When new Texas football head coach Tom Herman gave his first press conference on January 5, he made twin declarations: he hadn’t watched any film from the Longhorns’ 2016 season (and didn’t intend to) and because of that notion, no one was guaranteed a starting job.
That Chris Warren III wouldn’t be necessarily inheriting the departed D’Onta Foreman’s starting position, or that Malik Jefferson could be usurped at linebacker was a shocking idea, but the idea is fundamentally Herman. He believes he has assembled the best staff in the country to help him determine which players will help win the Longhorns a championship, and he completely trusts his hires to make those decisions.
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who served in the same position under Herman at Houston, echoed Herman’s statement when asked about his linebacker core at a media availability Wednesday morning featuring the Texas defensive staff.
“The best three guys will play,” he said. “It was a little shuffle of the deck last year. We’re going to try to slow that down this year, and the best three guys will play.” Herman has mentioned before that his assistants have broken down tape from the previous season.
“At first, there was a little bit of animosity,” said recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington, regarding the lack of a depth chart for his position group. “But that’s with any new staff. Now they understand what it’s going to take to hopefully gain the starting spot.” Washington has a deep group of returning corners, including Kris Boyd, Davante Davis, John Bonney, and Holton Hill.
Defensive line coach Oscar Giles said that his position group hasn’t balked at fighting for their starting positions.
“These guys have been really receptive. There’s no complaints,” Giles said. “The guys are opening up their shirts and giving us their hearts. I’m going to see who is the best mixture and can do it on a continuous basis. I’m anxious to see how that turns out.”
After three straight losing seasons and giving up 40 or more points in four of its first five games last season, Orlando is determined to turn the maligned Texas defense around. The work they’ve done so far in both conditioning and meal planning, Orlando says, has been rigorous.
“There’s a certain way something needs to be done. The demands are extremely high around here,” Orlando said. “When we first started up two weeks ago, it was intense, but it’s getting better. The one thing Herm always talks about is the alignment.”
About 10 minutes later, Herman, posing as a reporter, pushed his iPhone in Orlando’s face, pretending to take a picture.
“Hey, what’s up boss?” Orlando said, clearly shocked.
“I’m just trying to make you uncomfortable,” Herman replied.
“You did,” Orlando said. “You certainly did. I thought someone was going to punch me in the face.”
It appears the coaching staff can still have some fun together despite the arduous task of rebuilding a Texas football team coming off the lowest winning percentage over a three-year span (.432) in the program’s history. As all the defensive coaches attested at Wednesday morning’s media availability, the relationships between the coaches are fundamental in turning the program around.
“Herm and I,” Orlando said at the beginning of his interview, “are one and the same. We believe in the same things. To me, when you have somebody who lets you be creative and believes the same things you do, you pop out of your car and you run into this building. That’s how I feel about him.”
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