Texas was back and then they weren't. Now Charlie's gone, Tom's here and a skeptical fan base is waiting for a return to glory. After 5-7, it can't get worse. Can it?
Final Analysis looks at 2016's Texas Longhorns.
We harp on this because it's critical, what's the identity of a program? In other words, beyond the "core values" and marketing, what does a program do well? What do they do that makes them special, potent, or hard to deal with? If a program isn't intentional about what it wants to do, it's just hoping things go right and hope ain't a strategy.
Texas will be redefining itself under Tom Herman. Something the Longhorns should be used to. The last three years have been a journey of redefining themselves. First Charlie Strong came into to shut down the perceived country club atmosphere. Texas was going to be a tougher bunch, the entitlement era with all its championships and such was over. Year two the Longhorns opened at Notre Dame and delivered a turd of a performance. They Horns redefined their offense with Jay Norvell in and Shawn Watson out. Starting in the spring of 2016 an air armada flew into Tulsa to woo Sterlin Gilbert to Austin to install the Bear Raid. Then halfway through the season, Charlie relieved Vance Bedford of his coordinator duties on the defensive side.
Confused? So were the Horns. A very good defensive team in 2014, by 2016 Texas was a below average defense. Charlie Strong, under immense pressure to win games, changed his persona. He sold his soul and should have kept the receipt, because he got canned anyway.
Enter Tom Herman, Urban Meyer light and his regime out of 3rd Ward. Here's what we know about Herman's identity: He wasn't to be a physical downhill running team that uses the boundary to alleviate congestion inside. When Houston won, they averaged almost 50 carries. When Houston lost they ran for over 120 yards less a game.
Defensively Todd Orlando is going to run an odd front and bring pressure from almost every angle and position possible .
We are on record that turnovers are more fate and kismet that "teaching" or "coaching" but that being said, Todd Orlando's defenses coach the hell out of turnovers. When Houston won, and they won a lot, they held a massive turnover advantage, plus 28. When they lost, they didn't get gifts, -14.
In 2016, Texas struggled with a consistent identity. The clock is now running on Tom Herman to change that.
You want us to say Notre Dame don't you. You really do. We aren't falling for it. Texas' best win was Baylor. Why? Baylor was undefeated and number 8 in the country with a better, albeit slightly better, sample size that Notre Dame. Texas beat Baylor in a physical, tight, contest in Austin. It was also UT's second straight over Baylor and sent the Bears into a tailspin that they haven't recovered from. In a year that was transcendent for D'Onta Foreman, the Baylor win was a launch pad. 250 yards and 7.81 yards a carry with two touchdowns on 32 carries. The 32 carries were Foreman's most to that point, but he would eclipse 32 in three of the next four games.
I mean, seriously, Kansas was 0-for the last two plus years in the Big 12 and Texas found a way to lose in Lawrence. Seriously.
Answers we have...
Herman will inherit two very good offensive lineman and the potential for more on the way. Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe have started almost every game since their true freshman year and the rising juniors are corner stones moving forward. Williams has all the looks of a 10 plus year NFL tackle. Another possible cornerstone is rising sophomore Zach Shackelford who made nine starts at center as a true freshman.
Shane Buechele, depending on what Patrick Mahomes does, may be the best returning quarterback in the state. He was unfazed from the start and Herman will find plenty of ways to use his accuracy and arm strength.
Rising Junior Breckyn Hager is an unguided missile with a knack for making big plays. Hager led the Horns in tackles for loss, and sacks and was second in total tackles. He's just the kind of versatile swiss army knife that Todd Orlando could direct to a stellar season.
For all the headlines his position-mate Malik Jefferson garners, Anthony Wheeler is a dude. Wheeler led Texas in tackles, and his athleticism makes him an every down backer.
Wheeler is joined in the linebacker rotation by two very talented freshman, Malcolm Roach and Jeffery McCulloch. Roach may eat his way out of the position but he's a true thumper. McCulloch flashed skills that made him one of the most highly sought after prep linebackers in the country.
Oh Malik Jefferson, what is your legacy going to be. We've been force fed Jefferson, his leadership ability, his aura, his presence, for two years now and while Jefferson has been overhyped he's coming into his own at linebacker and as a leader on the team. Jefferson was third on the team in tackles in 2016 and second in tackles for loss.
Answers we need...
Youth is an amazing thing, it gives hope and frustration in equal measure. For all of Texas' potential and youth, the Horns are 10-14 in their last two years. We know it's a young roster, believe me, that's all we've heard. But the question is where was the improvement? Where was the incremental better performance? It begs the question, is there still a motivation issue in Austin. TCU is a great litmus test, with everything to allegedly play for...a bowl bid, their coach's job, an instate rival who punked you out by 43 a year ago, Texas laid an egg, a turd, a stinker. That makes 81 to 16 vs TCU the last two years. Youth didn't show up.
With D'Onta Foreman declaring for the NFL draft, the run game will fall to Chris Warren, a talented back who missed much of 2016 with injury. Texas will have to replace Foreman's workhorse like production. Foreman was Texas' offense in conference play, carrying 30 plus times a game in league. Can Warren and/or sophomore Kyle Porter fill in the massive gap left by Foreman.
Texas has a TON of rising Juniors defensively, Kris Boyd, Devante Davis, Holton Hill, John Bonney all in the secondary, who've yet to live up to or perform to their pedigrees. UT's pass defense was routinely torched last season. Can the secondary step up big in 2017.
The Big 12 has released its 2017 conference slate, so we have a full view of the Horns 2017 schedule.
10/21 Oklahoma State
10/28 @ Baylor
11/4 @ TCU
11/18 @ West Virginia
11/25 Texas Tech
9/9 San Jose State
9/16 @ USC
9/30 @ Iowa State
10/7 Kansas State
Right off the bat Texas plays a bowl qualifying Maryland and two weeks later travel to Rose Bowl bound USC. In league there's a brutal five week stretch of K-State, OU, Okie State, Baylor, and TCU.
*Disclaimer: It's recruiting, this will all change. 17 year olds are fickle, odd, often times dumb, humanoids. This list is accurate as off the date of posting. We apologize that we lack a crystal ball or a sorting hat to deal with the changes or make them permanent. Regardless, everyone loves your team, and your recruits are so much better than everyone else's. Never forget that.
The jewel without a doubt right now is Sam Ehlinger from Westlake, he'll give Texas real depth at quarterback. Toneil Carter Jr. is a big time back out of Northwest Houston and Taquon Graham is an athletic defensive end prospect. Expect Herman to close some big time talent in the next 40 days.
|Scout Rank||Name||Pos||Pos Rank||Ht||Wt||40 Time||School|
|NR||Derek Kerstetter||OG||6'5"||280||San Antonio, TX|
|NR||Cade Brewer||TE||73||6'3"||215||Austin, TX|
|NR||Daniel Young||RB||76||6'0"||210||4.8||Houston, TX|
|102||Toneil Carter Jr.||RB||9||5'11"||197||4.56||Houston, TX|
|138||Taquon Graham||DE||12||6'3"||251||4.75||Temple, TX|
|299||Josh Thompson||CB||29||6'0"||182||4.48||Nacogdoches, TX|
|NR||Montrell Estell||ATH||31||6'2"||180||4.55||Hooks, TX|
|NR||Kobe Boyce||CB||38||6'0"||163||4.49||Lake Dallas, TX|
|67||Lagaryonn Carson||DE||7||6'4"||261||Texarkana, TX|
|84||Sam Ehlinger||QB||7||6'1.5"||215||4.7||Austin, TX|
|130||Damion Miller||WR||19||6'1"||193||4.49||Tyler, TX|