People who are into these sorts of things will tell you that spring is the season of love. Texas coach Tom Herman would undoubtedly agree.
After this year’s Orange-White game in the spring, he was downright gushing about many topics, not the least of which was the state of his defense. He said he loved his front seven (linemen and linebackers) in particular, and with Todd Orlando and his jaw line still controlling that side of the ball, the entire defense has high expectations.
People now expect the Texas defense that was seen late in 2017, not the one that gave up a half-a-hundred to the Maryland Terrapins in the opener.
Those lofty expectations come despite some rather significant pieces missing from last year’s team that by the end of the year had been the best and brightest aspect of the bowl-bound Longhorns (Michael Dickson notwithstanding).
A month ago, the National Football League scooped up a wide swath worth of Texas defenders: Poona Ford, Malik Jefferson, Antwuan Davis, Jason Hall, Holton Hill, Naashon Hughes and DeShon Elliott are now in the “business” of football and are no longer wrecking havoc from Orlando’s toolbox.
But further evaluation reveals perhaps the REAL reason Herman is so optimistic about his defense. One look at the Big 12’s list of likely starting quarterbacks, and it’s clear that Herman might very well be spewing verbal rainbows and sunshine because he can see that the league is chock-full of unproven signal callers.
Inexperienced quarterbacking from top to bottom in the league has to make Orlando maybe even happier than Herman.
Case in point: the Dallas Morning News recently listed its top Big 12 quarterbacks, and sitting atop the heap is Will Grier, who will be running the West Virginia offense. Number two? None other than Sam Ehlinger, who might very well also be the number two quarterback ON HIS OWN TEAM.
Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma? Gone, replaced by Kyler Murray, who has never been a collegiate starting quarterback but who is listed by the Morning News as the third-best QB in the league. Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State? Gone to Pittsburgh, where he will be picking up Ben Roethlisberger’s laundry this year while drawing a check from the Steelers.
Kenny Hill of TCU? Gone, replaced by Shawn Robinson. Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek? Gone.
All of which to say that, yes, Herman is impressed by a lot of his new faces he sees when he looks at his defense. But his optimism is also enhanced by an unproven group of Big 12 quarterbacks, a fact that bodes well for Year Two of the Herman Era in general and for the Texas defense in particular.
If Texas ends up with the second-best quarterback in the Big 12 this year, then 2018 is going to be a big year Longhorns.
Love is in the air.