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2020 Texas Offseason Thread: Herman's Hail Mary

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"Pussy Riley" ? What a terrible fucking take. Lots of reasons to hate Lincoln Riley, but he's not a pussy for encouraging player safety by delaying on-campus workouts. States are attempting to gradually open up and see what happened to two domestic Ford Motor plants that opened up last Monday...they had to shut back down by Wednesday. Start paying the players hazard pay (or any pay for that matter) and then expect them to show up risking their health. 
UDoKnow that one plant had only one case and the other plant in Chicago is up and running again yes?

There WILL BE players who test positive. That is called math. Luckily the CDC has recently said that spreading it by surface contact is now considered low. Keep your distance from each other is key.

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5 minutes ago, markstanco said:

Keep your distance from each other is key.

You see, Orlando was teaching our DB’s Covid prevention last year. We fired a fortune teller.

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1 hour ago, markstanco said:

Luckily the CDC has recently said that spreading it by surface contact is now considered low.

so he’s “the” del conte now?

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9 hours ago, UDontKnow said:

"Pussy Riley" ? What a terrible fucking take. Lots of reasons to hate Lincoln Riley, but he's not a pussy for encouraging player safety by delaying on-campus workouts. States are attempting to gradually open up and see what happened to two domestic Ford Motor plants that opened up last Monday...they had to shut back down by Wednesday. Start paying the players hazard pay (or any pay for that matter) and then expect them to show up risking their health. 

No one knows shit and that includes Riley. If he wanted to encourage player safety he should ask for the season to be cancelled and the school shut down until the world is safe....Asking for an additional 4-8 or 12 weeks is a projection. If someone wants to call him a pussy, they have that right. If you want to argue for player compensation, that is ok and does not impact the fact that Riley is a pussy who is employed by a chronic cheater of a program.

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On 5/22/2020 at 3:37 AM, longhornmatt said:

Agreed.  Greg Davis was actually proof of that.   We had a great offense in 1998 when he changed his normal system to feature Ricky, and then again during the VY years when he had to change his normal system to make us a shotgun zone read offense to fit VY’s talents.  

The problems were when he just ran his own system with limited adaptation for our talent.  Should we use Roy Williams as a deep threat? No, 3 yard hitches are our offense.  Should we let Jamaal Charles run against the worst rush defense of all time? No, let’s stick with my short passing game and not try that until the 4th quarter (when he proceeded to run for 200 yards in the quarter).   Should we put Sloan Thomas on the field instead of a blocking fullback?  Nah.

The really funny part in hindsight is that when he had to copy other people’s offenses out of desperation (like with Ricky and VY), he actually knew when to call counters, misdirection, playaction, and generally keep defenses off balance.  But when he called games with his own system, there was none of that.  I wonder if it was something like, “This is my system, and I know it will work. So, I’m just going to keep calling it the same way.  It’s only a matter of time until the defense stops forcing that option route into a short out and then jumping the throw.  Only a matter of time.  Because my system works.  It has to work.”

Another example was when Blaine Irby went down for the year in 08 and Davis used Jordan Shipley the next week as a flex TE against OU.

That adjustment almost resulted in a national championship, if not for the incompetent/corrupt pollsters.

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Maybe I look like a dumbass when we have a new staff but I can see us winning every game this season sans playoffs. I'm only nervous about the OL but if that works, lookout. A regular season loss would be disappointing. I've not been able to say that in quite sometime. 

Fuck covid and offseason thoughts.

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1 hour ago, Goodman said:

I'm only nervous about the OL

cosmi should be an AA.  kerstetter should be all bigXII, maybe angilau too.  fill the last two spots from jones, johnson, okafor, et al.  I think we’ll be ok.  lose a close one to clemson in the NC.  tom goes 14-1.  the herman dynasty begins in earnest in 2021 when jaquinden wins the championship as a rs freshman. 

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10 hours ago, Goodman said:

Maybe I look like a dumbass when we have a new staff but I can see us winning every game this season sans playoffs. I'm only nervous about the OL but if that works, lookout. A regular season loss would be disappointing. I've not been able to say that in quite sometime. 

Fuck covid and offseason thoughts.

The potential is there for an undefeated regular season, but it is not going to happen. Too many things would have to go right. I think 10-2 with a 2-2 record versus LSU, ou, ISU, and OSU is a safer bet. Throw in a head scratcher of a loss and we are 9-3.

