‘It’s good to be back’: Coach Tom Herman holds firm on Texas offensive playcalling duties

Ross Burkhart

Texas head coach Tom Herman’s opening remarks echoed sentiments of football fans across the country this week: “It’s good to be back.”

At Herman’s first weekly news conference of the regular season on Monday, the second-year Longhorn coach described the program’s atmosphere just as he has done since spring practice.

“This is an exciting time,” Herman said. “I haven’t had this much fun in a training camp in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with a group of guys. I don’t think I’ve been around a closer group of guys, either.”

In the 45-minute availability, Herman discussed the depth chart released by the program Monday, the deciding factor in the quarterback competition and much more.

Here are the biggest takeaways:

The “hardest decision” of Herman’s Longhorn coaching career

It’s been one week since Herman announced sophomore Sam Ehlinger as the starting quarterback for week one at Maryland. On Monday, the head coach elaborated on what went into the decision he made along with his staff.

However, it was primarily junior Shane Buechele — newly deemed QB2 — who dominated the quarterback discussion as Herman reiterated the choice was not an easy one.

“Shane made it very difficult to make the decision,” Herman said. “Probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make as a head coach.”

Earlier in the press conference, Herman testified to the level of preparation that Ehlinger has going into Saturday’s season opener while also mentioning the potential that Buechele likely will see on the field this year.

“We feel extremely good about our quarterback situation,” Herman said. “Sam has certainly embraced being the starting quarterback and has had a good week of practice. Shane Buechele, to his credit … what a team guy. He’s gone out and competed everyday. The odds and chances of his number being called at some point whether it be the first game, second game, whenever, that the odds are very high that his number is going to be called, and he’s going to be ready if his number is called.”

Playcalling by committee

As the Longhorns’ victory in the Texas Bowl faded from recent memory and the spring game approached, many fans began to ask who would handle the playcalling duties on offense after offensive coordinator Tim Beck was criticized throughout the majority of last season.

Herman didn’t provide much clarity on the situation, saying that the responsibilities won’t run through any particular coach.

“We’ll all be calling plays on offense,” Herman said. “It’s the same that went into the decision last year. Again, there is not a play that gets called or suggested that does not have veto power by the head football coach Tom Herman. So I will be in charge of making sure that the plays that are run are the plays that we feel as an offensive staff are the ones that will be the most successful in said situation.”

As for where the blame will lie when the Longhorn faithful comes unhinged at some point this season, Herman looked into the cameras filming the news conference and sent a message.

“Fans, the minute this offense gets a hangnail, blame me and the offensive staff,” Herman said.

The Maryland Investigation

While the investigation into the coaching staff at Maryland for the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair is still ongoing, Herman said the issue is something that hasn’t even been discussed with his players heading into this weekend’s matchup with the Terrapins.

“There has been zero talk about that in our program, other than the fact that you better be ready for a dogfight versus a really good Power Five opponent,” Herman said.

Last year’s brutal loss to Maryland in the season opener at home seemed to set the tone for the entire season as the team only managed to register a 6–6 record. That’s another reason why this team’s focus has been such an emphasis for Herman and the rest of his staff.

“This is a team in Maryland that they don’t think they can beat you,” Herman said. “They know they can beat you, because they have. There’s a lot of guys on that team at Maryland that know that they’ve beaten Texas.”