AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — At his first team meeting, new Texas coach Tom Herman asked the room an easy but painful question: How many of his players been on a Longhorns team that had a winning record?
“Three hands went up,” Herman said Monday. “That’s a little bit shocking.”
It also explains exactly where the Texas program is these days and what kind of rebuilding job Herman faces. Texas’ last winning season was an 8-5 finish in 2013 that got Mack Brown fired. Since then, the Longhorns have only gotten worse, with three consecutive seven-loss seasons that led to the firing of Charlie Strong.
Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2009.
“I think our guys are embarrassed, and they understand that change is necessary in order to achieve some results,” Herman said.
Herman got a five-year contract worth a minimum of $25 million .
Turning Texas into a winner again starts Tuesday when the Longhorns begin 15 days of spring practice ahead of the season opener Sept. 2 against Maryland.
Some things to watch for this spring from the Longhorns:
Under normal circumstances, a returning starting quarterback who put up one of the best passing seasons in school history would seem a sure bet to remain No. 1. But Shane Buechele’s 5-7 record and Herman’s insistence that no job is safe puts even this position on edge. Freshman Sam Ehlinger, who Herman has described as an “alpha male,” is already enrolled and competing for the job.
This group took a beating on the field in 2016 and took another from Herman on Monday as he called them out for being “fat” and showing poor effort in off-season conditioning. The Longhorns return three linemen that had at least seven starts but the unit was regularly pushed around in one of the worst defensive season in program history.
“I’m worried about that group,” Herman said. “We’ve got some guys that are 360, 350 pounds. I don’t know how you move at that weight.”
The offense must replace 2,000-yard rusher D’Onta Foreman but it shouldn’t be hard. Chris Warren is a 255-pound bruiser who was splitting time with Foreman last season before a leg injury knocked him out after four games. Warren averaged 91 yards and 5.9 per carry when he played.
Herman said he told Warren: “You’re going to make a lot of money someday playing this position if you put your pads down and run through somebody.”
“I think our challenge to him is to prove that toughness and durability this spring,” Herman said.
Linebacker Malik Jefferson, perhaps the biggest recruit signed by Strong, had a big drop off his sophomore season and even got benched in key games late in the season. The Longhorns need Jefferson to be more physical and step back into a leadership role.
Herman needs to find a reliable kicker. Once a solid position for the program, some key misses in recent years had a huge impact. Junior college transfer Joshua Rowland made nine of 12 field goal attempts and 32 of 33 extra points last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.