All posts by Chase Holik

2017 Report Card For The Texas Longhorns

2017 brought a lot of hype to the Texas football program, but that’s really nothing new. Expectations were high with Tom Herman coming in and taking over the program, and to most people, those expectations didn’t come close to being met.

There were plenty of positives throughout the season, but we’ve seen this story before. Herman’s job this offseason is to build on those positives and eliminate the negatives. Previous regimes haven’t been able to do so successfully, and the result has been a below average team for the last several years.

Here are my thoughts on how each position unit graded out for the Longhorns in 2017.

Offense: C-

I believe Texas found it’s quarterback in Sam Ehlinger. Shane Buechele is a good quarterback, but he just can’t stay healthy enough to be relied upon. With that being said, Ehlinger is essentially the sole reason for three out of the six losses Texas had. He fumbled the ball in double overtime against USC, threw a dumb interception in overtime against Oklahoma State and made a terrible mistake by throwing the ball on a third down late in the game against Texas Tech that resulted in an interception.

Eliminate those three plays and Texas finishes the season at 10-3 instead of 7-6. That’s a brash statement, but it’s just an indication of how close the Longhorns were to meeting expectations. It was clear to me that the coaching staff sent a message to Ehlinger during bowl practices that he has to be smarter on the field. He tries to do too much at times and it hurts his team. I saw a smarter quarterback in the Texas Bowl against Missouri, so there is some promise that he could build on his maturity over the offseason.

Defense: A

There’s no question this Longhorns team wouldn’t have won seven games if it weren’t for Todd Orlando’s defense. In fact, this is probably a three- or four-win team if the defense hadn’t played stellar all season. The Texas defense faced a top-tier quarterback week in and week out, and pretty much contained them as much as possible.

Consider this list of names Texas faced: Sam Darnold, Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield and Drew Lock. Three of those quarterbacks will be selected in the upcoming NFL draft, and the fourth likely will be next year. The common theme is Orlando’s defense held those quarterbacks in check and did not allow them to take over the game, as they do against other opponents.

It appears Herman and the UT administration is working on a contract extension and a raise for Orlando, which could be the best thing they do all offseason.

Special Teams: B-

The only reason I’ve given this high of a grade for this unit is because of punter Michael Dickson. There’s a reason why he’s a Ray Guy award winner for the best punter in the nation. He was the best offense in many games for Texas, with his ability to flip field position and put the defense in a better position to succeed. The Longhorns are going to miss his leg next year as he heads off to the NFL.

Special Teams would have received an “A” grade if it weren’t for the field goal kicking woes. Herman was forced to either go for it on 4th down or punt numerous times instead of attempting a long field goal. In some cases, he passed up field goal attempts of under 30 yards because he couldn’t trust his kicker. Look at every good Texas team in the last 15 years and you’ll recognize the name of the kicker. It’s a critical part of the success of any program, and the Longhorns didn’t have it this year. Hopefully, Herman will solve the kicking woes in recruiting this offseason, because it was clearly an issue in 2017.

Recap

2017 was mostly a year to forget but could be a turning point for the program as well. Stability within the UT athletic department could be a sign of good things coming for Texas, and bringing back a pretty decent amount of experience will help. Herman now knows how fragile of a group he was working with all year, especially from a mental standpoint, so now he has to go to work to address those issues. Otherwise, we will be talking about a similar story at this point next year.

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Flickr

Agree or Disagree With Tom Herman’s Sideline Mockery?

In case you missed it, Tom Herman created a bit of a stir at the end of the Longhorns’ 33-16 bowl game victory over Missouri. For this article to make sense, take a minute to watch this.

Now, to the casual college football fan, Herman looked completely immature and irresponsible as a head coach of a major university. I get that because he did.

I’m not going to make any excuses for Herman here because he’s got to be better in this situation. If you’re going to mock the opposing team in any way, do it behind closed doors so only your team can see it.

With that said, I have absolutely no problem with what Herman did. What the casual fan doesn’t know is that Missouri players had been mocking and trash talking to Texas players all week leading up to the game.

And then they committed the big no-no: flashing the horns down sign.

Here’s a video that surfaced to give the rest of this article even more context.

This is exactly why I have no problem with Herman’s mockery.