Edited by Sock Monkey

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3 hours ago, Sock Monkey said:

The potential is there for an undefeated regular season, but it is not going to happen. Too many things would have to go right. I think 10-2 with a 2-2 record versus LSU, ou, ISU, and OSU is a safer bet. Throw in a head scratcher of a loss and we are 9-3.

Might not happen, I do not believe we should expect a loss. On paper we are that good this year. With Sam(and Casey) our backfield and defense is elite, we have plenty of good enough weapons at receiver. Dicker should be more consistent and I expect the punter to take a big step fwd along with all ST. OL & playcalling are the only questions I have. I know, two major ones but I think it goes very well this year. 

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12 minutes ago, futureman said:

I bet we beat LSU and OU but then lose to gundy or campbell or ksu.  because we can’t have nice things. 

1 loss going into the B12CG, everyone here would take that and run. I'm in.

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I can see 12-0. It's absolutely possible, although my usual chickenshit prediction is 10-2 +/- 2, meaning anywhere from 8-4 to 12-0. Barring injuries and illnesses at key positions, I'm leaning toward the positive side. The only games we should be concerned about from today's perspective are LSU and 0U, but I have a feeling MensaTom will be prepared for those... I see it as more likely that he'll suffer a brain-fart and lose to OSU, Baylor or someone even worse.

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4 minutes ago, Tex Long said:

I see it as more likely that he'll suffer a brain-fart and lose to OSU 

Okie Lite will likely be our toughest game of the year. Last regular season game of the year, on the road, likely in prime time....I hate saying this, but I don't think Tom can coach us to a win in that game. 

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Just now, JFKFC said:

Okie Lite will likely be our toughest game of the year. Last regular season game of the year, on the road, likely in prime time....I hate saying this, but I don't think Tom can coach us to a win in that game. 

If that's our only loss, we'll prolly play them again, the following week.

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Brand new defense and defensive coaching staff.
Brand new offensive coaching staff.
No install until June 15.

12-0 predictions.

I'll allow it.

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9 minutes ago, Snacks said:

Brand new defense and defensive coaching staff.
Brand new offensive coaching staff.
No install until June 15.

12-0 predictions.

I'll allow it.

Install already took place back in Feb. This will impact the newcomers most, luckily the only TrFR we expected to contribute is a freak and plays the easiest position for immediate playing time.

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On 5/21/2020 at 8:26 PM, LTtxfan said:

For all the folks critical of Texas using a TE in their offense.... check below Tweet on NFL stats showing frequency of personnel groupings most often used in 2019:

The entire NFL spent the better part of the 2019 season in 11 personnel. That’s five offensive linemen, one quarterback, one running back (first digit in 11), one tight end (second digit in 11), and three wide receivers. Texas fans will recognize that as the preferred personnel grouping for Tom Herman’s offense and many have started to develop an irrational distaste for it that mirrors the decades-old hatred for “bubble screens.”

A major aspect of pro-spread is an emphasis on 11 personnel. It also means an emphasis on pro-style schemes and the use of drop back passing where the quarterback goes through progressions behind an offensive line executing pass protections. 

 

Putting aside the predictability of our play calling based on formation and the abilities of our TEs and the general overall lackluster playcalling, the problem I have with our version of 11 personnel is how SLOW it is. You can't put a big slow receiver on the backside of the formation with another slow big receiver (TE) on the front side. You can single up both of those with a DB and a LB/S and then double up or bracket the two "speed" guys who are both always on the same side of the field and the only real threats on the field. Its just dumb and is tying a hand or two behind your back for no reason.

Now, if instead, you made the X receiver, who plays on the backside of the formation, a fast receiver (in most versions the X is the best athlete at receiver) and then you had Z on the outside on the front and you made him a speed player as well, then you could move your H slot receiver around, backside and frontside and try to take advantage of mismatches, instead of always putting him to the front side or wide side of the formation. You could do the same with the TE. Be fast and flexible and no one has a problem with 11 personnel. Be slow and predictable and its a recipe for failure and frustration.

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5 minutes ago, Longhorn94 said:

Putting aside the predictability of our play calling based on formation and the abilities of our TEs and the general overall lackluster playcalling, the problem I have with our version of 11 personnel is how SLOW it is. You can't put a big slow receiver on the backside of the formation with another slow big receiver (TE) on the front side. You can single up both of those with a DB and a LB/S and then double up or bracket the two "speed" guys who are both always on the same side of the field and the only real threats on the field. Its just dumb and is tying a hand or two behind your back for no reason.

