Tag Archives: Shane Buechele

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

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.

Photo: Flickr

Texas Found Its Gunslinger, And His Name Is Sam

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the week of the OU game, I wrote about the tradition of the Red River Rivalry and virtually avoided writing anything about the actual Texas football team. Texas was 2-2 and coming off of back-to-back terrible losses to California and Oklahoma State. There was no hope for success and the team wasn’t worth talking about, so I chose to avoid it completely.

Fast forward a year and the Longhorns are coming off of yet another dramatic double-overtime game, but this time came out on the winning end against Kansas State. But it’s not only the victory to improve the team’s record to 3-2 that will make the headlines. It’s the fact that Texas has the quarterback they’ve been looking for, and his name is Sam Ehlinger.

I’m not proclaiming Ehlinger to be a hero my any means, but I am proclaiming him to be the starting quarterback over Shane Buechele. He’s clearly earned it.

If you missed it, head coach Tom Herman has been adamant about Buechele not losing his job only because of an injury. And to be fair, Buechele hasn’t been the main reason for the Longhorns’ failures on offense, but Ehlinger is just a better fit.

Notice I said the words “better fit” instead of “better quarterback.” The difference is Herman requires his quarterback to be mobile, based on his past coaching stops and the quarterbacks he’s had success with. Buechele can move, but not very well. What we saw Ehlinger do against Kansas State is exactly what Herman needs to finally get the offense moving in a positive direction and establish an identity.

It’s not the fact that he can scramble out of a sure sack to escape trouble. It’s not even the fact that he can lower his shoulder and completely run over a defensive back. But it’s the fact that Ehlinger is a threat to run the ball, and run the ball well, that will open up holes for this Texas offense.

That’s why Ehlinger has to be the starter going forward. I know he’s going to make mistakes. And quite honestly, I would expect a couple of horrendous games from the true freshman if he is in fact named the starter the rest of the season. But he’s not going to be able to grow unless he’s in those situations.

My final point on the subject is if Ehlinger is not the starter against OU in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, I’ll have some serious questions about what exactly Herman is trying to accomplish here in both the short-term and long-term.

Now, speaking of OU, Texas will have a bigger challenge than they even anticipated when they step foot in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday. No one in their right mind expected Oklahoma to lose at home to Iowa State over the weekend. I felt pretty good about Texas beating Oklahoma, but now I have my doubts because of that result.

Oklahoma simply doesn’t lose two games in a row. In fact, the last time the Sooners lost two games in a row in the regular season (not counting bowl games) was 1999. But in that season, the second loss came to Texas.

History isn’t on Texas’ side now, but the Longhorns clearly have some momentum going for them. Oklahoma is going to be angry, and they are going to play angry. I thought Texas would be able to catch them off guard, but now that’s not the case.

The Longhorns will only win this game if they play the level of defense they did against USC, and if the offensive line holds up well like they did against Kansas State.

And let’s not forget about the gunslinger himself. Ehlinger has lived for this moment. We will see on Saturday if the moment is too big for him. I seriously doubt that will be the case, though.

If the Longhorns lose the game, it would surprise me if it were because Ehlinger played a terrible game. The most likely outcome is the Texas offensive line gets mauled, and never gives Ehlinger a chance to do anything.

I’m still holding out hope that this Texas team may have figured out how to win over the last couple games. But this will be their biggest test so far in the conference season.

Tom Herman has a chance to get his first signature win at Texas. If he chooses to start anyone at quarterback not named Sam, he’ll be making a big mistake.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

Texas May Be Forced To Rely On An Unconventional Running Game

It’s amazing how a single player can hide a lot of flaws on a team. It’s clear to me after two games that D’Onta Foreman single handily carried the Longhorns’ rushing attack in 2016. We thought it was the strength of the offensive line, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Texas couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Maryland, but ran for over 400 yards against San Jose State. Yes, I realize San Jose State isn’t the greatest team in college football, but it’s the way Texas racked up those 400+ yards that got my attention.

I do believe Texas has a formidable offensive line that will eventually gel together and allow for a solid rushing attack on a consistent basis. But they aren’t there yet, so Tom Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck decided to go unconventional to open things up against San Jose State, and it worked.

I think we are going to see more runs out of the wildcat formation. Chris Warren took snaps from the formation, Jerrod Heard did the same, and LJ Humphrey did the same last week. It’s been the most successful way to get a running game going so far this short season, and it’s the only hope the Longhorns have of taking some pressure off the quarterback, whomever that may be.

