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How Tom Herman won the Texas spring practice press conference

tom herman texas business card

“I had a meeting with our coaches this morning and I said, ‘two things that we demand in this program, that we don’t coach, that we don’t teach, is effort and ball security.’ Everything else, don’t worry about it, we’ll fix it … if a guy doesn’t go hard, that’s hard to fix.” 

Tom Herman knew what he was doing on Monday as he entered his press conference to kick off his first spring practice with the Texas Longhorns. That quote was part of his brief two-minute opening statement before Herman went ahead and took questions.

Herman sat at the podium for nearly an hour and touched on several topics from effort, energy, personnel, to even taking a dig at the Austin media and fan base, saying, with a coy smile, “I know we get really excited about depth charts around here from what I’ve heard. The depth chart after the spring is not going to be miraculous.”

Just seconds later, before a reporter went to ask a question (I believe it was Chip Brown), Herman chimed in, “you got a haircut, looks good man.” 

It appears to be part of the game Tom Herman is hoping to play as the face of one of the biggest programs in all of college sports. Smart, critical, intense, funny, slighting, sarcastic, and positive … all wrapped in one.

Herman seemed tight at the start of the press conference, but he settled in quickly and nicely. His delivery was extremely confident and still somewhat casual as he embarks on the toughest test of his professional career: getting the Longhorns back to national relevancy. It’s been nearly a decade since Texas was a national powerhouse in college football and Herman is the latest coach to take on the challenge.

At the same time, he didn’t paint a totally rosy picture for the personnel he currently has, saying, “I think we gotta find some D linemen. I’m worried about that group through the winter offseason, it didn’t perform very well. I’m not sure about the types of bodies we have there, we have got to find some length. We gotta figure out if our running backs will run over somebody.” 

Herman later added, “the efforts of this group have not been to the requirements of this program.”  All in all, that was a subtle shot at Charlie Strong, who ironically was also brought in to improve the “effort” in the program after many felt the coaches and players became complacent under his predecessor Mack Brown.

The effort and intensity of this program continued to come up in conversation, and when pressed again as to what happens when those two things aren’t given, Herman quipped, “you see a 41-year-old guy with really bad knees chasing after people.”

There were no shortage of questions about his quarterback and Tom Herman made is very clear, Shane Buechele is not his incumbent starter. He has an open QB battle and will not have a starter named by the end of spring, instead saying his plan is to have a starting quarterback one week into training camp. Without even saying it, this statement tells me Herman is giving an edge, in his own mind, to Ehlinger. We know Herman likes a quarterback who can run, and Ehlinger has the wheels that Buechele just does not possess.

Herman went on to rave about defensive back P.J. Locke, but of course had to toss in, “I don’t know if he can play football”, but spoke highly about Locke’s leadership qualities. Herman said he called Locke’s parents to thank them for “sending us a wonderful human being.” 

Then, loosey-goosey, friendly, Herman showed up, when Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express was asking a question, Herman interrupted him, saying, “Is that Mike Finger? Congrats on your promotion.” 

I have no idea what that promotion was, but congrats from myself and all of us at Heartland College Sports, Mike. Well deserved and I enjoy your work.

Who knows how long this Tom Herman will last. If the Longhorns start off 1-2 with losses to Maryland and USC, maybe Herman won’t be giving a rip about columnists promotions and haircuts. But you have to give the guy credit for this: he’s trying.

Tom Herman hasn’t always been known as the friendliest or easiest to deal with. This dates back long before my run in with Herman, when he referred to me as “a guy with a smartphone in his hand and sources”. Last summer I reported someone from his camp had met with Baylor (which was later confirmed by other outlets). I’m past it and I was never upset with Herman for denying it. He should have denied it. But I stood by my report.

I had often heard from people around the Houston program that he was difficult at times, and some who worked for the football program made sure to keep at an arm’s length. True or not, winning cures everything. There’s a reason those kind of stories haven’t gained a ton of attention. Herman won as a coordinator at Ohio State. He won big time at Houston as the head coach.

If he can go on to win and bring the Texas Longhorns back to what the program was at the peak of the Mack Brown era, that is all that will matter. And if you’re a local reporter with a new haircut or a new suit, you’ll be more likely to get a shout out as well.

Beats the opposite. I would know, after all.

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