Now, if instead, you made the X receiver, who plays on the backside of the formation, a fast receiver (in most versions the X is the best athlete at receiver) and then you had Z on the outside on the front and you made him a speed player as well, then you could move your H slot receiver around, backside and frontside and try to take advantage of mismatches, instead of always putting him to the front side or wide side of the formation. You could do the same with the TE. Be fast and flexible and no one has a problem with 11 personnel. Be slow and predictable and its a recipe for failure and frustration.

Having Epps on the field lined up as a WR (except maybe for jump ball plays near the goal-line) was definitely a poor use of the WR personnel in 2019...

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2 hours ago, Snacks said:

Brand new defense and defensive coaching staff.
Brand new offensive coaching staff.
No install until June 15.

12-0 predictions.

I'll allow it.

Senior QB

Stacked RB room

Stud LT

Deep and talented DL

5 stars across the defensive backfield

 

Show me a loss.

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7 hours ago, JFKFC said:

Okie Lite will likely be our toughest game of the year. Last regular season game of the year, on the road, likely in prime time....I hate saying this, but I don't think Tom can coach us to a win in that game. 

When Okie Lite went into its last game this past season Wallace and Sanders were done for the year.  It's not out of the question if Gundy is giving Hubbard 30+ carries a game he could be dinged up last game.  We should own the LOS on both sides against them as well.  But I do get it, road game and all, and them returning everybody.  I'd put it 3rd behind LSU and OU as toughest games.  I noticed they play OU about mid season instead of the end this year.

Edited by Elmer_Fudd

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11 hours ago, cdain3 said:

Good lord
 

 


Hudson Card

 

Futureman bat signal initiated.

Interesting that he's doing sort of a simulated Aaron Rodgers-style leaving both feet while passing under pressure in the pocket sort of a thing on a few of those throws. I don't know dick about qb drills, so maybe that's standard and I'm showing my ignorance. It's a different animal with live bodies flying at your feet, but still sort of interesting nevertheless. 

Edited by TommyGufano

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3 hours ago, TommyGufano said:

Futureman bat signal initiated.

Interesting that he's doing sort of a simulated Aaron Rodgers-style leaving both feet while passing under pressure in the pocket sort of a thing on a few of those throws. I don't know dick about qb drills, so maybe that's standard and I'm showing my ignorance. It's a different animal with live bodies flying at your feet, but still sort of interesting nevertheless. 

Like chong Li said, bricks don't hit back.

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When I say the floor has been raised, we have guys like this a year away from meaningful playing time. Remember his dunk last year.

 

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8 hours ago, closetohumping said:

Like chong Li said, bricks don't hit back.

Maybe my sarcasm meter is broken, but I think this is what you were going for

 

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Max Olson: Tom Herman opens up on an offseason of change at Texas

On injuries: "We weren't ready with the guys behind them"

Quote

 

The obvious excuse Texas’ staff could point to on that run to 7-5 was the long list of key players who missed games or were banged up. And when they got a month to heal up and trounced the Pac-12 runner-up in a 38-10 Alamo Bowl victory, that was the resounding message: Look how good Texas is when they’re healthy. But if Herman really believed injuries were the only issue, he could’ve run it back in 2020 with the same staff and dismissed the 2019 campaign as an anomaly. He knew it wasn’t that simple.

Injuries put a program’s player development to the test. Herman didn’t like what he saw on defense. When six of Texas’ top defenders missed games last season, the head coach sensed their backups weren’t ready. “I look around the country and people are playing true freshmen on defense all the time,” he said. “That shouldn’t be an excuse with the way we recruit at Texas. Develop ’em or figure out what they can do and let ’em do it really fast.” Considering the Longhorns had just signed back-to-back top-three recruiting classes, he has a point. Maybe the defense was too complex for those young players. Maybe they needed to pivot to a much simpler attack, learning to play fast with just a few fronts and coverages. Whatever the reason, the results were concerning.

“We weren’t ready with the guys behind them,” he said. “And at Texas, you should be ready.”

 

On loyalty to his guys:

Quote

 

Weeks before the regular season was over, it seemed clear Herman was getting ready to clean house. And the dread hanging over that final month was miserable.