And since I mentioned quarterbacks, I’ll say that Sam Ehlinger looked good for a true freshman, but there shouldn’t be a quarterback controversy starting up anytime soon. Shane Buechele should get the start against USC this weekend if he’s healthy. But that doesn’t mean we should see the same offense that rolled out on the field against Maryland.

It bothers me a bit that Texas can’t just hand the ball off to their stable of running backs and average 4-5 yards per carry, similar to how they did last year. But if there’s one thing I like about this coaching staff so far, it’s their willingness to adapt. Time will tell if the running game adjustments just happened because of Ehlinger getting the reps, or if the unconventional running attack will become the norm.

No matter who takes the snaps at quarterback against USC, Texas will get blown out if they aren’t able to run like they did last weekend. I’m not saying they have to run for 400 yards, but gaining 200-250 yards is a necessity if they want to stay in the game.

This is an important number not only because it helps take some pressure off the quarterback, but it also keeps the USC offense off the field. And that’s going to be huge against a team that just racked up 600+ yards of total offense against Stanford.

There are plenty of reasons why USC is going beat Texas this weekend. But being able to sustain a drive on offense by running the ball will help keep the Longhorns in it.

I want to see Jerrod Heard take more snaps in the wildcat formation, if that’s the route this offensive staff wants to take to develop a running game. I’m in no way suggesting Heard should be in the discussion for being the starting quarterback. But I do believe he has a high ceiling with multiple different package options due to his ability to throw and his breakaway speed.

I’m expecting a lot of creativity for this offense against USC, simply because it has to happen. It may be unconventional and only be a temporary fix for hiding a much larger issue, but if it leads to victories against top opponents, then I won’t be arguing against it.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

Texas Fans: The Hype Could Be Real This Year

Let’s be honest, there’s a certain amount of hype that comes with being less than two weeks away from college football starting, no matter which team you are a fan of.

Your favorite team may have some flaws, but the reality is your team is 0-0. Just like Alabama. Just like Clemson. Just like Ohio State.

Hype is a good thing because it means there are expectations. If there were no hype, there’d be nothing to get excited about. And who doesn’t get excited about college football?

Now, I went on that mini-spiel because there are obvious reasons to be hyped up about this season if you are a fan of the Texas Longhorns. A new coach, recruiting momentum, a returning starting quarterback and a talented roster on paper all add up to high expectations.

But there’s hype surrounding every season. I’ve been saying for the last three years around this time that I haven’t been this excited about football in a long time. Whether it’s a new coach, a new quarterback, a new offense or whatever the situation was, the promise of change provided hope. We know how that all worked out.

I’ve decided not to buy into the hype this year, even though it can be extremely easy to buy into with all the burnt orange sunshine pumpers writing about and talking about the team. Instead, I’m going to take a realistic approach and explain why the hype could be real this year.

First, Tom Herman has won games everywhere he’s been as a coach. He simply knows how to win big games. But on the other hand, his teams historically lose a game or two that they shouldn’t.

Then consider the roster Herman has to work with. Charlie Strong’s 2015 recruiting class was considered one of the best in the country, and those players are now juniors. Seemingly every playmaker went through a sophomore slump last season, so if things align how they tend to in college football, those players could be in for breakout seasons. I’m talking about Malik Jefferson, Kris Boyd, Holton Hill, PJ Locke, Charles Omenihu and many more.

If you follow the team closely, you’ll recognize all those names play on the defensive side of the ball. That’s where I think a lot of hype should be placed. Todd Orlando had dialed up some impressive schemes in the past at Houston, which completely gobbled up the likes of Oklahoma and Louisville last season. If things click for the players I mentioned, and if the game slows down for them, Texas could have the best defense in the Big 12.

Now for the quarterback situation. For the first time in years, Texas has a healthy returning starting quarterback who deserves to be the starter. David Ash was capable, but often injured. Tyrone Swoopes was generally always healthy, but not a capable quarterback and was clearly out of position during his time at Texas.

Many people are saying if the offense doesn’t have an outstanding season, it’s going to be because Shane Buechele gets injured. Buechele has tons of weapons at receiver. Even though the running back position is shaky, his throwing accuracy should open the running game enough to make it respectable.

I always go back to something Charlie Strong said on his way out at Texas. He mentioned multiple times that this team is going to win 10 games in 2017 and a national championship within four years. He also said he baked the cake for the next coach to come in and have success right away.

I wouldn’t say that he baked the cake, but he provided the ingredients for Herman to have a successful season.

The only thing that will take time for this group is learning how to win. Only a handful of players in the locker room have experienced a winning season at Texas. They handled success poorly last year after beating Notre Dame and rising as high as 11th in the rankings. In summary, winning a big game isn’t enough. They have to validate the victory by beating the teams they should.

