Highlights from Texas head coach Tom Herman’s weekly press conference on Monday ahead of Saturday’s Kansas game:
For a team that has won three straight games, should be well-rested after a week off and is prepping to play a team that hasn’t won a game since October 2019 — 11 straight losses — today’s presser certainly had some chippy moments as Herman pushed back on questions about his job security, recruiting and even the health of his star quarterback.
Injury updates: Two tight ends were hurt during practice last week — Cade Brewer (chest contusion) and Jared Wiley (shoulder). They’re questionable. … WR Joshua Moore, who was hurt in the second half against West Virginia, is questionable. … DT Keondre Coburn, who hurt his ankle in the first half against the Mountaineers, and WR Jordan Whittington, who’s missed the last few games, are both practicing again.
“I figured that those would be the guys that you would be asking about the most,” he said.
About Ehlinger: The Statesman’s Cedric Golden followed that up later with a question about Sam Ehlinger, who has been the focus of speculation for weeks as he’s struggled with accuracy: “I know you’ve updated us on the health of your team; how’s Sam doing? How much did you work him? How much did you sit him? Because he’s told us he’s been banged up for awhile.”
Herman disputed the premise of the question with a guffaw and hand-slap or two to the podium.
“Oh man, he is healthy! He’s healthy!” he answered. “He practiced every rep of every practice. There isn’t a difference between ‘limited’ and ‘missing practice.’ He was not limited. He did not miss a practice. He’s felt better now than he’s felt in many, many months. He feels really good.”
Dicker the Punter: Also left out of the injury report was Ryan Bujcevski, who’s out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. So Cameron Dicker, who punted for Lake Travis in high school, will handle punting duties the rest of the way. Herman sounded confident that he’d be fine. “He’s unflappable, you can’t faze him, he has done surprisingly well back there.”
Herman added that the Horns are still trying to figure out who’ll handle holding duties for Dicker field goals and extra-points — that was a Bujcevski role.
About Kansas: The Jayhawks are 0-7. Take your pick of statistics or national stat rankings, and this is a mismatch. Kansas ranks 122nd nationally in total offense, 109th in defense, 112th in the running game, 107th stopping the run, 120th in scoring — at 15.1 points per game — and 125th in points allowed (48.4 ppg).
Herman tried to put that all in perspective.
“The concern is, one, playing on the road is difficult,” he said. “You obviously can look at a record and if you’re not mature enough can be swayed by that record. I think, though, we’ve got a mature group of guys that have gotten tremendously better both individually and as a team throughout the season.”
Three of the last four Texas-Kansas meetings have been tight, Herman noted. The Horns took last year’s 50-48 win on a last-second Cameron Dicker field goal. In 2018, in Lawrence, Texas won by a touchdown, 24-17. And in 2016, the 24-21 loss in Lawrence left the Horns shell-shocked and Charlie Strong looking at the exit door.
“Recent history has shown that we’re gonna need to bring our A game to win the game and do the things that we know we’re capable of doing,” Herman said.
About those rumors: The two most interesting parts of Monday’s presser dealt with Herman’s job security. Orangeblood’s Anwar Richardson kicked things off by asking (a) if he’s concerned about his job — last month, after those back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and TCU, there were rumors that he may get fired after this season and replaced by former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer — and (b) what effect those kinds of things have on recruiting. Texas has had a couple of high-profile decommitments from 2022 recruits, led by Southlake Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers, the No. 1-ranked quarterback prospect in the country.
That struck a cord. Herman dismissed the effects those rumors have in the locker room. The recruiting trail, though, is another story.
“The biggest mitigating factor in this is there’s a section of people, which is our program, our coaches, the people intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of our enterprise, if you will, that know the truth. And then there’s rumors, and there’s unnamed sources, there’s Internet reporters with agendas that claim their own opinion as fact and hide behind unnamed sources. The player part is really easy, almost comical, to the point where sometimes a kid will come up to me and say, ‘Coach, you’ll never guess what lunacy just came across my feed. This is crazy, right?’
“The recruiting part’s a different story because when you have the things that have been written about us and our program, myself and our future, very unfounded articles that state, again, opinion as fact, that state unnamed sources as being factual, that’s very hard to defend against. If I’m a competing recruiter, what do you do? You press print and say look, this must be true, it’s on so and so Orangefans.com, right? Or it was written by this guy, so it must be true. Or this source said this, so it must be true. That is really, really the hart part in recruiting. These 16-year-old kids are very impressionable. And unfortunately, when negativity gets written — especially unfounded, rumor-based, unnamed source-based negativity gets written — it makes our competing recruiters’ jobs just so much more easy. But as far as the reality is concerned? We understand that we have the support of hundreds of thousands, tons of our fan base, and we certainly appreciate that. We understand the difference between vocal minorities and people who make decisions and their beliefs. I couldn’t be more aligned with our athletic director — my boss — who we meet with constantly, who has assured me of his support and the support of university leadership, and has even commended me and our staff and our program for how we have handled the craziest year in college football history.”
Texas’ last three signing classes have ranked No. 3, No. 3 and No. 8. The Horns’ 2021 class is 17th with time running out before the early signing period in December and the 2022 class’ ranking has dropped to 26th with the backouts of five-star Ewers and four-star receiver Phaizon Wilson. The 2022 class now has just one committed player, a four-star cornerback.
The Statesman’s Brian Davis looped back to that question late in the presser, referencing Ewers’ backing out of his commitment. It was the final question of the day.
Davis: “I need to go back to what you said a minute ago. Talk about recruiting, though. Do you understand at least the perception of fans when they see the No. 1-rated recruit commits and then all of a sudden decommits, and the signal that sends about what a high-level five-star guy thinks of the program. How do you address that?”
Herman: “Well, you address it with the truth. When a kid has to be bombarded with all of these rumors and conjecture and, again, agendas masked as fact, you have to provide some semblance of truth. You understand that recruiting is a marathon, it’s not a sprint, and you try to provide them with every resource possible in order to get the truth. Because what they’re getting is not the truth. It is, again, unnamed sources and agendas masked as the truth. You just have to have constant communication, constant hard conversations with these recruits, and put them in touch with our players, you put them in touch with our administration, you put them in touch with the people who actually do know the truth. At some point, like anything in life, the truth will prevail.”
Davis: “Right. And one quick follow-up. I understand everything you’re saying about you and Chris (Del Conte) being tight, but he tweets about all these other sports at UT winning and he doesn’t tweet about Texas football. When I ask him about you and the football (program), he refuses to answer anything about how it’s going. So does it bother you that a very public guy doesn’t give a lot of public love to the football program?”
Herman: “No. ‘Cause I know what the truth is. I don’t care what the public love is, or how many tweets football gets in comparison to volleyball. … I’m not gonna worried about a grown man’s tweet count. I’m not. Maybe you guys do and that’s your job, but I know what is said to me eye to eye, man to man, in offices and meetings and all of that. There is no stock whatoever placed in the tweet count of a 50-year-old man.”
Texcetera: Saturday’s game at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence kicks off at 2:30 p.m. It’ll be aired on ESPN2. The Horns are 5-2 overall, 4-2 in the Big 12 — the Jayhawks are 0-7, 0-6. The Horns are 29.5-point favorites.
Other conference games on tap — Kansas State at No 17 Iowa State (3 p.m, Fox) and the annual Bedlam game: No. 14 Oklahoma State at No. 18 Oklahoma (6:30, ABC)
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