“It was really hard,” Herman said. “I mean, (safeties coach) Craig Naivar got me the job interview with David Bailiff at Texas State. I went to the hospital when his daughter was born. She’s now a junior in high school. Those guys have been through a lot with me. But … I mean, I’ve got a job to do, too.”

Herman points to the Longhorn logo on his polo and taps it as he adds, “I’ve gotta be loyal to this and do what’s right for this.”

Herman won’t soon forget that Sunday. It was Dec. 1, the day after Texas beat Texas Tech to move to 7-5. Now it was time for what he calls “by far — not even close — the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He called Orlando into his office and handed him the folder with his termination instructions.

“I said, ‘Todd, I’m going in another direction,’ ” Herman recalled. “He said, ‘I know. I let you down.’ I said, ‘No. I let you down.’ ”

Before Orlando walked out of their office for the last time, Herman remembers he stopped by to say one last thing.

“He goes, ‘Hey, Tom. We got all emotional and all that and I forgot to say something: Thank you. For giving me a shot, for believing in me, for bringing me to Texas.’ ”

 

on play calling/jack of all trades master of none and coaching hires

Quote

“On offense, I felt like we got stale,” he admits. “Me calling plays for two years, I had become a jack of all trades and a master of none. I wasn’t a very good offensive coordinator and I obviously wasn’t a very good head coach. And I knew I can’t do this another year. I was running myself ragged trying to play both roles.”

Herman turned to Ohio State’s Mike Yurcich to run the offense, a coordinator he says he’d come “very close” to hiring in the past who checks all the boxes: philosophical fit, proven Big 12 success, likes tempo, knows how to tailor his offense around his best players. “He’s really, really, really smart,” Herman said. “I’m tickled pink that he’s our guy.” Hiring former Rutgers coach Chris Ash as defensive coordinator was a no-brainer, too. Herman and Ash won a national title together at Ohio State. He knows exactly what he’s getting in Ash’s four-man front scheme and knows it can win at the highest level. And then he promoted Andre Coleman and hired Jay Valai, Coleman Hutzler, Jay Boulware and Mark Hagen, a group that brings a blend of Texas ties, Big 12 experience and new energy to the program.

“I knew what I wanted with the hires and I got it, every one of them,” Herman said.

He knows he has Del Conte to thank, too. The athletic director backed him on these hires and gave him whatever he needed. He bumped up the salary pool and provided multi-year deals to every Longhorns assistant. The new coordinators were offered three-year contracts. If the coaches they targeted had questions about Herman’s job security, he had them talk with Del Conte. Even the coaches who were retained — Herb Hand, Stan Drayton, Oscar Giles and Yancy McKnight — got raises. Texas is deeply invested in the success of this coaching staff. If Del Conte were to pull the plug on this group at the end of the 2020 season, Herman would be owed $15 million and buying out his staff would cost roughly $10 million.

key part of this above quote:

Quote

If Del Conte were to pull the plug on this group at the end of the 2020 season, Herman would be owed $15 million and buying out his staff would cost roughly $10 million.

Full Text:

Spoiler

 

Tom Herman opens up on an offseason of change at Texas


By Max Olson 1h ago  5  
AUSTIN, Texas — Tom Herman is back in his office. Well, not his office. Not even close.

Herman is operating out of a 12 x 12 office in the compliance wing of the seventh floor of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium’s north side. This room has been stuffed with photos and mementos, and there’s just enough room for a couch. But Herman won’t ever bring recruits and their families in here. There’s not nearly enough space. He finally returned to this temporary home base last week to begin preparing for the arrival of Texas players and some semblance of normalcy.

Herman and his coaches will be crammed into these humble offices for a long time. Texas’ $200 million south end zone project is an 18-month effort that will yield a pristine new football facility. You have to trade short-term comfort for long-term supremacy. On a Friday morning in early March, the entrance to the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center met its demise. A yellow crane, parked on a bed of rubble, was swiftly ripping the roof apart and tearing it down. As Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte likes to say, Texas’ football office was built for Royal and last remodeled for John Mackovic. New is long overdue. When Herman saw the video of the front door of his program being shredded, he smiled.

Texas officials spent months plotting out how their displaced football program would operate on the north side of the stadium. The weight room was relocated to a rec center basketball court. The eighth-floor Touchdown Club was converted into the team meeting room. Suites became tutoring spaces. The team moved out of their renovated $7 million locker room at the end of the fall semester and into the stadium’s outdated visitor locker room.