There’s been so much of a losing culture, that even beating USC and starting the season 3-0 won’t convince me that Texas is back to being relevant. Not until they prove they can take care of business on a consistent basis.

With all that said, I can understand the hype this year. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the hype all comes true. Winning 10 games is a definite possibility. I’m not predicting it to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it did.

The key missing ingredient to a 10-win season is learning how to handle success. For me, I’m not buying into the hype unless the team is 5-0 going into the Red River Rivalry.

But if that happens, then count me in on the hype train and I’ll be drinking all the burnt orange Kool-Aid the 40 acres can offer.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

Offensive Players Primed to Breakout for Texas

Every year heading into a new season there is talk about which players are primed for a breakout season. Last year D’Onta Foreman came out of nowhere to rush for 2,000 yards for the Longhorns. A couple years ago it was largely unknown John Harris who exceeded his career receiving production in his senior season alone.

So who are the top candidates we could see have a breakout season in 2017? Let’s take a look.

Armanti Foreman

I’m throwing Foreman on this list simply because of what his twin brother did last year. Armanti was always the better player growing up and was more highly recruited than D’Onta. Seeing his brother leave school early to be a third round pick in the NFL draft should light a fire under him.

He’s basically experienced the entire NFL draft process now and knows what he has to do to get there. It also helps that Tom Herman supposedly told him and a couple other players to work their tails off this offseason and he would find ways to feed them the ball. If Armanti doesn’t have a good season, he will only have himself to blame.

Collin Johnson

The true sophomore Johnson already has an NFL frame and talent. He just has to be put in a position to succeed, which he wasn’t for the most part in 2016. It was clear later in the year that Johnson was Shane Buechele’s go-to receiver. Another year of work in the offseason should make them a dangerous combination for Big 12 opponents.

Patrick Vahe

I’m going to go out on a limb with this pick. Vahe is a right guard who lost his starting job a year ago, after starting almost every game as a true freshman. Due to some attrition in the offseason and an apparently rejuvenated Vahe, I feel like he’s going to be an asset at the guard position. It’s not a position that gets a lot of the glory, but it will be evident if there are running lanes on the right side of the line throughout the season.

Shane Buechele

The obvious choice for a breakout player is sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele. He had a solid freshman season but was really overshadowed by a 5-win season and a 2,000-yard rusher. Herman is known for developing quarterbacks and running an offense that fits their skill set, so that should bode well for Buechele’s development. Since it appears Texas isn’t going to land a viable graduate transfer to compete for the job, it’s Buechele’s to lose, and it’s really not even close.

A notable name I didn’t put on my list is running back Chris Warren. He’s got the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher, but I don’t think he can stay healthy long enough to become one. He will end up splitting his carries with Kyle Porter and other backup running backs, so the yards and statistics won’t be there. Of course, this likely changes if he does put together an injury-free season for the first time in his Longhorn career. I expect Warren to contribute heavily in Herman’s offense, but the question is how long he will be able to.

We all notice breakout players when the season is going on, but what we don’t see is the work those players are putting in now to achieve that. These four players are the ones that I consider to have had the best work ethic this offseason and in their careers, so it will show up in the fall if the work is going on now behind the scenes.

Who am I missing, Longhorns fans?

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

Photo: Wikimedia

Takeaways From the Texas Spring Game

Spring games for college football programs are great for really one reason: you get to watch somewhat competitive football in April.

But when your team has a new coach, there’s even more of a reason to at least take a peek. Still, you can put much stock into what happens at a spring game. Every year the Longhorns have one or two players who shine at the orange-white scrimmage, but then they don’t even get their name called during the season. In other words, take it all for what it’s worth.

As far as the Longhorns’ spring game goes, I wasn’t expecting much. And that’s exactly what I got. Tom Herman didn’t want to show a whole lot, and I think it’s because he still doesn’t know what to show.

This year more than any other, Texas fans could easily see who stood out and who didn’t. Herman still doesn’t know what he’s working with, and he likely won’t until fall camp starts. That means the players with the most talent should have been noticeable, and they were in my opinion.

The first takeaway is that Shane Buechele is going to be the starting quarterback at the first game against Maryland. Sam Ehlinger showed some positives as an early-enrollee freshman, but it’s clear Herman wants to and needs to redshirt him this year if at all possible.

Buechele did something multiple times that I haven’t seen a Texas quarterback do since Colt McCoy. He looked off receivers to throw off defenders and create open space for his receivers. If nothing else, this simple improvement from last season will help not only make himself better, but the entire offense as well.

