Texas punter Michael Dickson punts against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 8, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

Whys of Texas: Foreman, Dickson should be national award contenders

Readers can't believe anyone would stack Earl Campbell over Ricky Williams, and questions about the 18-Wheeler

Posted November 3rd, 2016

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Now that the calendar has flipped to November, it’s time to start thinking about post-season awards. The Heisman race will start heating up, and coaches will start pushing their best players for individual awards.

Texas should start pushing two players for two specific national honors. D’Onta Foreman should be under consideration for the Doak Walker Award, presented annually to the nation’s best running back. And Michael Dickson should be up for the Ray Guy Award, given to the best punter.

Texas running back D'Onta Foreman scores against California during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas running back D’Onta Foreman scores against California during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Foreman is the nation’s second leading rusher with 157.9 yards per game. It cannot be overlooked that he’s participated in only seven games compared to everyone else’s eight. Foreman was held out of the UTEP win as an injury precaution.

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Foreman is riding a streak of nine straight 100-yard games. The odds of him pushing that to 10 are good this week against Texas Tech, a team that struggles against the run. Earl Campbell holds the school record with 11 consecutive 100-yard games.

Dickson, the Australian-born sophomore, is second nationally with 47.9 yards per punt. Eighteen of his 40 kicks (45 percent) have gone for more than 50 yards. Only 12 have been returned for an average of 6.6 yards.

Think about how Texas would be perceived if the Longhorns can keep winning (let’s say 8-4 or 7-5) and garner national award recognition. Coach Charlie Strong would be off the hot seat, the program would be viewed as finally headed in the right direction and recruits would see UT’s best players up for national awards.

That’s a best-case scenario at this point, but there is a clear path to that end point.

On to this week’s mailbag…

Fans were quick to weigh in off Monday’s story about where D’Onta Foreman might rank in the UT record book when it’s all said and done.

Q. 1. Earl Campbell. 2. Ricky Williams 3. D’Onta Forman 4. Eric Metcalf. 5. Jamal Charles 6. Chris Gilbert 7. Cedric Benson. 8. Priest Holmes 9. Roosevelt Leaks. 10. Jim Bertelson.

— Dan N. via Facebook

Q. As Charlie Strong goes, so does D’Onta Foreman. He will be playing on Sundays next year for sure. So enjoy him while you can.

— Sidney J. via Facebook

Q. If he stays one more year, maybe top 3 and fan favorite.

— Bobby R. via Facebook

Q. He’s awesome love to watch him play Hook Em

— Marcy E. via Facebook

DAVIS: Foreman is having a terrific year, no question. At his current pace, he could challenge Ricky Williams for second place on the single-season rushing list. Williams had 1,893 yards in 1997, the year before his Heisman romp. Foreman is tracking to have 1,895 yards in 12 games on the assumption he’ll play 11 regular-season games and a bowl game. But I’ve said this before and will say it again: Fans need to enjoy Foreman while they can. He’d be wise to jump into the NFL draft next spring. Running backs have a limited shelf life, and you’ve got to cash in when the opportunity strikes. For his part, Foreman said Tuesday night, “At this moment, I’ll be here.” Note those key words, “At this moment.”

Former Texas player Ricky Williams is honored during the team's game against Kansas State at Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, October 24, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Former Texas player Ricky Williams is honored during the team’s game against Kansas State at Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, October 24, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Let’s go back to the UT all-time running back rankings for a moment. Some fans couldn’t believe I would slot Earl Campbell first and Williams second.

Q. Ricky was way better than Earl Campbell in college. 

— Michael D. via Facebook

Q. How can Earl be the all time greatest if Ricky blew out his record and total yards??

— Michael D. via Facebook

DAVIS: In September, I turned 40 (insert your own Mike Gundy joke here). I saw Williams, Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles, and obviously, I did not see Campbell play in college. Older fans would say it’s not even close — Campbell was better than Williams, they’ll tell you. They both won Heismans, but Williams had 1,836 more yards. Williams also finished his UT career as the NCAA’s Division I all-time leading rusher, although that mark was later broken. It’s a tough call, for sure. Both were powerful, amazing athletes playing in vastly different eras. Feel free to disagree, but I’m going to stick with Earl first, Ricky second and argue with anyone about it over a glass at 34 Wine & Spirits as a make-good.

Texas Breckyn Hager(44) looks for more cheers from the stands during the game against UTEP at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)
Breckyn Hager (44) looks for more cheers from the stands during the game against UTEP at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Defensive end Breckyn Hager made news this week for his comments about Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. On Monday, Hager said he wanted to “injury that quarterback” this weekend. By mid-afternoon, Texas officials issued a statement from Hager and Strong essentially apologizing.