Opposing players, coaches and fans constantly mock Texas by throwing the horns down sign. Throwing the horns up sign signifies so much for the University of Texas, whether it’s celebrating after a big play, scoring a touchdown, singing the Eyes of Texas or anything else. When a person throws the horns down sign, they are mocking the player, coach, alumni and university as a whole.

And you know what? There’s never any outrage. In fact, I think I saw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty thrown on an opposing team for the first time ever this year for doing it.

Why is it ok for other teams to throw their horns down with no backlash, but the Longhorns can’t mock an opposing player’s celebration? It’s complete crap is what it is.

Another reason why I’m ok with Herman’s mockery is that it shows he takes the horns down sign personally. Mack Brown did, but he handled the issue behind closed doors (like it should be). Charlie Strong didn’t respect the sign much and didn’t care if it was disrespected, in my opinion.

For the first time in a long time, I saw a coach and players get as upset and pissed off as I do when I see the horns down sign. Especially when it’s directed at me specifically. It takes quite a bit to make me mad, but there’s something about seeing the horns down sign that boils my blood every single time.

So when I saw the video of the Missouri players doing the horns down sign so freely and confidently, I was proud to see Herman and the Texas players on the sideline doing what they did. Probably the thing I’m most proud of after seeing the video is that the Texas players on the stage with those Missouri players didn’t light them up right there on the stage. If it were me, I would have had a hard time not going all-out Bobby Boucher on them as they were prancing around proudly with their horns down.

Unfortunately for Herman, he’s going to have to live with the social media backlash for a while. It will be talked about for a couple days and will definitely resurface throughout future football seasons, but it is what it is. But if he won over the locker room by doing it, then mission accomplished. And according to Breckyn Hager, he did:

Now if Herman makes this type of behavior the norm, then I’ll have a problem with it. But for a fragile program that has no self-pride in several years, I’m ok with it just this time.

My final point is for the people who say the team should act like they’ve been there before, in regards to winning. My rebuttal is this team has not been there before. They don’t know what winning feels like. Maybe this will give them a taste of winning, maybe it won’t. But for Herman, it’s a small price to pay to potentially elevate his program.

To recap:

Should Herman have done what he did? Probably not.

Is it the end of the world? Definitely not.

Should he make those antics a habit? Absolutely not.

Should Texas fans be embarrassed? Depends on your opinion, but embarrassment is not something that describes my feelings, obviously.

Do the Longhorns have a coach who genuinely takes pride in the University? You better believe it, and it was proven at the Texas Bowl.

And for the record, the Missouri quarterback whom Herman mocked understands the situation and has no problem with it:

Once Texas returns to their winning ways again, this will never be an issue with Herman or his players. I feel confident in saying that. The program just has to get to that point first.

Hook’em \m/

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Finally, Some Signs of Stability For Texas

In case you missed it, The University of Texas made what could be its most important hire in the last decade, and potentially the next several decades to come. Somehow, university President Greg Fenves was able to lure away TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte to hire him at the same position at UT.

Now I’ll admit, I don’t know the name of a good Athletic Director from a bad one, but it is obvious to me which athletic programs are on stable ground. And the fact that I actually know the name Chris Del Conte means he must have been doing something right to get my attention. He’s built quite the program at TCU, so the hope is high that he will do the same at Texas.

The reason this is a monumental hire in my opinion is because the Texas athletic department as a whole has been a complete mess ever since Deloss Dodds left in 2013. Steve Patterson was hired and fired within two years, and for very good reasons. Patterson is one of the main reasons why Texas athletics is in the poor shape it’s in right now, mainly because of the wholesale changes he made in order to transform the program into more of a professional sports franchise.

I’m not going to get into the disaster Patterson created, and the mess interim Athletic Director Mike Perrin inherited (and did a remarkable job of damage control), but you can read a local Austin media member’s account of the situation here. If you have any interest in Texas sports at all, take 10 minutes and read it. You will understand why the Texas program has been a dumpster fire for the last several years.

What the hiring of Del Conte as the permanent AD means is the program is finally on the right track for stability. Often times, the hiring of a new AD means changes will be made, particularly on coaching staffs. However, I can’t see that being the case here.

