Tom Herman’s first opponent at Texas: National championship expectations

Photo credit: Max Olson, ESPN

There will be an endless stream of people to heap expectations on Texas head coach Tom Herman over the coming days, weeks, months and years, and the first was the man who had Herman’s job two days ago.

“This group of guys will win a national championship,” Charlie Strong said less than one week ago. “I stand by that statement.”

The next two people were the men who hired him. “We got our man,” Texas president Greg Fenves said Sunday evening. “And that man is the hottest coach in college football.”

“He is the real deal, the right choice, and a great choice for Texas.” Texas interim AD Mike Perrin said. “I believe he’s got the background and the experience to take this place where it ought to be.”

Of course, none of this was surprising to Herman. Those expectations are why he’s at Texas, and his answer to that specific question, the expectations question, was prepared a long time ago. Whereas Strong spoke often of the pressure he felt at Texas, Herman denies its existence.

“I think pressure is an uneasy feeling that you feel when you’re unprepared,” he said. “Pressure is self-inflected, self-doubt when you’re unprepared. We’re prepared for this job. We’re prepared for success at this job. We’re prepared for adversity at this job. I don’t feel any pressure.”

Herman either Gets It on an extreme level, or he successfully impersonates someone who does. With a coaching path that includes a GA stint at Texas, stops at Texas Lutheran, Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice before leaving for Iowa State, then Ohio State and then Houston, Herman’s travels — and the success that followed — uniquely prepared him for this job. He learned how to love players from David Bailiff — “In our program we spell love t-i-m-e” — and how to appreciate his job from Paul Rhoades, but what Herman builds at Texas will be a reflection of two men: Urban Meyer and Mack Brown.

“I went to head coaching school for three years (at Ohio State). There’s a thousand things I took away from Coach Meyer, but the biggest thing is the practice of alignment,” Herman said.” Our student-athletes are being bombarded with messages. When they walk in the building, every message that is thrust upon them, the expectations and the management of the program has to be aligned. From the assistant coaches, the strength staff, the training staff, the ADs, the academic people, the message has to be the same. It can’t be okay to show up two minutes late for a tutor but not be okay to show up two minutes late for a position meeting.”

While Herman learned alignment and pin-point psychology from Urban, he learned inclusion from Mack. And, to Mack Brown, inclusion means constant mentions and compliments of Texas high school coaches, like mentioning three high school coaches by name as Herman did Sunday. A few more examples:

  • “I also want the high school coaches of the great state of Texas to know that this is their football program.”
  • “It’s not even close anywhere else in the country how well coached these young men are and how important football is here. From someone who’s not from here, it might be an adjustment. I don’t think there’s much I would need to adjust to because I’ve been in this state for so long.”
  • “I think the biggest thing is how special the high school football is… It doesn’t get any better than this.”
  • “I’ve recruited this state for 20-some odd years. I’ve grown up with the high school coaches in this state.”

While Herman’s program is a reflection of his mentors, it’ll be an exact copy of the 22-4 program he ran at Houston.

“The formula, the blueprint, it always works as long as the people put in the necessary effort and energy,” Herman said. “If you recruit great players, which we are going to do at the University of Texas, if you execute that plan for the love of the guy next to you, we are going to win.”

Herman walks into a turn-key program at Texas, with one caveat: a group of players that expressed a fierce love for a coach that didn’t win enough to stay. Herman addressed that at his first team meeting.

“A lot of you were very close to Charlie and should’ve been,” he told his new players Sunday. “I told them that some of the things that we’ll do in our program are similar. But I also told them the definition of insanity is performing the same act, expecting different results.”

Herman promised a tough off-season, where love is bountiful but must first be earned. The end result will be a team tough enough mentally and physically to compete for championships. “Never once have I seen a coach hoist a championship trophy and say, ‘You know, we out-finessed them.’ That’s never happened.”

Herman needs to be that coach lifting that trophy and celebrating his team’s toughness, and quickly. Either those expectations get met, or the Herman era at Texas will be a disappointment to all involved — including the coach he inherited the job from.

 

 

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.