When Tom Herman uttered the four words that were pure music to Longhorn ears — “We will win championships” — a question popped into my head.
Actually, it’s a question I’ve been thinking about for quite some time given the struggles of former Texas tackle football coach Charlie Strong:
Is Chuck about to get Gruden-ed?
Many of you know Jon Gruden as the Chucky lookalike who has analyzed Monday night NFL games on ESPN since 2009, but some of us also know him as a very good pro football coach who coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl XXXVII win over the Oakland Raiders. Gruden inherited a defense that housed future Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks and All-Pro safety John Lynch, as well as Pro Bowlers Keyshawn Johnson, Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott and Brad Johnson on offense.
Dungy constructed many pieces of the puzzle but wasn’t around for the franchise’s best moment.
As it applies to Texas, Strong has quite possibly put together the best roster of young talent in the country but unlike Dungy, he never won here. The point is Herman is likely to enjoy some success with players Strong brought in and Charlie will share in some of that credit. With that said, the current roster isn’t equipped to go special places just yet.
He’s at least two years away from the top five and most of that centers around if he’s able to get more production at the quarterback position. Texas doesn’t have a Greg Ward, Jr. on its roster even though converted wideout Jerrod Heard has a similar athletic skill set to the current Houston QB.
Herman has some pieces, but he will need more to move into serious title contention.
Herman has already talked about hitting the recruiting trail and the two decades of experience in Texas towns will serve him well. However, his first recruiting pitch should be similar to the one Mack Brown made to Ricky Williams when he took the Texas job in 1988. Mack convinced Williams to not turn pro a year early and the result was a Heisman Trophy and the beginning of a sustained run of success under Brown.
Herman will have a tougher time convincing national rushing leader D’Onta Foreman to return for his senior year, especially since Foreman told us after the TCU game that a lot of his decision would depend on if Strong would be back for a fourth year.
Aside from fumbling too much — something that’s easily corrected with ball placement —Foreman is NFL ready. A running back only has so many carries in his body before it all starts to go south physically. Just ask NFL legends like Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, and Marshall Faulk who experienced a decline in production around age 30.
Foreman will be 21 by the start of the 2017 season. This won’t play with my target audience but I would advise him to begin his professional career now. He likely won’t land in the first round in a deep NFL draft but why carry the ball another 323 times next season and not get paid for it?
NFLDraftScout.com has Foreman ranked seventh among running backs in a deep class that includes LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s Christina McCaffrey, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, and Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine.
After becoming the second Longhorn to rush for over 2,000 yards, it’s time to go get his money. Foreman has nothing left to prove on the collegiate level. A Heisman trophy is possible in 2017 but is it worth the risk when he’s already projected to go in the top three rounds?
NFL money isn’t forever money.
While the Horns struggled in the win-loss column, they dominated in the area of quarterback sacks which should continue if history means anything. The Houston Chronicle reported that Herman is bringing his Houston assistant Oscar Giles with him which should warm the hearts of Texas fans who remember his contributions on the field as a player on the sidelines as a defensive ends coach during Mack Brown’s most successful seasons.
Giles was a grad assistant with Herman at Texas in 1999 before moving on to SMU. He then went to Houston before spending nine seasons at Texas where he tutored some great pass rushers like Brian Orakpo, Sergio Kindle, Tim Crowder, Brian Robison, Lamarr Houston, Jackson Jeffcoat, and Alex Okafor. All eventually played in the NFL and four — Orakpo, Robison, Houston, and Okafor — are still active.
Only five teams in the FBS had more than the 41 sacks Texas posted in the regular season and 33.5 of those sacks came from non-seniors. Of those, 28.5 came from a lineman or linebacker. Giles will have plenty of talent at his disposal and history suggests the sacks will keep on coming.