Let’s face it, for the better part of two decades, I only knew of three coaches and one AD as a Texas supporter. Mack Brown, Rick Barnes, Augie Garrido and Deloss Dodds were prominent figures and represented the stability of the program. When you look back at the stability, it’s really no surprise the success all three of the major programs at Texas had during their time.

Since 2013, there have been three Athletic Directors, two head football coaches and multiple staff changes among the three major programs. Shaka Smart is the longest tenured coach of the big three sports, and he was hired as the basketball coach in 2015.

Will Del Conte come in and immediately create a stable program? Time will tell. However, based on his track record during his nine years at TCU, I would say he knows a thing or two about stability. During his time there, TCU has become nationally relevant in football and is a constant participant in the College World Series. He hired a new basketball coach last year and now that program is rejuvenated and considered to be an above-average team in the Big 12.

The main issues I can see Del Conte having is dealing with the pressure from the fans, media and mostly the big money donors. Patience is not something that’s very common around UT fans and donors today, so every move Del Conte makes will be under the microscope. I have all the confidence that he will shake the hands that need to be shaken and get in good graces with the most important people involved with the university, though.

But as we saw with arguably the most stable group of people the university has ever seen, no one is safe if the results don’t match the expectations.

Signs of stability are good, since there hasn’t been much of it surrounding the athletic department in recent years. I personally think Del Conte is a homerun hire and just hope the pressures of being the Athletic Director at Texas doesn’t force him to alter what has worked for him in the past.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Can You Blame Texas Players For Leaving Early For The NFL?

There’s been a lot of attrition around the Texas football program for several years. But this is the first time that I can remember where a good chunk of the attrition is coming from players leaving after their junior season to enter the NFL draft. Let’s take a look at who’s gone so far:

  • OT Connor Williams announced almost immediately following the Texas Tech game that he would forego his senior season and not participate in the upcoming bowl game. Williams is projected as a first-round draft pick, and potentially a top-10 pick overall. His decision should have been a no-brainer, and it appears that it was to him as well.
  • DB Holton Hill made a similar announcement recently. Hill’s situation is different because he was suspended for the last few games of the season. His stock was soaring as he was having the best year of his career. Most people expected him to bolt to the NFL anyway, but his suspension pretty much solidified the decision.
  • DB Deshon Elliott’s decision to enter the NFL draft came as somewhat of a surprise to me. Yes, he had a great year and was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, but I don’t believe his stock is very high. He could potentially improve his stock with another solid year next year, but I guess you can’t blame him for striking while the iron is hot.

Other potential departures we are waiting on announcements from are Malik Jefferson, Kris Boyd, and Michael Dickson.

I fully expect Jefferson to leave, since he has the potential to be a first-round draft pick.

Boyd needs another year, plain and simple. He showed some good signs when he replaced Hill for the final three games, but has plenty of room to improve.

Dickson is a wild card. As a punter, you may not get drafted at all. However, being the Ray Guy award winner as the nation’s top punter will help his stock out. This decision likely just depends on whether Dickson is tired of school or not.

So now that we have the main list of candidates to think about, it’s time to have the discussion of whether they should leave or not.

In my opinion, Williams, Hill, and Jefferson should go. They have a chance to be first or second round picks, and it’s not worth coming back to Texas to risk injury. The only reason why they should even remotely consider coming back is if they have a chance to win a championship. Even the optimistic Longhorns fan knows that isn’t realistic at this point.

As for the rest of the players, can you actually blame them if they decide to leave? I mean, they can make the league minimum salary and still be in better shape than playing for free in college. Could they get better and make more money by being a higher draft pick after next season? Yes. Could they get hurt next season and end their career without making a dime playing football? Absolutely.

As a fan, you always want your best players to stick around for four years. But with the landscape of college football and the NFL changing, it’s hard for me to blame them for making money while they can.

The worst case scenario for them is they go undrafted, get signed as an undrafted free agent to a practice squad and then work their tails off to make the team. The best investment you can make is in yourself, so if you have the talent to play in the NFL, then go after it. These guys can always come back to school if the NFL doesn’t work out, but there’s only so many healthy years they have to play in the NFL.

With that being said, I hope this doesn’t become a trend where players skip out on bowl games if they are entering the NFL draft. The college bowl season is already losing the interest of fans enough as it is, so not having the best players on the field will diminish the relevance of each game even more. If the trend continues, college football as we know it will be changed drastically.

