“Is Texas back?”
That vague question has seemed to drive much of the discussion around college football for several years now. Even after seeing their Red River rivals win Heisman Trophies and make the College Football Playoff, the Longhorns remain one of the focal points of the sport.
This is not lost on head coach Tom Herman, who he says was tasked to “rebuild a program.” Going into his third season in Austin, Herman feels good about where the Longhorn football program has come so far in his short tenure.
“We’re probably a bit ahead of schedule to be honest with you, in terms of getting us back to consistently being where we expect Texas to be,” Herman explained at this year’s Big 12 Media Days. “But I do think there is an element of patience.”
The Longhorns’ explosive offense and talented defense from last season finished 10-4 (7-2 Big 12) with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, which was a step up from the 7-6 campaign the previous year. With key returners like quarterback Sam Ehlinger set to hit the field again, Herman hopes they can build on what they accomplished in 2018.
While the Longhorns have run a spread offense in recent years, Herman says they will run more of a “pro spread” scheme in the coming season. As opposed to other spread offenses which prioritize the passing game, Herman says they will utilize the mobile Ehlinger and their running backs to build a strong running game.
“We want to be a power running team, and we’re slowly building that,” Herman said.
Ehlinger is the marquee name for the Longhorns this year after his breakout 2018. After he beat out Shane Buechele in a 2017 position battle, Ehlinger scored 41 total touchdowns last season en route to a Sugar Bowl MVP. He is the preseason pick for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and is considered one of the contenders for this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Coach Herman says the successes of the year prior have made it easier for Ehlinger to motivate for this season.
“For this past season, to have those tangible results…definitely makes the ability for a young man to buy in much easier,” Herman said.