Herman 1Big 12 Media Days College Featured Football 

Changing the culture in all aspects is the key for the Longhorns

New Texas head coach Tom Herman gave Longhorns fans some hope July 18 when he began the second day of Big 12 Media Days.

Herman was asked to compare his time at Texas when he was graduate assistant about two decades ago to where the program is today.

“I think they’re very comparable,” he said.

He noted that when Mack Brown took over at Texas, the program was coming off a losing season in 1997. But the Longhorns had won the Big 12 in 1996 after winning the Southwest Conference in 1995.

In addition, Brown signed the No. 1 offensive and defensive players in his first recruiting class for Texas. Those players were quarterback Chris Sims and defensive lineman Cory Redding, who headlined the nation’s top class recruiting class.

It also helped that Texas was building the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center at about the same time. It was considered state of the art in the late 1990s, Herman said.

This spring the university has been renovating the locker rooms, has been using advanced head gear to examine the head, and other advances in technology that has caught the eyes of recruits.

“So I think there are some parallels,” Herman said

But he was quick to point out one big difference. The recruits in the class of 2018 can only remember two winning seasons in Austin and four losing campaigns.

“So the Texas they know is a lot different than the Texas that people in my generation know,” the coach said. “So it’s our job to show them what Texas is capable of, what Texas has been in the past, and what we’re planning on being in the future.”

Herman was unsure why the program has struggled except maybe to point out changes in head coaches, sports administration and even in the university president’s office.

But one area he was confident about was at quarterback but perhaps not for what fans would think. Sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele won the quarterback competition at the Manning Passing Academy earlier this summer. But Herman said he didn’t put a lot of stock in what quarterbacks can do wearing T-shirts and shorts in controlled environment.

“Now with that being said, Shane has done a marvelous job of coming in this summer and really trying to be more of a leader,” the coach said. “We’ve challenged him, and I think it’s difficult because, A, he still sees himself as kind of the young kid. But, B, he’s a very humble, very mild mannered kind of guy.”

The biggest challenge Herman has issued to the quarterback? Continue to lead the culture of the team.

As for depth at the position, Herman said aside from Buechele and true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, there really isn’t any. There’s walk-on Josh Covey, who is a good player and has turned some eyes, Herman said. But if the Longhorns need another quarterback, junior Jerod Heard will go from receiver to quarterback. Then coaches would figure things out for the next game, Herman said.

The coach couldn’t be prouder the players and their buy-in of what the staff wants, noting strength-and-conditioning coach Yancy McKnight has developed players to where they look very different from their appearance months ago.

“Our guys, when they go home now, there’s a lot of people who say, ‘Man, I don’t even recognize you,'” the coach said. “Our guys are very confident, and coach McKnight trains them physically and mentally every single day in perfect alignment for what we want to accomplish throughout the season.”

Only three current Longhorns have been on a winning team in Austin, Herman said, including senior linebacker Naashon Hughes, who was a redshirt freshman in 2013 when Texas went 8-5 in Brown’s final year.

So Herman’s challenge also includes teaching the players how to win. The key is to have tangible rewards for winning and consequences for losing in competitions that are set every day. Those include academics and athletics, Herman said.

The rewards are omelets, steak dinners, sports drinks and other items players want. The consequences are burnt biscuits, watered eggs, hot dogs, water from a hose, and other items that aren’t desirable.

“I think losing has to be awful, and you can never get used to losing,” he said. “That is one of the biggest maybe downfalls of a lot of teams is you get used to losing. No, losing is awful. No, this is the sky-is-falling-type stuff.

“So every time we have a competitive situation, we’re going to make sure the people who don’t win in that competitive situation, that they feel awful about it and that it’s not funny and it’s not hokey or corny, that it’s really, really bad for them to lose,” he added. “(It’s also) very, very cool for the guys that win and very rewarding for the guys that win.”

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