Tag Archives: D’onta Foreman

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 [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

Leadership for Texas Football Starts Now

Aside from National Signing Day, there isn’t anything to look forward to in the college football world in February for fans. But now is exactly when new leaders are born for football programs.

This is especially true when you’ve got new leadership at the top, which is where Texas is at with Tom Herman as the new head coach. Herman has said he hasn’t watched a second of game film from last season, so everyone has a chance to prove themselves on a clean slate. Now I know most of that is just coach speak. I would hope with his $5 million salary that he would watch film of the team he inherited.

But the point is he’s giving everyone the chance to become a leader. So let’s look back at 2016 for a bit. Does anyone really know who the true leaders were on either side of the ball?

Shane Buechele?

D’Onta Foreman?

Malik Jefferson?

These are the names you heard the most last year, but I really don’t believe players rallied around them and viewed them as true leaders. Buechele was an incoming freshman, so he wasn’t the leader everyone respected at first. Foreman came out of nowhere to have a superb season, so he didn’t have respect early on. Jefferson was the honorary leader of the entire team, mainly because the media handed him the title because of his five-star status in high school.

As with many highly touted players, Jefferson learned the hard way that the stars earned in high school get erased when you get to college. And as a result, the so-called “leader” of the team found himself on the bench halfway through the season because of ineffective play.

With Herman in the fold now, anyone has the chance to step up. The overwhelming majority of the two-deep roster is back in 2017, meaning this will be one of the most experienced teams in the country. Youth is no longer an excuse.

So why is a strong leader necessary for this team? Because every player on the roster needs someone to turn to when things are going badly.

If there were a true leader in 2016, Texas could have won 2-3 more games. Instead, when things went wrong, everyone had their heads down and had no one to turn to. They stood no chance at getting out of a hole when the air went out of the balloon at times.

Early indications are the players are buying in to Herman’s winter workouts and are hungry to do whatever it takes to win. We’ve heard plenty of that chatter in the past, but it always proved to just be chatter.

Leaders are being born on the field at DKR every morning at 6am for winter workouts. The fans don’t know who is stepping up. The media thinks they know, but they don’t. The only ones who know are the players and the coaches. The fans will find out in September.

One thing for sure is leadership will be organic instead of forced based on how Herman operates his winter program. Players are divided into different groups and compete against each other in a handful of drills. The winners of the drills get to walk down a red carpet, get cold Gatorade handed to them by the losing teams, then head inside to have their selection of omelets, eggs, pancakes and a variety of other items.

The losers? Not only do they have to serve the winners, but they are served burnt biscuits, plain yogurt, watery eggs and have to drink from a water hose.

Now I understand these players could easily go out afterward and get a good breakfast from the dorms or anywhere else, but that has been exactly the type of attitude the players have had in recent years. Instead of working hard, they think they can just get whatever they want another way. If the players are truly buying in, then they’ll work harder to walk the red carpet and get served Gatorade. It’s the little things that will add up.

For a team lacking leadership the last half-decade or so, we can only hope one emerges. Will it be Breckyn Hager? Jefferson? John Burt? Kris Boyd? Maybe a freshman early-enrollee?

At this point, it doesn’t matter who the guy is. If everyone truly is working with a clean slate, then classification shouldn’t matter. The number of stars in high school shouldn’t matter. And the minutes played in college up to this point shouldn’t matter.

In theory, Herman shouldn’t have to watch film of his new team to find out who his leaders are. If he does, he will likely learn there wasn’t one last year.

I have no doubt we will hear about a handful of players stepping up this winter and spring and inserting themselves into the leadership role. I won’t buy it until I see it happening on the field and on the sideline.

The media has to write stories, so they are going to run with whatever they hear during the offseason. And for a fan base itching to get back to winning, we will clamor on to any positivity we can.

Unfortunately, the players clamor onto it as well and believe it themselves. That’s where the main problem has been. When they read a story about themselves online, they believe it as being true and don’t think they have to continue working.

Unless Herman can find his leader in February, there won’t be one again in September. And if he doesn’t discover his leader until August or September, Texas will be in big trouble on the field yet again.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

The Good, Bad and Ugly for Texas Football in 2016

Believe it or not, there actually were some good things that happened in the Texas football program in 2016. But let’s face it, there were a lot more bad and ugly things to make last year forgettable.

I’m all for looking to the future, but I think we have to acknowledge what has happened in the past before we can appreciate what could happen in 2017.

As hard as it may be to read, here are some of the good, bad and ugly things that happened with Texas football in 2016.

Good

Signed a Top-11 Recruiting Class

Following a 5-7 season in 2015, Charlie Strong didn’t slow down on the recruiting trail. After making some national noise on signing day in February, the Longhorns had all the momentum they could ask for after a putrid season. This could arguably be the best class Strong signed at Texas and we will be hearing those names called early and often in the future.

