FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Texas has gone from compliant to committed under coach Tom Herman, and is winning again.
When Herman appeared at Big 12 media days for the first time last summer, the Longhorns were coming off three consecutive losing seasons and he had yet to coach a game in Austin.
“We had a lot of compliant guys, ‘yes sir’ and nod your head and do what you’re asked to do,” Herman said Tuesday in his return to the media days. “But I don’t know that really deep down (they) believed in their core that the way that we’re doing things is the only way that you can win championships.”
The Longhorns didn’t win a championship in Herman’s first season, but they finished 7-6 after a 33-16 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
“Without a doubt in my mind, the belief in that locker room is there,” Herman said of the change.
While Big 12 preseason favorite Oklahoma has been to the College Football Playoff twice in the last three years, Texas is still the league’s last national champion — 13 seasons ago with quarterback Vince Young.
Only Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU were picked ahead of the Longhorns in the preseason media poll . The Sooners and West Virginia play the day after Thanksgiving in Morgantown, a regular season finale that would be a preview of the Big 12 championship the following week if the preseason predictions pan out.
“Don’t know, never done it, and not going to think about it,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said when asked about possibility playing Oklahoma in consecutive weeks. “We’ve got to play Tennessee. That’s our first game.”
Texas and West Virginia are the only Big 12 teams with two non-conference games against Power Five teams. The Longhorns open at Maryland and also host USC, while WVU plays the Volunteers on the opening weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, and later goes to North Carolina State.
The Mountaineers are going into their seventh Big 12 season, and are 27-27 in conference games since moving from the Big East.
With preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year Will Grier at quarterback and top receiver David Sills V also back, West Virginia is now considered one of the league’s favorites. Holgorsen knows that will lead to plenty of questions about handling expectations.
“We welcome expectations. Heck, you want ’em to talk about you,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t care where you’re picked. Doesn’t matter, there’s pressure everywhere, pressure to live up to the expectations or pressure to create expectations, and I think our guys are old. I think our coaching staff has tremendous continuity, been around.”
Grier, the former Florida quarterback, threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns at WVU before breaking the middle finger on his throwing hand when diving for the end zone in the 11th game last season. Sills had 60 catches for 980 yards and a nation-best 18 touchdowns.
Bill Snyder is going into his 27th season overall at Kansas State, and the 10th since his return after a three-year “retirement.” He will turn 79 in October.
“Am I surprised he’s still coaching? No, I’m not,” said Mike Gundy, the former Oklahoma State quarterback going into his 14th season as the Cowboys coach. “I will be surprised when he’s not coaching. … The everyday operation or game-day approach with his team is very similar to what it was when I competed against him as a player in 1989.”
Going into only his second season, Herman believes the culture he has tried to establish is already “fully ingrained” in the current players.
Herman, the offensive coordinator for Ohio State’s national championship team four years ago before two seasons as Houston’s head coach, expressed excitement about retaining all his staff, as well as the addition of a top recruiting class. There was also very limited roster attrition, and the Longhorns have two older quarterbacks with experience in Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele.
“We had a tremendous amount of growth last season,” Herman said. “Although our record was not up to the championship expectations that we have at the University of Texas. I think that anybody that has watched us play, anybody that’s been around our program, understands that we’re playing harder, we’re playing more physical, we’re playing more cohesive than our program has in quite some time.”
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