing good players and then coaching them up.

Alf wants to talk about the offense. Go ahead.

Q. Do you think the offense lacks sophistication? They go extended periods of time (TCU 2nd half, first 3Q WVU) where they can’t get anybody open. Lots of jump balls down the sideline. Not sure if that’s scheme/play-calling or receivers not winning their battles.

I don’t have many issues with the offensive design. I’m not one of these guys who tries to get in Herman’s head and mess around with the X’s and O’s. Neither you nor I have any clue what really happens in practice, which determines what plays are run in the games. Heck, I’ve literally known a few times when incredibly athletic players simply couldn’t remember the plays!

I do sometimes scratch my head at this spread-it-around mentality Herman has at times. It’s as if he wants to get everyone a participation ribbon.

Frankly, I was glad that Ehlinger went looking for Duvernay and Collin Johnson all day against TCU. Together, they combined for 15 catches for 274 yards and one touchdown. They were the intended targets on 28 of Ehlinger’s 48 pass attempts.

The stars have to be stars. That means Ehlinger, Duvernay and Johnson have to produce week in and week out. If Keaontay Ingram wants to be a star, he can’t be here today, gone the next. Same goes for Jake Smith.

Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson (9) trees to catch the ball but failed as TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney (12) defends during last Saturday’s 37-27 loss in Fort Worth. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Trenton has an interesting question.

Q. If Texas were undefeated right now with the exact same statistical results, would Devin Duvernay have himself a case for the Heisman?

The Heisman? No, unfortunately. Ehlinger would be the Longhorns’ Heisman candidate. That said, Duvernay would be an excellent candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s best receiver. I’d argue that he should make the top 10 semifinalist list right now.

Lorenzo, you have a question about athletic director Chris Del Conte?

Q. Does CDC bring back natural grass once the end zone project is complete? Seems elite schools minus tOSU all play on natural grass.

I don’t know if I’m breaking any news here, but I do expect Texas to switch back to a natural grass field after the south end zone project is completed. Del Conte loves natural grass. Herman does, too.

And let’s squeeze one more in before we break for news, traffic and weather. Curtis, you have 30 seconds.

Q. As predicted several weeks ago, Texas may go to the Alamo Bowl?

One bowl projection I saw this weekend has Texas in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Ouch. That would mean the Longhorns just completely flame out.

According to the Big 12 bowl agreements, the league champion goes to the Sugar Bowl, if that team is not picked for the College Football Playoff. Then it’s the Alamo (San Antonio), Camping World (Orlando, Fla.), Texas (Houston), Liberty (Memphis), Cheeze-It (Phoenix) and First Responder (Dallas).

Have a question for the Whys of Texas, email bdavis@statesman.com or via Twitter (@BDavisAAS).

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