Freshman QB Won the Job and Played Well

Shane Buechele took the reigns from Tyrone Swoopes and never looked back. Longhorns fans needed something to be excited about and they got it with Buechele. For a freshman quarterback on a bad team, Buechele was one of the few bright spots in 2016.

Win Against Notre Dame

Texas is back? Not so fast, my friend! I didn’t think Texas was back after that game and was proven to be correct. However, that doesn’t take away from the excitement and thrill of the double-overtime victory over the Fighting Irish. In a season of forgettable moments, Texas fans will remember that game for a long time.

D’Onta Foreman

Foreman had a record-setting season for a Texas running back, highlighted by 11 straight 100-yard rushing games and surpassing 2,000 total rushing yards. Without Foreman, this team may have only won three games. Texas hasn’t had a reliable running back since Jamaal Charles back in 2007, but Foreman etched his name on the list of elite Texas running backs in 2016.

Bad

Unnecessary Quarterback Drama

Buechele was a bright spot at quarterback, but how the situation was handled publicly was just bad. Strong seemed to enjoy stringing Texas fans along for some sick reason, but the quarterback drama was unnecessary. It was clear in the spring who the quarterback was going to be.

Kent Perkins’ DWI Arrest

Perkins fell asleep in the drive-thru line at a fast-food restaurant. An officer woke him up, he drove off and crashed his car about 10 seconds later. Yeah, that happened.

Bedford Demoted

Defense was terrible most of the season, but especially when Vance Bedford was calling the shots. Strong eventually had to demote Bedford after a terrible performance against Oklahoma State the fourth games of the season. It was a decision that should have been made much earlier, but with the way Strong handled decisions like that during his tenure, it’s not surprising it took so long.

Sophomore Slumps

The best players on the team were supposed to be sophomores in 2016. Instead, the team was filled with talented sophomores all going through slumps at the same time. It’s not uncommon for college athletes to hit their sophomore slump, but man, almost every Texas sophomore went through it. Brutal, just brutal.

Ugly

Kansas

Enough said.

Gilberts Digression Calling Plays

Sterlin Gilbert looked like a genius the first half of the season. But then it seemed like the only plays he called were runs up the middle by Foreman and quick out passes for Buechele. Gilbert left a lot to be desired with the amount of talent he had to work with.

Media Circus Around Strong’s Firing

Strong got fired after Kansas. No he didn’t. Wait, yes he did, but UT doesn’t want to announce it yet. Now they’re giving him the option of when he wants to be fired. But he could save his job with a win over TCU. The players may boycott the TCU game because of the rumors. OK, Strong convinced them to play the game. But they arguably still didn’t show up. Now Strong is really fired.

See what I mean? An absolute circus caused by a certain regent who feels the need to leak information to the media to get his way. And it does nothing but embarrass the program along the way. Thankfully the TCU game ended the way it did so there was no doubt as to what had to happen after 5-7.

So there you have it. The 2016 Longhorns football program in a nutshell. I apologize to the Longhorns fans who read this and cringed at the painful memories. But if it’s any consolation, just think about how difficult it was to write!

Here’s to a completely forgettable 2016 and to a 2017 that really can’t get any worse!

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo Credit: Ramdlon, Pixabay

Steady Progression Will Keep The Wolves Away From Charlie Strong

What we saw in Lubbock from the Longhorns on Saturday was a team finally backing up its words about playing for its head coach. No one is going to brag about a win over a below-average Texas Tech team, but this one definitely had a different feel to it.

Texas is notoriously bad on the road under Charlie Strong, but it found a way to walk out with a win in this one. It was clear Strong had a solid game plan entering the game, and it was executed about as good as you can do it against the top offense in the country. Both points I just made there are pretty shocking when you’ve watched this team play this year.

This game marks one of the first times I’ve seen progression from this team all year. Even with the win over Baylor last week, it didn’t feel like the team took a huge step forward because of all the mistakes. There were still plenty of mistakes made against Tech, but the difference is the players finally overcame them in a venue other than DKR.

Winning on the road is a sign of progress for Strong. The big money donors are looking for any reason to get rid of Strong at the end of the season, but he’s helped his case tremendously over the last two weeks.

Still, this team is far from perfect. There were so many frustrating and inexplicable calls and mistakes against Tech that just had me scratching my head. In fact, I thought probably a handful of times throughout the game that this was the moment that would turn the game and they would blow it. But it didn’t happen.

Progress.

I wrote previously that Texas fans need to accept the performance they will get from a Charlie Strong coached football team. This was not one of those games. It would be nice to have to accept performances like the one against Tech, but the team isn’t quite there yet.

Now that there is some positive mojo in and around the program, it seems like the wolves are backing off of Strong a little bit. We are at a point now where he could legitimately save his job. That seemed like a completely impossible scenario just two weeks ago. With home games against West Virginia and TCU, and a road game against Kansas, left on the schedule, Strong has a shot to make a big statement and silence the wolves completely.