Just as the Longhorns were going to start spring ball in their new setup, they were displaced all over again, with coaches and players sent home for two months due to COVID-19. As players get ready to return to campus on June 15, they’re having to rethink it all over again with everyone’s health and safety in mind.

For Texas, it’s been an offseason full of change following a season of disappointment. The Longhorns won eight games, dominated No. 11 Utah in the Alamo Bowl and finished in the AP Top 25. And nobody found that satisfying. The head coach tore his coaching staff down to the studs in December and hired seven new assistants. Now Herman is hard at work on a Texas reboot for 2020.

“I like this team,” Herman said from his downsized office in March. “I think there’s a lot of guys that learned lessons from last year. You can’t just put it on autopilot and expect 10 wins and New Year’s Six bowl games to just fall out of the sky.”

The head coach learned a lot of hard lessons, too. His Longhorns were clearly on the right trajectory exiting 2018. And then, at some point last fall, they clearly weren’t. At a place like this, one frustrating season is all it takes to crank up the pressure. But there’s reason to believe, too. They’ve got more than enough talent and experience to be dangerous in Year 4 of Herman’s tenure. And that’s what makes Texas one of the more fascinating wild cards in college football this offseason.

The new and improved DKR will be completed in time for the start of the 2021 season. Will the Longhorns be ready for big things by then? After a rough few months of deconstruction and introspection, Herman believes they’re back on track toward building a championship program worthy of its soon-to-be superior surroundings.


The way his Longhorns came up short in the Cotton Bowl ate at Herman. (Matthew Emmons / USA Today)
The game that convinced Herman something was wrong wasn’t Kansas or TCU. It was Oklahoma.

Red River is the ultimate measurement of any Texas season, the midseason bowl game with the highest of stakes. Oklahoma beating Texas 34-27 last October will be remembered for CeeDee Lamb making defenders miss over and over again and for new Sooners defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who called one heck of a game as Oklahoma racked up nine sacks. What bothered Herman most: Texas prides itself on being the tough, physical team in this rivalry, and they definitely weren’t on that Saturday afternoon.

“It was the first time since we’ve been here that I felt like we got out-physical-ed,” Herman said. “To have them show up and beat us the way they beat us was embarrassing. There was a lot of self-reflection, because we had kind of changed a little bit.”

Injuries had put them in a tough spot early on. Four scholarship running backs got hurt in camp. Five scholarship defensive backs went down early in the season. So they cut back in practice and weren’t as physical as Herman usually demands because, as he put it, “we were just trying to make it to Saturday.” They got away with that for a few weeks, winning a hard-fought Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State and knocking off West Virginia on the road. Against Oklahoma, though, Herman felt they’d paid a heavy price for how they’d prepared.

“On that Tuesday, we went out and I said we’re never gonna feel that way coming off a football field again,” he said. “So we kinda went back to the way we used to practice, which was tough for the kids, especially the young kids, because they’re used to one way and then all the sudden you hit ’em in the mouth in the middle of the season. They didn’t respond well to that.”

The Longhorns looked even worse the next week against 2-4 Kansas, surviving a wild 50-48 shootout that came down to a game-winning field goal. “It’s inexcusable,” Herman said. His understandable fear exiting that low point? “We’re never gonna stop anybody the rest of the year,” he said. And then Texas lost three of its next five, a stretch of uneven and unpredictable performances. Yes, the Todd Orlando-led defense regressed and gave up more passing yards than any team in UT history. But the Longhorn offense that should’ve been able to bail them out of trouble was held under 30 points in four consecutive games.

The obvious excuse Texas’ staff could point to on that run to 7-5 was the long list of key players who missed games or were banged up. And when they got a month to heal up and trounced the Pac-12 runner-up in a 38-10 Alamo Bowl victory, that was the resounding message: Look how good Texas is when they’re healthy. But if Herman really believed injuries were the only issue, he could’ve run it back in 2020 with the same staff and dismissed the 2019 campaign as an anomaly. He knew it wasn’t that simple.