Q. It’s the kind of attitude UT needs on their football team. People are getting butt hurt over something that is said all the time in football. Who cares if he said it to the media? If you have ever played football, you are taught to destroy the other team. Obviously no one wants to get hurt. But I’m pretty sure Mahomes has heard it before.

— Louis G. via Facebook

Q. Just like “We are going to kill them” is not meant literally, but it should not have been said like that. People are such crybabies now, you can’t say anything to be funny, or cute, because it will get blown out of proportion! HOOK ‘EM & WRECK TECH!

— Barry P. via Facebook

Q. STOP. TALKING. I get the passion, but Hager has talked himself into a corner. Stop talking. Just play your freaking heart out!

— Adam A. via Facebook

DAVIS: I’ve never had a problem with anything Hager has said, because the guy wears his heart on his sleeve. Texas folks cringed when Hager said the Longhorns would go undefeated after the win over Iowa State. He’s emotional, heartfelt and, most of all, real and authentic. Too many players today are trained to be robots. The UT publicity staff gives the players a sheet of talking points each week before they meet reporters, and some Longhorns just recite those from memory. That’s great for controlling the message, not so good when you’re trying to find out truly why Texas is struggling. That being said, readers probably shouldn’t expect to see or hear any quotes from Hager for a few weeks. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury called it a “non-issue.”

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (18) looks to get around Baylor's Davion Hall (2) in the fourth quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)
Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (18) looks to get around Baylor’s Davion Hall (2) in the fourth quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

In other news, it looks like the 18-Wheeler’s in the shop.

Q. We can honestly say that they need to drop the 18-Wheeler package. Teams have caught on to it.

— Nicholas W. via Facebook

Q. Trying to use Swoopes as a running back late in the game was a disaster! Foreman was the man of the day and could have sealed the game.

— Jim B. via Facebook

DAVIS: There’s little doubt that teams have figured out how to smother Swoopes in the 18-Wheeler, Texas’ short-yardage package. The offensive staff has only itself to blame. Eight games into the season, Texas has yet to show one innovative wrinkle. Not one pop pass or even a jet sweep out of that formation? “We’ve got stuff that’s ready,” offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said Tuesday night. “When the time arises, then we’ll use it.” OK, so when? The Liberty Bowl? As for sending Foreman out wide on the two-point conversion play last week, I don’t have a big quarrel with that. The coaches really wanted to see what Baylor would do. Would they send a linebacker out wide to cover Foreman? A cornerback? There’s a specific reason why Gilbert wanted to put that formation on video. Now future opponents have to account for Foreman in a new position.

Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his team celebrate a win against Baylor Bears 35-34 during the NCAA college football game, Saturday, October 29, 2016 at Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his team celebrate a win against Baylor Bears 35-34 during the NCAA college football game, Saturday, October 29, 2016 at Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Some fans really enjoyed Strong’s post-game comments after the Baylor game. Strong said the outside noise is “an embarrassment for everybody” and that the program is not in disarray. His critics, though, would argue that losing, firing or demoting eight assistant coaches in three years, sitting three games under .500 after 33 games, and benching players like 2015 freshmen All-Americans Malik Jefferson and Patrick Vahe is exactly that.

Q. Progress is progress and thats all I can ask for. Coach Strong is an amazing man and I can almost guarantee of he leaves players and recruits will follow.

— Sara W. via Facebook

Q. They should not get rid of Coach Strong. Give him another season.

— Kay B. via Facebook

Q. Leave coach Strong alone, let him coach this team.

— Sherry T. via Facebook

Q. Glad he finally said it for all these said “Texas fans” who just talk crap all the time!!

— Desiree P via Facebook

DAVIS: I’ve seen coaches really get on the media before, and some have really come after me. On the grand scale of coaching outbursts, this was relatively tame. Almost nothing, really. But finally, after years of maintaining an even keel with reporters after good times and bad, Strong finally cut loose and let off some steam. Personally, I was happy for him. It showed a human side that he’s chosen to hide from public view. When ESPN announcers said that Strong casually mentioned “whoever’s coaching this team” next season can win 10 games, I thought that was an idiotic comment from someone who has given up. But seeing how Strong acted afterward, I’m convinced that was just a poorly chosen phrase. This job means a great deal to the 56-year-old, and it was good to finally see him show it.

Finally, an update on Baylor cornerback Grayland Arnold, who suffered a scary-looking injury against Texas and had to be taken off on a cart.

Q. I am all Longhorn but hope this Baylor player recovers.

— Parker B. via Facebook

DAVIS: According to a Baylor spokesman, Arnold was taken for extensive exams. A CT scan was negative, and an MRI later turned up nothing. This week, Arnold has been going through the team’s concussion protocol. He probably won’t play Saturday against TCU, but could be back the following week. That’s great news.

Have a question for the Whys of Texas? Email bdavis@statesman.com or drop us a line in the comments section on Facebook.

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