The Longhorns play well at home, so they have the advantage against the two toughest opponents remaining on their schedule. Winning two out of the last three games isn’t unreasonable, but the fire the team has played with recently can’t go away.

And speaking of fire, this seems like a good time to mention the Heisman-worthy performances that D’Onta Foreman has been putting up virtually all season. He rushed for 341 yards against Texas Tech to make him the leading rusher in the NCAA this year (and he even missed one game). The Longhorns may save Strong’s job just by jumping on Foreman’s back and letting him take the game over every week.

However, this team still has a lot of growing up to do, from the players to the coaches. At this point in the season, the mistakes that are happening will likely continue. But the progress we’ve seen of being able to fight through those mistakes and come away with a win is pretty impressive considering the circumstances.

Now shouldn’t be a time to focus on correcting the mistakes and poor play calling at times. These last three games are all about continuing to build confidence in the young Longhorns. Just imagine how good the players will feel if their play on the field was a direct result in the decision to retain Strong for at least another year.

Taking a confident group into the offseason will help the maturation process and give the team a chance to fix mistakes that are easily correctable, for the most part.

The Longhorns have played with a newfound fire since the wolves have been out calling for Strong’s job. Now it’s time to see how they respond when people tell them how good they are. It hasn’t worked out well in the past, but the signs of progress are certainly encouraging for Texas fans.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

Sterlin Gilbert Is The Perfect Fit For Texas – Or Is He?

Charlie Strong is putting all of his chips in on new Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert turning his stagnant offense around. Now we will have to how serious Strong is about the transformation. 

I read an article recently that compared Gilbert to Jon Taffer from the TV show “Bar Rescue.” If you haven’t seen the show, it is basically about an entrepreneur that opened up a new bar business with high hopes, started failing, and then called Taffer to help save the bar and make it profitable again. The parallels to the Texas situation are scary similar. 

Like “Bar Rescue,” the Longhorns have struggled to succeed under head coach Charlie Strong. Some will argue that he’s been stubborn during his first two years and not backing down from the notion that defense will win the Big XII. The hiring of Gilbert shows that he’s willing to entertain the idea of changing his philosophy. But will he do it completely?

An offensive overhaul can’t happen overnight unless the conditions are perfect. The right coaches have to be in place, the practice methods have to be perfect and above all, the offensive coach has to be in control. That means Strong is going to have to take a step back on his defensive philosophy, as hard as it may be. 

Gilbert has the ability to turn the Longhorns around quickly on offense. I mean, we wouldn’t have seen the unprecedented event with the president, athletic director, head coach and position coach flying to Tulsa on a Friday evening during a big recruiting weekend if he wasn’t the guy they wanted. 

Strong needs to view Gilbert as a Jon Taffer. Put the pride and ego to the side and put your trust that he will get your problems fixed. Gilbert’s done it three other times at three different programs, so why try to fight it? Gilbert is the guy who will determine whether Strong’s tenure at Texas lasts any longer than 2016. 

Now what does Gilbert really have to work with?

Being a student of the Art Briles system, Gilbert runs the spread offense with an emphasis on the run game. He has to be salivating over the two-headed monster in the backfield with D’onta Foreman and Chris Warren that Texas has next year. However, he has a lot of work to do with his quarterback situation. 

It seems like there has been a quarterback controversy every season since Colt McCoy left in 2009. There’s no reason to believe that that won’t change for 2016. Many fans will assume that Jerrod Heard or Tyrone Swoopes will win the job in the offseason, but that may not be the case. 

Gilbert has already hit the recruiting trail to find a junior college quarterback that fits his system. He also has redshirt freshman Matthew Merrick waiting in the wings, along with true freshman Shane Buechele, who will be enrolling early. Arm strength and accuracy is critical in Gilbert’s offense. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being a battle between Merrick and Buechele because of that. 

Above all else, Gilbert has to have complete control of the offense. He was somewhat stubborn in the hiring process, because he wanted to see commitment from everyone, including all the way up to the president of the university. He got that. Now he’s got to see it in the meeting rooms and on the field. 

Strong has preached that he is building his program the right way, and that it will turn around. The problem is that as he enters year three at Texas, he has to completely tear it down and start from scratch. The only difference this time is that he has his own players that he recruited personally, and a coaching staff that he believes will make them elite again. He just has to follow through and allow the coaches to take the reigns in some aspects. 

If Strong doesn’t take a couple steps back like Gary Patterson did at TCU a couple years ago, then Texas will be a five or six win team again next year. That TCU team went from 4-8 and having one of the worst offenses in the country to being a 12-1 team that narrowly missed the College Football Playoff, and had one of the top offenses in the country. 

If Strong doesn’t take that to heart, and if he doesn’t follow the advice of his very own version of Jon Taffer, then he and Texas will fail again.