Too many times quarterbacks have one receiver they want to throw to before the ball is snapped. And when that guy is covered, panic ensues, usually resulting in a sack, scramble for a couple yards or a bad throw leading to an interception. With Buechele showing some maturity in the pocket during the spring game, it may be a sign that Herman’s getting through to him already.

Another guy who stood out to me was Collin Johnson. I’ve had the feeling that Johnson is going to have a breakout year this year, and the spring game somewhat validated my position. Buechele seemed comfortable just throwing the ball up in Johnson’s direction and letting him go get it. Johnson has some speed, but most importantly, he’s tall and can be a huge asset in making Buechele even better.

If Herman’s offense is going to succeed in the Big 12, he has to have a big target in the red zone. He would prefer to have a tight end fill that role, but unfortunately, Texas doesn’t have one of those. I expect Herman to put Johnson in some mismatch situations in the red zone to allow Buechele to throw it in his vicinity and let him do work. Johnson’s going to have double-digit touchdown receptions this year, in my opinion.

From the defensive side, Malcolm Roach has the potential to have a breakout season at the defensive end position. He was often the best player on the field last season as a true freshman. But of course, it was the worst defense in the history of Texas football we were working with.

Roach was constantly beating the offensive line in the spring game and just looked quicker than everyone else. Teams will have to double-team Roach on the edge, which could open up some opportunities for the interior lineman like Poona Ford and Chris Nelson to have some solid sack numbers this year.

With all this being said, there still wasn’t anything that got me overly excited about this team right now. It’s still cautious optimism at this point.

Herman had the first team offense going against the second team defense and the first team defense going against the second team offense all afternoon. I guess the only good thing about that is the first team looked clearly better than the second team on both sides of the ball. The bad thing is there doesn’t appear to be a lot of depth right now. Time will tell if that aspect improves.

If you watched the Texas spring game, don’t get too excited or too disappointed about what you saw. If you didn’t watch it, there’s no need to go rushing to the TV the next time it’s being replayed on Longhorn Network.

You won’t hear a lot of hype coming out of the game like you have in years past. But maybe that’s a good thing.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

Is a Graduate Transfer Quarterback Worth it for Texas?

Tom Herman has made it very clear in his words and his actions that he expects to win in 2017. That was made even more crystal clear when news came out recently that Herman is heavily recruiting Brandon Harris, a graduate transfer who has spent his college career playing quarterback at LSU. However, with Harris’ recent commitment to play for North Carolina this year, Herman will have to explore other options.

I always thought Herman would entertain the idea of bringing in a graduate transfer at the quarterback position, considering he only has two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at the moment (third-stringer Matthew Merrick quit the program to focus on academics recently).

One of them is Shane Buechele, who started every game for the Longhorns last season. The other is Sam Ehlinger, a true freshman early-enrollee who has only been on campus for a couple months.

I’ve discussed the good things and bad things from each of the quarterbacks before. I feel like it’s a good thing that Herman is pursuing a graduate transfer QB to provide some depth and competition at the position. However, I’m glad Harris chose another route, so Herman can focus his efforts elsewhere.

Harris has started at LSU on random occasions over the past few seasons. He was highly recruited out of high school and there’s no doubting his athletic ability. But the fact that he couldn’t keep a stranglehold on the job at LSU is telling. I’m not a hardcore LSU follower, but they are involved in plenty big games where I watched Harris play enough to gather an opinion.

What I observed is a quarterback who is pretty athletic, but isn’t going to outrun or finesse anyone to break a long run. He’s not very accurate most of the time, but he can make some really good throws occasionally to give you hope. And he seems to pretty indecisive, almost like he either thinks too much or has no clue what the defense is doing (or what play his offense is running).

Who does that sound like?

Yep. The 18-wheeler himself, Tyrone Swoopes.

There are just way too many similarities between the two to get excited about bringing Harris in. His experience would have been valuable, but will he really win more games this year than Buechele would?

Herman said in an interview after a practice recently that he would worry about developing his other quarterbacks next spring if a graduate transfer is better than them this year. There’s good and bad to that situation.

What if Buechele doesn’t appreciate a graduate transfer coming in for just a year and taking the job from him? Does he transfer himself? Does he lose confidence? Or does he grind harder as the backup, knowing that he’s got two years left to prove his worth?

And then what if a graduate transfer does get the job and wins 6-7 games? It would seem like a loss of a year of experience for Buechele, since he could hopefully win that many games on his own.

That’s the bad.

The good thing is bringing in a graduate transfer QB is ideal for Ehlinger’s situation, since it’s best if he redshirts anyway. It would also send a message to the team that Herman doesn’t care who is on the field, as long as the team is winning. The notion that anyone is replaceable should make the effort level rise at every position.

