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Tom Herman came to Texas with some flare, which is something the Longhorns program lacked under Charlie Strong. Heading into this year (his third with Texas), the Longhorns were expecting to make the playoff. With Sam Ehlinger running the offense and a defense full of promising talent, Texas was ready. Things changed quickly with losses to Oklahoma and LSU, but is it time to question if Herman can get the job done? Similar to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, things are better in Austin under Herman, but not what fans expected.
Herman’s revival of the Texas Longhorns
Charlie Strong came to Austin after leading the Louisville Cardinals to a 12-1 season in 2013. Longhorns fans had high expectations for him when he stepped on to campus. A 16-21 record in three years, including 12-15 in the Big 12 led to Strong’s exit, and Texas found itself irrelevant in the college football world. In came Herman to save the day. Or so it seemed.
To start, Texas is in a much better place under Tom Herman than Charlie Strong. Herman’s gone 21-12, including 14-8 in Big 12 play, but they’re still not at the elite level that fans expect. In fact Herman hasn’t done much better than Strong against ranked competition. Strong’s teams went 5-10 against ranked opponents in his three years, and Herman’s currently sitting at 5-8. Strong also went 1-2 against Oklahoma and Herman’s 1-3.
Outside of the overall record and one Big 12 Championship Game appearance under Herman, Texas doesn’t appear much better with the new regime. They won’t have losing seasons, but they’re also not an elite team. With only one ranked team currently remaining on their schedule, we may not get to see how they respond the rest of the season against quality competition. It could also be the last year we watch their star quarterback play.
What’s next for Texas?
It’s easy to look at the number above and say that Texas isn’t much better under Herman, but watching them play proves otherwise. It’s also just the third season under this new coaching staff. They’ve produced a Top 3 recruiting class the last two years, but those players haven’t hit the field quite yet. Texas’ product on the field has vastly improved, even if they still need to take another step. Despite their two losses, they’re still in control of their own destiny. A rematch against Oklahoma is possible, and the Longhorns know they can compete with the Sooners. It just might be another year before they’re officially ready to be an elite team.
Overall, this program’s headed in the right direction, and next year has the potential to be big. Sam Ehlinger can return for his senior season, and Herman’s first recruiting classes can make an impact. As it sits right now, the Longhorns could expect 15 starters to return in 2020, including their quarterback. Early departures can change that, but that’s a promising number. Ehlinger’s already one of the best quarterbacks in college football, and has improved as a passer. Another year with him at quarterback only means good things for the Longhorns. An experienced group of Herman’s guys puts Texas in great position for a title run.
The next step
Right now, Texas can compete with the best teams, but they can’t beat them consistently. Oklahoma will always be the team to beat for the Longhorns, but they must show they can flip the script on the Sooners. They’re headed in the right direction, but we need to see a definitive change. Herman and his staff are doing everything right by bringing in the talent to Austin, and now they just need to produce on the field. If they’re able to become an elite team, ‘Texas is back’ takes on a terrifying new meaning.