On paper, Texas is having a great offseason.
A 38-10 beatdown of then-No. 11 Utah without a permanent defensive coordinator proved Texas’ potential, particularly when its players are put in positions to succeed and its coaches fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team.
Add on top of that another top-10 recruiting class for Texas head coach Tom Herman and two renowned coordinators in offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and defensive coordinator Chris Ash, and Texas appears to be on the right track to coming “back.”
But tap the brakes, Longhorn fans. Texas isn’t ready to be a national contender again — yet.
Now in his third year with the Longhorns, Herman has a well-established system. Players have developed a rapport with the coach once considered to be the next Urban Meyer. But Herman’s first three seasons haven’t exactly been Meyer-esque.
Sure, Texas has improved overall from the once-bleak Charlie Strong era and Herman hasn’t missed a bowl yet, but only the 2018 Sugar Bowl season has met the standards of the Longhorn faithful. Herman’s short tenure has been clouded with lingering questions of “Is Texas back yet?” and “When will it be back?”
The answer? We don’t know.
After last year’s 8–5 disappointment, Herman cleaned house. Seven new coaches were hired, spotlighted by the hiring of Yurcich and Ash, both of whom spent time at Ohio State. Both are remarkably well-received in the coaching community, even with Ash’s disastrous four-year stint as Rutgers’ head coach where he won eight total games.
But they don’t immediately make Texas a national contender.
Make no mistake, Herman has shined under the spotlight. His coaching performances against Oklahoma, Georgia and LSU prove what Texas can be at its best. Gut-wrenching losses against Maryland, Iowa State and TCU and numerous close calls prove what Texas is when the Longhorns assume they have the better team.
The solution? Herman should remove himself from game-planning and play-calling and take over the CEO role he’s clearly longed for.
Herman said during the coordinator search that he intended to hire a play-caller so he could resume the standard coaching responsibility of an on-field CEO.
Yurcich brings in a fresh and simplified offensive philosophy. He says play-calling at Texas is a responsibility he’s ready to step into.
“In my job, that’s a heck of a responsibility, but it’s something that gets me off,” Yurcich said.
Yurcich said they’re in the process of adding, tweaking and deleting plays leading up to spring ball.
“When you hire a new coordinator, they don’t just come in and dump a binder down on the desk and say, ‘This is my offense,’” Herman said. “There needs to be common beliefs.”
Defensively, Ash is pretty reserved about giving away his “schematic secrets,” though it is clear that Texas will switch to a four-man front in an attempt to strengthen its pass rush.
“It begins with getting pressure on the quarterback,” Ash said. “We want to be able to build a playoff-caliber defensive line.”
Ash walks into a comfortable situation at Texas — the defense is only losing three players from last year’s unit — and has mentored NFL defensive ends J.J. Watt and Joey Bosa during his stints at Wisconsin and Ohio State.
The defense should be better. The offense should be more consistent. But since Herman has yet to display that he can build a consistent contender for even a Big 12 Championship, expectations should be tempered.
No matter how strong the offseason, the recruiting class, the coaching hires, Herman still has everything to prove once Saturdays in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium roll around.