As for Texas players specifically, there’s really no reason for guys to play in the bowl game if they’re going to pursue a career in the NFL. There’s absolutely no value in playing in a mediocre bowl game as a 6-6 team. Yes, the team loyalty factor comes into play, but there are times when you have to look out for yourself as well. The chance to make hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum is one of those times, in my opinion.

Photo: Pixabay

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Jimbo Fisher’s Impact on Texas

In case you missed it, Texas A&M emptied the bank recently by hiring former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher to a 10-year, $75 million deal, which is reportedly fully guaranteed. There’s no doubt this is a flashy hire the program needed, and time will tell whether Fisher earns his paycheck. Credit the Aggies…they needed a big hire like this and they swung for the fences and landed one of the top college coaches in the countries, and only one of four current coaches who have won a national championship.

So now that Fisher is going to be heavily recruiting the state of Texas, what does it mean for the Longhorns?

Things just got much more difficult on the recruiting trail, that’s for sure. Tom Herman hasn’t had a lot of difficulties getting the recruits he wants, and A&M was becoming less of a concern with every loss under former head coach Kevin Sumlin. But Fisher is going to be a different animal. The question isn’t going to be if, but rather, when?

I’d be lying if I said Fisher doesn’t have enough connections with Texas High School football coaches. He might or he might not, but since he has the A&M logo on his shirt now, he won’t have a hard time getting high school coaches on his side. I have no doubt Herman can still recruit with some of the best coaches in the country, but A&M not winning anything of significance recently has also helped tremendously.

Now, from an X’s and O’s standpoint, Fisher’s staff is going to be critical to his success on the recruiting trail and on the field. It sounds like Fisher burned every bridge possible as he was exiting Florida State, so there’s a good chance he will have to start from scratch when assembling his staff. This would be a great sign for Texas, as there’s one person on Fisher’s staff at Florida State who could be a difference-maker: Tim Brewster.

Brewster was a long-time coach under Mack Brown and was known for being an outstanding recruiter. He definitely played a huge role in assembling some of the great Texas teams from the mid-2000’s. Herman tried to pluck him away from Florida State when he was hired last year, but Brewster accepted a raise to stay in Tallahassee instead. Now that things may have gone sour with Fisher, is Texas back in play now if Herman wants to make a change or addition on his staff? I would think so, and hope so.

Honestly, though, the only way the Longhorns can counter the Aggies move of hiring Fisher is to win games. They will have recruiting momentum through the early signing period and maybe even through national signing day. But if A&M has a significantly better year on the field in 2018, then the momentum could shift dramatically.

Maybe this hire will be a good thing for Herman. Not that I don’t think he put every ounce of his energy into this season, but now there’s a much greater sense of urgency to win and win right now. It’s unfortunate that these two programs can’t play on the field to settle any arguments about who is better than the other, but that’s exactly what we have to deal with…recruiting battles.

Texas secured their coach for the future last year, and A&M just got theirs as well. The new energy will be good for the A&M program and their frustrated fan base, but Texas fans shouldn’t be nervous just yet. But if the Longhorns decide to lay another egg next season and put together a 6-6 campaign or worse, then you might as well sound the emergency signals in Austin.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

The Horns Still Have The “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Culture

Tom Herman made it clear exactly one year ago that he came to Austin to change the Longhorns football program into a winning culture again. He thought he was doing all of the right things, but he didn’t know what he was getting into until the opening game.

Fast forward a bit to last week, and it looked like Texas had established an identity and gained some confidence, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But just like the past three years, the team took one step forward against West Virginia, and two steps back against Texas Tech the following week.

How can a team look so fluid and on the same page with one another, and then be completely discombobulated the next? It’s the culture that’s been established since at least 2014, that’s how.

This program simply doesn’t know how to handle success, even as minor as the success may be. Getting to bowl eligibility is something to be celebrated for this program since it’s something they haven’t achieved since 2014. I don’t think they celebrated too much and overlooked Texas Tech, though. But I do think the players heard people talking all week about how much better they looked and had all the momentum in their favor.

The culture for the players is to believe the hype without playing the game. This team simply isn’t good enough to beat anyone on talent alone, and it was proved yet again on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

So what’s next for the Horns?

