Many Texas fans were irate throughout the year, at the ineffectiveness of the Texas offense. You may be one of those fans, fans who were marketed the idea that an offensive genius was coming to Texas, a ‘Mastermind’ if you will. Well, how do you like that idea now? Well, if you’re like me, you laugh a little and look to see if there’s a viable path forward. There are those of you that wish for a scorched earth policy and that’s understandable. When the offense performs worse than the previous worst offense in your recent memory, it bothers you. Couple that with the idea that Tom Herman is an offensive football genius and you’re likely to be triggered, and bad! Where do you place the blame? It’s my opinion that it starts at the top. This is Tom’s scheme and his staff was hand-picked by him to install and call the offense because of their past experience with it. He’s also likely the ‘first pass’ when it comes to quality control. If you want the offense gone, you must consider eliminating more or most of Tom’s influence on that side of the ball. So I ask you, how likely that is to happen?
Moving on, let’s assume Tom plans to keep everyone for now. Per their titles, the offense is compartmentalized in the following way.
The Overseer – This is ‘Mastermind’ Tom Herman’s role. The offensive system is his and the assistants are administrators of the system. It’s Tom’s job to oversee that the offense is installed and coached correctly, both scheme and technique.
Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks – This is Beck’s role, he sees to it that the system is properly installed, coached, and adhered to with particular attention to the quarterback position and (likely), the passing game. His charges turned in the following performances.
Ehlinger: 1,803 Yards, 10 TD, 56.5%, 6.9 YPA, 7 INT
Buechele: 1350 Yards, 6 TD, 65.8%, 6.8 YPA, 4 INT
Let’s be honest, neither option was going to light-up the scoreboard. For contrast, let’s take a look at the 2016 season.
Buechele: 2,958 Yards, 21 TD, 60.4%, 11 INT
That is staggering, especially when you consider the Texas run game produced a Doak Walker Award recipient, running back, D’Onta Foreman, and you wonder why Daddy Foreman hates on Tom? Certainly, the quarterbacks and passing game gets ‘dinged’ for sub-par performance, but let me tell you, that wasn’t the worst part about the offense, what!?
Pass Game (Beck & Mehringer) This was frustrating because you’re used to seeing aggressive attack-minded offenses throughout the league. Even the worst teams are trying to ‘gut’ defenses. Though Herman’s system is a spread system, it is much more ball-control oriented. Now that’s not entirely a bad thing. Where it should concern you is if and when this team is ready to compete for conference titles. More points will need to be scored to secure top spots in league and national standings, as Texas often plays a competitive out of conference schedule as well.
Receivers – Drew Mehringer is the ex-Rutgers offensive coordinator and left for the Texas Wide Receivers Coach job. How do you think he did up in Jersey? For those ‘Urban didn’t want Beck’ narrative barkers, Mehringer makes two coaches other programs are ‘better off without’, no? I digress. I won’t go into specific players, as it’s a longish list, but instead I’ll give you my impression of the unit.
Leaders – Collin Johnson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, and, wait for it, Chris Warren.
These shouldn’t surprise you except for Warren, who nearly led the team in rushing and finished with the 4th most receiving yards, and he’s leaving (LOL). Who you don’t see on the list is unfortunate, talents the likes of Foreman, Duvernay, Heard, and Burt.
Blocking – I thought fans would see a huge upgrade here and while the perimeter screens were successful, the blocking never reached dominant levels. That’s tough considering the size of the Texas receivers, Johnson and Humphrey.
Routes – This was often most upsetting. Many of the concepts built into Herman’s system mimic stems of common run and screen schemes. You often saw route stems begin with a job, then sloppily work against leverage. Then, you also have the inability to separate at the top of routes, a big problem. That coupled with a lack of aggression spelled trouble, especially for a team continually failing to produce a run threat.