Injuries put a program’s player development to the test. Herman didn’t like what he saw on defense. When six of Texas’ top defenders missed games last season, the head coach sensed their backups weren’t ready. “I look around the country and people are playing true freshmen on defense all the time,” he said. “That shouldn’t be an excuse with the way we recruit at Texas. Develop ’em or figure out what they can do and let ’em do it really fast.” Considering the Longhorns had just signed back-to-back top-three recruiting classes, he has a point. Maybe the defense was too complex for those young players. Maybe they needed to pivot to a much simpler attack, learning to play fast with just a few fronts and coverages. Whatever the reason, the results were concerning.

“We weren’t ready with the guys behind them,” he said. “And at Texas, you should be ready.”

When things are going bad, though, you have to be careful about finger-pointing. After losing 23-21 at Iowa State in mid-November, Herman was asked if he simply got outcoached that afternoon. His reply: “No, I’d never say we got outcoached.” Two days later, he brought up that line early on in his Monday press conference. He wanted to clarify what he meant and take responsibility. “Any time you lose a game,” he acknowledged, “you’re outcoached.” It’s on the coaches, not the players, when a season goes sideways. The head coach had to own it. And he had a lot to think about.

Weeks before the regular season was over, it seemed clear Herman was getting ready to clean house. And the dread hanging over that final month was miserable.

“It was really hard,” Herman said. “I mean, (safeties coach) Craig Naivar got me the job interview with David Bailiff at Texas State. I went to the hospital when his daughter was born. She’s now a junior in high school. Those guys have been through a lot with me. But … I mean, I’ve got a job to do, too.”

Herman points to the Longhorn logo on his polo and taps it as he adds, “I’ve gotta be loyal to this and do what’s right for this.”


Orlando (right) had served as DC for all five years of Herman’s head coaching career. (Jerome Miron / USA Today)
Herman won’t soon forget that Sunday. It was Dec. 1, the day after Texas beat Texas Tech to move to 7-5. Now it was time for what he calls “by far — not even close — the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He called Orlando into his office and handed him the folder with his termination instructions.

“I said, ‘Todd, I’m going in another direction,’ ” Herman recalled. “He said, ‘I know. I let you down.’ I said, ‘No. I let you down.’ ”

Before Orlando walked out of their office for the last time, Herman remembers he stopped by to say one last thing.

“He goes, ‘Hey, Tom. We got all emotional and all that and I forgot to say something: Thank you. For giving me a shot, for believing in me, for bringing me to Texas.’ ”

And thus began the longest two months of Herman’s head coaching career. Orlando was out. So was receivers coach Drew Mehringer, who landed at Florida Atlantic. Fellow receivers coach Corby Meekins was reassigned and would leave for a job at Houston. Tim Beck was stripped of his offensive coordinator title and went to NC State. After the bowl game, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Derek Warehime took the OC job at New Mexico. Cornerbacks coach Jason Washington landed a gig at Mississippi State. Naivar followed Orlando to USC. Six of those seven coaches Texas cut ties with had been with Herman at Houston. Orlando’s defensive success there, stopping the likes of Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield, is arguably one of the biggest reasons Herman is at Texas today.

The process of not just firing your friends but preparing for a bowl game while also recruiting and hustling to find the right hires who could help Texas get back on track was exhausting. When Herman opened the hood on his program during this period, he tried to do so honestly. You can’t put all the blame on the assistants. He had to recognize his failings and make changes, too.

“On offense, I felt like we got stale,” he admits. “Me calling plays for two years, I had become a jack of all trades and a master of none. I wasn’t a very good offensive coordinator and I obviously wasn’t a very good head coach. And I knew I can’t do this another year. I was running myself ragged trying to play both roles.”

Herman turned to Ohio State’s Mike Yurcich to run the offense, a coordinator he says he’d come “very close” to hiring in the past who checks all the boxes: philosophical fit, proven Big 12 success, likes tempo, knows how to tailor his offense around his best players. “He’s really, really, really smart,” Herman said. “I’m tickled pink that he’s our guy.” Hiring former Rutgers coach Chris Ash as defensive coordinator was a no-brainer, too. Herman and Ash won a national title together at Ohio State. He knows exactly what he’s getting in Ash’s four-man front scheme and knows it can win at the highest level. And then he promoted Andre Coleman and hired Jay Valai, Coleman Hutzler, Jay Boulware and Mark Hagen, a group that brings a blend of Texas ties, Big 12 experience and new energy to the program.

“I knew what I wanted with the hires and I got it, every one of them,” Herman said.