They will get an invite to a bad bowl game that will likely be played in the middle of the day during the last week of the year. No one around Austin will be excited about the bowl game, which means the players probably won’t be either. That will be especially true if the handful of juniors who could make the jump to the NFL have already made their decision that they won’t be returning for their senior season.

Quite honestly, I don’t know if winning or losing the bowl game will make a difference for the culture Herman is trying to instill. I really don’t believe it will affect recruiting one way or another. But what it will do is help Herman prepare for next season. Out of the 15 bowl practices the team gets, I would be surprised if the majority of them aren’t focused on next year rather than actually winning the bowl game.

But as Herman has realized this season, he has a whole lot more work to do to get his players mentally ready to be successful. You can’t have a team that feels good about themselves after a win over an average team, and then completely lays an egg the next week against a below average team. The result you get with that type of culture will always be a team with 4-6 losses every single year, and that’s assuming you have enough talent to beat a few average teams on your schedule.

Until Herman is able to at least change the culture to a “two steps forward, one step back” culture, there’s going to be a similar amount of loss in the Texas football program. And no matter how much we hear about the culture being changed, we will never truly know it has happened until we see the results in the win column.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Texas Is Back, Folks…

…to bowl eligibility! For the first time since the 2014 season, Charlie Strong’s first year at Texas, the Longhorns are eligible to participate in college football’s bowl season. While this should be an insignificant accomplishment, it is far from it at this point.

With Texas’ win on the road at West Virginia, the Longhorns now sit with a 6-5 record with one home game remaining against Texas Tech the day after Thanksgiving. A chance to win seven games in the regular season hasn’t happened since Mack Brown’s final year as head coach. Again, the standards should be higher at Texas, but this is something fans should celebrate as improvement.

I finally saw one of the most complete games of the season for the Longhorns in all three phases of the game against West Virginia. Shane Buechele started the game at quarterback and moved the ball somewhat efficiently, but the Longhorns didn’t get on the scoreboard until Sam Ehlinger came in and finished the game from the second quarter on.

But the real difference was in the running game. Texas had three players average more than 7.0 yards per carry on a combined 28 attempts among those three (Ehlinger, Daniel Young and Kyle Porter). The team ran for 233 total yards, which is about 100 yards over their season average.

The difference maker? The return of All-American Connor Williams at left tackle.

Combine Williams’ return with the emergence of a new H-back role for Chris Warren III, and the Longhorns running game actually looked like something a decent football team would have. It’s the first time this year that I actually saw some promise for the unit against a decent opponent, and it seemed like Tom Herman finally found an offensive line combination that can work for the rest of the year.

There are still plenty of issues to clean up, but this was a team that looked like they gained more confidence with nearly every snap.

And let’s talk about the defense for a bit. I wrote last week that Texas needed to have a good game from cornerback Kris Boyd to have a shot at winning. Fans who watched the game didn’t hear Boyd’s name called much on Saturday, which means he did his job. He held West Virginia’s best receiver to two catches for 47 yards. Bravo, Boyd! Now continue to play up to your potential like that on a weekly basis.

Now, what does getting to a bowl game mean for Texas? It means the team gets 15 additional practices after the conclusion of their season on Friday. The more organized repetitions you can get for Ehlinger and some of the other young playmakers, the better off the program will be in the future.

It’s really not about the bowl game they’ll be playing in or their opponent. We know it’s not going to be a great game, and it’s going to be against another mid-tier team in another conference. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to win against Texas Tech and then go on to win the bowl game.

The prospects of winning eight games looked bleak just a couple weeks ago, but after pulling off the upset against West Virginia, it’s not out of the question now. Herman will be able to preach improvement all offseason long, players should have some newfound confidence and recruits will hopefully take notice.

Texas still has a long way to go to be considered “back” to national relevance, but qualifying for a bowl game is a big first step for a fragile program that has been struggling for years.

Photo: Pixabay

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Texas’ Bowl Chances Could Rely On One Player

I understand a lot has happened this season and there are many reasons why Texas may or may not make a bowl game this season. However, with two games remaining and needing to win one of them, one player stands out to me as needing to step up: cornerback Kris Boyd.

