With another near .500 season on the horizon, it is not difficult to see why some Texas fans have become mildly exasperated with the on field results in 2017, especially when it comes to the Longhorn offense. Injuries have left the OL unit depleted, and head coach Tom Herman, offensive coordinator Tim Beck, and offensive line coach Derek Warehime have the unenviable task each week of trying to coax a functional offense out of the personnel they have available to them.
Coaches try to deal with present problems like who can effectively play at left tackle, right tackle, and center during the season, but major, long-term fixes are tough to come by in between weeks 10 and 11.
“Fixing the problem is probably a very tall order to expect in three weeks,” Herman said on Monday. “(True freshman OL) Derek Kerstetter is not going to gain 20 pounds in the next three weeks. All of the issues aren’t going to be solved. They are going to be solved through Bowl practices and with an off-season and spring football and all of that.”
While it makes sense that the long term issues plaguing Texas, currently No. 53 in total offense, won’t be able to be addressed during the season, there are still fixes Herman and staff can make during the year.
It likely will not be widespread personnel changes, as Herman noted during his press conference, but rather a tweak in how the offense is set up to mask it’s current deficiencies.
“I think that comes in getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quicker,” Herman said. “It comes in not maybe asking our offensive linemen to block anybody one-on-one. It’s to try to set up as many double-teams as possible in the run game. I think getting the ball out on the perimeter and away from inside the box, those are all things just in specifics that we can do as coaches, continue to do.”
Some of these tweaks were seen in the offense that sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele operated against Baylor and TCU, with more quick passes and other plays that took some pressure off the offensive line. “You’ve got to take what the defense can give you,” Herman added.
With the disappointing offensive results, like the dreadful 0.3 yards per carry against TCU, there is legitimate reason to wonder if Herman will make changes in the coaching staff after the season. Moving wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer from on the field to in the box with Beck has not helped extinguish the thought that the younger Mansfield native has added input in the offense.
However, Herman made an interesting comment on Monday about play calling, describing it as “very collaborative.”
“I think most places I’ve been around and seen is that we have discussions in between series on ‘hey, what do you like? What’s good? What adjustments do we need to make,’” Herman said. “’Hey, if they’re in this, we want to run this. Or hey, they have been showing us a lot of this.’ The offensive line coach and the running back coach chime in. ‘Hey, the front is slamming to the tight end every time we’re in two-by-two. So, hey, Tim, you might want to think about this or that.’”
So far this season, this collaboration’s lone hit was a 50 point drubbing of San Jose State. Even though there have been so many problems this season and the offense has been markedly ineffective, Herman said he has no plans to remove anyone from his offensive staff, saying that he “100 percent” wants to stick with the same nine assistants after the season.
“We’re all going to be evaluated and coached,” Herman said. “It’s my job as the head coach to coach the assistants and provide them feedback as to areas I think they need to improve, provide them with support and praise in areas that I think they are strong at and allow them to continue to enhance their strengths. But that’s my job as the head coach is to coach the assistants.”
Herman explained the benefits of having continuity in the coaching staff, and the risks of being very quick in the hiring and firing of coaches. During his press conference, he explained how senior Naashon Hughes had 34 different assistants at Texas over the last five years. Herman contrasted this with Mack Brown’s first six seasons in which he had to make only three assistant coaching changes.
Herman admitted that there could come a time where he has to move on from a coach like how he might have to move on from a player in his program. However, he did not make it sound like that would be happening in the near future.
“I hired these guys knowing exactly what I was going to get, and we’ve all got to get better, especially on that side of the ball,” Herman said. “I have full confidence that we will.”