He knows he has Del Conte to thank, too. The athletic director backed him on these hires and gave him whatever he needed. He bumped up the salary pool and provided multi-year deals to every Longhorns assistant. The new coordinators were offered three-year contracts. If the coaches they targeted had questions about Herman’s job security, he had them talk with Del Conte. Even the coaches who were retained — Herb Hand, Stan Drayton, Oscar Giles and Yancy McKnight — got raises. Texas is deeply invested in the success of this coaching staff. If Del Conte were to pull the plug on this group at the end of the 2020 season, Herman would be owed $15 million and buying out his staff would cost roughly $10 million.

“What I’m really proud of is Tom took a hard look at what he needed to do to win a conference championship and compete for a national championship, and he looked inward,” Del Conte said on The Flagship Podcast. “As Tom said, and I love what he said, he goes, ‘I wasn’t getting it done.’ We needed to retool our staff, and he knew that you get a chance to do that one time, right?”

When asked if Herman needed to have a certain kind of season in 2020 to stave off the hot seat, Del Conte replied flatly: “I think that’s crazy talk. And I mean that.”


Renderings for the new south end zone of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. (Populous)
For Herman, the necessary changes at Texas go beyond coaching hires. This long offseason has given him plenty of time to reflect on what he must do differently.

“A lot of the looking under the hood was at myself,” he said.

A trip to Notre Dame in late February gave him some clarity. He went up to South Bend to learn more about Brian Kelly’s successful reboot after the 2016 season. The Irish went from 4-8 to the College Football Playoff in two years. Kelly went through a similar overhaul — hiring two new coordinators plus five new coaches and gave up play-calling duties — and came out much better for it.

Herman recognized he needed to spend less time in the offensive meeting room and more time in the locker room and players’ lounge, and his visit with Kelly reinforced that. He knows he can be more accessible. It’s easy to form those tight, lifelong bonds with your players when you’re a position coach, less so as a head coach. The time he would’ve spent drilling down on the offensive plan needs to be reinvested in his players. He needs to know the pulse of his team and keep an eye on the 30,000-foot view of his program.

“To be as demanding on our guys as we are, I think with this generation, you’ve got to have good relationships with ’em,” he said.

Del Conte is now right down the hall from Texas’ football coaches in their new north end zone setup. During the winter, he could clearly see the staff overhaul had reenergized this program in a lot of ways, starting with the head man. Herman likes to say his No. 1 objective in this job is spreading and enforcing their culture, and he’s been genuinely excited to get to teach that all over again with seven new staffers. He was eager to show them how they do things while also bringing fresh eyes and new ideas into their organization. They’ll need to come a long way in a short period of time, because this team has a chance to be special.

Even with all that’s changed in the last six months, this is still the season Texas has been building toward. If you’re a Texas fan, 2020 is the year you’ve had circled on the calendar. It’s not just because they have the senior quarterback in Sam Ehlinger. The Longhorns can now put eight or nine upperclassman starters on the field on both sides of the ball. There are a couple of areas where Herman is concerned — youth at receiver, depth at linebacker — but the core of this roster is strong. They have quality player-led leadership, and that helps ensure they’ll come out of this spring shutdown in good shape.

“We’ve got enough,” he said. “And they’re experienced now.”

Herman openly admits the Longhorns overachieved in 2018. It was always clear the 2019 season would depend on their sophomores stepping up, and many of them did, but progress is rarely linear with young players. Now those guys are juniors entrusted with key roles. When the incoming freshmen arrive, Texas will have 54 players on its roster who were four- or five-star recruits, pushing the program’s Blue Chip Ratio well above 60 percent. There’s a reason why they played so well against LSU last September. They’ve got the talent.

That’s what makes the south end zone facility so significant. Texas football’s brand-new palace is scheduled to arrive right on time, just as the Longhorns are supposed to be riding the momentum of a big season. Upgrades like these can take recruiting to an even higher level. It’s a grand opportunity that cannot be squandered. This entire project, all 240,000 square feet of it, was paid for by significant donors who want Texas competing for championships. The on-field product needs to match the edifice.

Herman made all those tough changes knowing now is the time to strike. If Texas plays this right over the next 12 months, the payoff could be massive. What will it take? Herman keeping his own project right on schedule.

(Top photo of Tom Herman: Tim Warner / Getty Images)

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Max Olson covers national college football for The Athletic. He previously covered the Big 12 and recruiting for ESPN.com. Follow Max on Twitter @max_olson.

 

 

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