For the casual followers of the Longhorns, I’ll tell you why he is more important now than he has been all year. Holton Hill was recently suspended for the rest of the season for a violation of team rules. Hill has been the best player on the Texas defense and has even been thought of as a potential first round NFL draft pick if he leaves school after the season as a junior. Unless you follow games closely, you may not have even heard of Hill, simply because opposing teams don’t throw the ball in his direction much. He’s been that good.

Now Kris Boyd has slid over into Hill’s role as the number one cornerback. Boyd has had a solid year, but he’s good for at least one blown coverage a game, and potentially a personal foul for a late hit or pass interference flag. There’s a lot of good and bad with Boyd, but now that he’s replacing Hill, there needs to be a lot more good.

Positive signs were not there against Kansas, who put up 27 points and over 350 yards of offense against a Texas defense that has been stout all season for the most part. The two remaining teams on the schedule, West Virginia and Texas Tech, have a lot better offenses than Kansas.

We all know Texas isn’t going to be able to win either of their upcoming games if they get into a shootout. They just aren’t equipped to score 30+ points against any team with an average defense. We are halfway through November and we still don’t know who’s going to start at quarterback any given week. That’s how bad things are.

Boyd hasn’t shown the ability to be a lockdown cornerback like Hill was. And with other key injuries to the Texas secondary, it doesn’t bode well for the defense to be able to shut down their remaining opponents like they’ve done other teams this season.

I expect the defense to be able to hang around with West Virginia and Texas Tech regardless, but the absence of Hill could prove to be the difference. Teams will now be more willing to throw to their primary receiver since Boyd can be exposed more easily than Hill could. The main thing with Boyd is he absolutely cannot give up the big play or have a critical penalty at a crucial time in the game.

So when you’re watching the game on Saturday, keep an eye out for #2 playing defense for the burnt orange and white. If you hear Boyd’s name called for positive things, Texas has a chance to win out. But if you hear similar things that have been said all season about Boyd getting flagged or blowing coverages, Texas could get shut out of a bowl for a third straight year.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

For Texas, There’s Still More Questions Than Answers

After almost every Texas game this season, I read about people bashing the offense on Twitter, the radio and everywhere else. Some people blame Tom Herman, some people blame offensive coordinator Tim Beck, and others blame the quarterback (whomever that is any given week).

It’s pretty clear the Longhorns have some serious problems offensively. But to place the blame entirely, or even partially, on one person is simply unfair.

First, Beck usually gets the brunt of the blame from fans, just because it’s easy to target the offensive play caller. But from what I’ve seen, I’m ok with what he’s done so far. Of course there are some questionable calls, but we see some different things happening. Adjustments are being made, but none of them work. I’ll tell you why in a bit.

Next is Tom Herman. Is Herman really the answer at Texas? I thought he was an offensive mastermind? Isn’t he the quarterback whisperer? These are the questions I’ve seen numerous times. And for those people, I say chill out and let this play out for more than one season before you make those judgments. And for the record, I always said the same things about Charlie Strong.

The next line of blame falls on the quarterback. Fans were excited about what Shane Buechele brought to the table last year, but he just can’t stay healthy. Then there was excitement with Sam Ehlinger, who got concussed and is now dealing with an inner ear issue. All I’m going to say about this point is the issue isn’t with the quarterback, folks.

Now I want to draw some parallels with you. Let’s flashback to last year at this point. Texas had a 5-4 record and had to win one of their last three games to save Charlie Strong’s job. That team was so fragile and incredibly mentally weak that they couldn’t do it, even when they knew they would lose their beloved coach if they didn’t.

This year, Texas is 4-5 and has to win two of their last three games to become bowl eligible. Again, some players are saying they are confident they can do it. But confidence and mental toughness are two different things.

The one question that has been answered most of the year is the mental state of the team. Even in some heartbreaking losses, the team never gave up as they did in past years. I was seeing a mentally stronger team, with the exception of the most recent game against TCU.

Another parallel to quickly touch on is the fact that Ehlinger went from the concussion protocol to having an inner ear issue. This sounds eerily similar to what David Ash dealt with in Charlie Strong’s first year. Forgetting about my fandom for a moment, I hope Ehlinger’s football career doesn’t end like Ash’s did.