Run Game & Backs – Stan Drayton is the Associate Head Coach, Run Game Coordinator, and Running Backs Coach, that’s a long name tag. Tom brought Stan in from the NFL’s Chicago Bears. It’s hard to know exactly how Stan impacts the offense, scheme-wise, but you definitely know he coaches the backs. That said, if you’re going by the title of Run Game Coordinator, guess what? You’re going to be the target of criticism if the run game is bad. Of course, this ties into the offensive line and we’ll get there. The Texas backs turned in the following performances.
Sam Ehlinger: 364 Yards, 3.5 YPC, 2 TD
Daniel Young: 325 Yards, 4.7 YPC, 3 TD
Chris Warren: 314 Yards, 4.4 YPC, 8 TD
Toneil Carter: 252 Yards, 4.8 YPC, 4 TD
Kyle Porter: 231 Yards, 3.2 YPC, 5 TD
The staff wants ‘balance’, no doubt. The problem in 2017 was that neither the run game nor the pass game was a strength. It’s my opinion that the run game hindered the offense the most, making it very difficult for either quarterback. That point can be discussed more in the future, as I’d rather avoid a quarterback debate here and now. Looking ahead, Stan Drayton will be someone to keep an eye on, as his run game is under serious scrutiny. That leads me to a related issue, next, offensive line.
Big Pretties – The Offensive Line Coach is Derek Warehime. He is also under serious scrutiny. Has it been his ‘luck’ or something baked into the cake that Derek’s had to deal with numerous injuries to his unit at two places now? That, you cannot know. What you can know is that one significant injury severely compromised the unit and after a certain player’s return, not much was gained from it. Between Drayton and Warehim, the run game afforded the offense little in the way of efficiency and that has ‘downstream’ effects on pass game. Herman’s system is a spread to run system and the run game was an utter failure. Will the trend of injuries continue for Warehime. Will the trend of inconsistent blocking continue with future units? We’ll have to wait and see what happens here.
Now, how would you rank each coach’s failure? You and I may disagree and I’ll do my best to justify my perspective. The following is how I see it and I’m going to exclude Tom because there is zero chance he goes anywhere as a result of mass failure, though he’s the man at the top, it’s his offense, his vision, and his coaching picks.
Warehime & Drayton – The fact that this team lacked any run game efficiency whatsoever harmed the team the most. Injuries matter, yes. You also saw more experienced players struggle with basic blocking assignments. Where it all intersected is hard to know, how much was personnel, scheme, or technique-related. The bottom line, the staff managed to take experienced players and oversaw their regression, bad. That left the offense relying on young players, a situation where the solution was part of the problem. Suffice to say, it’s my opinion that these particular coaches and position groups failed hardest. This will be a very important area for Tom to evaluate and to keep an eye on heading into next year. Will there be changes?
Beck & Mehringer – Again, it’s difficult to know who bore the most responsibility for the pass game, Beck or Mehringer. My interpretation, the staff was unwilling and or uncomfortable with shifting the offense to a spread passing attack. Add that to the failings of the offensive line and run game, and you have a toxic situation. I mentioned the receiving unit’s shortcomings above. I also mentioned some of the scheming issues as well. If you don’t like Beck, it stands to reason you don’t like Mehringer either. Where I feel Beck is more ‘valuable’ to the program is in recruiting quarterbacks, that trumps Mehringer’s current position. I’m curious if Tom chooses to make any changes here, more specific, if he seeks outside help in the form of a new pass game coordinator and receivers coach. Whether one is brought in to help Tom and Tim or take over for Tim is a good question. Will there be any changes to the staff? We’d all love to know.
There’s a good chance the entire staff remains. Clearly, the new schemes took the biggest toll on a previously productive offense. That goes along with another coaching change and another ‘wasted’ championship-caliber defense, sad. What adjustments Tom makes to the staff or the overall approach will be interesting to see. I do think it’s important to maintain the current basic framework in hope that execution improves, but again, all that remains to be seen. This staff doesn’t strike me, few do, as a staff that’s stopped learning. Hopefully they take a hard look at their contributions, players included, and provide both immediate and future solutions. That’s all I have today. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.