My thought is if Herman brings in a graduate QB transfer, it says more about what he thinks about Ehlinger than it does about anyone else. I believe Ehlinger is Herman’s type of player, but he knows he won’t be ready to lead the team this season as a true freshman. A graduate transfer QB would allow Ehlinger to redshirt, get used to the system and be more prepared to take over next year.

There are so many “what ifs” that it’s hard for me to be convinced that a graduate QB transfer is needed right now or not. Of course, if we were talking about JT Barrett or another no-brainer guy with a ton of talent, then it would be a different story.

Harris is not a no-brainer type acquisition. That’s the reason why I’m glad he chose to play elsewhere.

Depth at the QB position is desperately needed, but Herman doesn’t need to be desperate in finding just any quarterback. If the right one comes around at the right time, then grab him.

I’ve said it many times already this offseason, but it’s worth saying again…In Herman We Trust.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

Expect Another Quarterback Controversy for the Longhorns

Texas hasn’t had a clear-cut starting quarterback entering spring football since Garrett Gilbert in 2010, following his performance in the National Championship game against Alabama when Colt McCoy went down. Even though Shane Buechele started all 12 games for the Longhorns last year, don’t expect him to be the guaranteed starter for 2017, at least not yet.

With the new regime under Tom Herman, classification or experience don’t matter much. At least that’s what we are led to believe. That means the quarterback battle is anyone’s to win or lose, and it may actually be a closer race than you’d think.

Buechele didn’t do anything in 2016 to derail his chances of being the starter in 2017, but early-enrollee freshman Sam Ehlinger is hot on his heels already. Buechele was an early-enrollee freshman last season and ended up winning the starting job from senior Tyrone Swoopes, so anything can happen.

Let’s take a look at what Buechele has in his favor.

He started all 12 games in 2016 and set numerous freshman quarterback records in the process. He consistently showed the ability to battle back from being in a hole, so he’s proven to have a ton of composure. I would argue that he was even handicapped a bit by Sterlin Gilbert’s offensive philosophy toward the second half of the season, which relied solely on the running game and lateral passes. Because of his on-field success last season, Buechele should be the starter in 2017.

So what does Buechele have going against him?

The injury bug is the biggest concern for Buechele. He played the second half of the season with a sprained thumb, which could have been a big reason for the shift in Gilbert’s play calling down the stretch. It’s the same thumb he hurt in high school, which has healed both times without surgery. However, surgery may be required if it gets reinjured again this spring. That would be an obvious setback to his chances of retaining the starting job, depending on the recovery time.

Now let’s see what Ehlinger has to offer.

Ehlinger has exactly the personality that Herman wants to lead his team. He’s extremely confident in his ability and he’s more of a vocal leader than Buechele. And he’s definitely not afraid to put people in their place if they are slacking. By all accounts on message board chatter, Ehlinger expected the most out of his teammates at Westlake High School, and he’s already doing the same at UT after only being enrolled for a little more than a month.

The downside of Ehlinger?

We simply don’t know what he has to offer yet. He was injured most of his senior year at Westlake, but showed some pretty good athletic ability when he was healthy. That’s the type of quarterback Herman wants. He’s always been successful with a mobile quarterback, but he also can adapt to the quarterback’s skill set. Ehlinger has some mobility, but he’s also injury prone. We won’t know how he will handle college competition until after the spring game or later.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Ehlinger gave Buechele a serious run and made this a competition all the way through the end of fall camp. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if one or the other got hurt and completely detailed the competition to start the season.

I think Ehlinger will get some quality playing reps in 2017, as much as I would like him to redshirt. There simply isn’t another decent option on campus right now to serve as the backup, and Herman knows it. Unless Matthew Merrick comes out of nowhere and takes the backup job, these will be the two guys in 2017.

Of course, there’s always the possibility of Herman grabbing a graduate transfer this summer as well. I don’t think there’s one on the market at the moment who would be an immediate threat to take over the starting job, but it would be smart of Herman to grab someone with experience to provide some depth at the very least.

Two young quarterbacks who are injury prone are enough to scare you to death (in the words of the great Mack Brown). It’s even scarier when they are your only options.

My prediction right now is Buechele and Ehlinger will get fans excited during spring ball and at the spring game on April 15. I expect both of them to ball out and prove even further that there isn’t a clear-cut starter. It will be enough to talk about all summer, but Buechele will start the first game against Maryland, barring an injury.

Texas may have another quarterback competition and controversy on their hands, but for the first time in a half-decade, I get the sense that most fans would be satisfied with either option at this point in time.

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

Photo: Wikimedia