Ok, back to Tim Beck and why his adjustments simply aren’t working no matter what he tries. I wrote all of these issues out in a paragraph, but then realized it’s worthy of a bulleted list because there are so many:

  • He doesn’t know who his quarterback is going to be on a weekly basis
  • He may not have had the same starting five on the offensive line in back-to-back weeks the entire season
  • The linemen he has to work with simply aren’t good, for the most part
  • He doesn’t have a running back he can rely on
  • He has plenty of talent at wide receiver, but none want to step up and stand out
  • The lack of a quality and experienced tight end has limited him
  • Some of these points have to do with injuries, while some of them have to do with poor recruiting efforts on offense by the previous coaching staff.

My main point is if you’re going to point your finger at Tim Beck or Tom Herman for this dumpster fire of an offense, then you haven’t been keeping up with this team much at all, and you’re taking the easy way out with the blame game.

Players have to be accountable too. Injuries play a big role in a struggling offense, but the last I checked, even the backups have a scholarship. And if a coach gave you a scholarship to play at the University of Texas, then you better be ready to step up when called on.

With any coaching change, there are going to be a ton of questions. It’s unfortunate that most of the questions to this point are still unanswered for Herman’s program. But with three games left, there’s one big question he needs to answer clearly.

If this team can find a way to beat Kansas, and then either West Virginia or Texas Tech to get to a bowl game, I would say the biggest question of the year had been answered. The team has been struggling mentally in games for years, but now they have a chance to finish strong and somewhat overcome their woes.

But if they can’t get the job done and finish 5-7 or worse, we will be asking even more questions at the end of the season.

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Realistic Expectations For Texas With Four Games Remaining

The Texas Longhorns sit with a 4-4 record through eight games this season. While it’s been a disappointing season, to say the least, there have been a lot of positives to build on. With a quarter of the season remaining, it’s time to set some realistic expectations based on what we know about this team through eight games.

The Longhorns offense isn’t going to get any better any time soon. With Sam Ehlinger in the concussion protocol, Shane Buechele is back at quarterback. While Buechele is serviceable and capable of doing some good things at the position, it’s obvious the offense is limited with his skill set.

Scoring 38 points against Baylor shouldn’t be looked at any other way than Texas played against an awful team in Waco, but took care of business. Now, I will say the combination of true freshmen Daniel Young and Toneil Carter looked pretty promising. Those guys are clearly the most explosive running backs on the roster and should get a lot more action going forward. Maybe it will be the start of the running game getting going? Or maybe not.

The offensive can’t get anywhere because of a depleted offensive line; Buechele was running for his life nearly every time he dropped back to pass against Baylor. This patchwork offensive line has been exactly that since about week 3 and hasn’t improved much. I have no reason to believe it will get better over the remaining four games.

Now, the defense is another story and can cover up some of the doom and gloom of the offensive woes. I could see the defense getting even better, as they have just about every single week. The only problem is the team almost has to rely on defensive touchdowns to win games since the offense can’t get them there enough.

So with four games left, and we pretty much know what we’re going to get out of the team on a weekly basis, what are the realistic expectations in the win-loss column?

The Longhorns head to TCU on Saturday, who just came off of a loss on the road to Iowa State. I didn’t think Texas had a chance to beat TCU before that game, and I definitely don’t think they will be able to score enough points to beat them now.

Then comes Kansas to Austin. There shouldn’t be any headlines following this game other than stating that Texas took care of business.

Going to West Virginia is always tough. I’m not really sure what to make of the Mountaineers, as they’ve been a little up and down all season. This is a game Texas can win, but being on the road is going to be a huge challenge.

Then the finale against Texas Tech at home. This could very well be the game that could send the Longhorns to bowl eligibility. In fact, I expect Texas to have a 5-6 record entering this game. And if that’s the case, beating the Red Raiders will be more important than any other game in year one for Tom Herman.

In a year with so many expectations, getting to a bowl game is the absolute minimum that has to happen. There can’t be any setbacks between now and then, and I don’t think there will be.

The truth is this team could very possibly be looking at a 5-7 record. I believe they’ll split the remaining four games and become bowl eligible for the first time since 2014, though. Is that something to hang your hat on? Definitely not. But with such a fragile team, both mentally and physically at times, even a small victory should be celebrated.

At this point, it’s time to build on some of the positives, find ways to fix some of the negatives and start looking ahead to year two of the Herman era.

E-mail Chase at chase.holik@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

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