Enthusiasm is high for the start of the Tom Herman era, but will there be wins?
When it comes to coaching pedigree, it’s easy to see why new head coach Tom Herman has Texas fans so excited about the program’s future. An Urban Meyer disciple who made a big splash in two years at Houston sounds like the kind of guy to lead the Longhorns out of the doldrums that have plagued them for the better part of a decade.
That doesn’t guarantee success in the short run, of course. A bridge year in Austin shouldn’t shock anyone.
So, will Herman hit the ground running, or will he stumble out of the gate? Athlon Sports polled a few writers to get their take on Texas’ realistic 2017 win/loss projection.
Texas Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism)
Herman inherited a squad that is probably in worse shape than most people around Austin would care to admit. Defensively, Texas fell off a cliff in Charlie Strong’s final two years. The offense was more hit than miss for three years, and now the players are essentially learning their fourth scheme in four years.
Overall, the roster has some nice pieces to it, but the signs all point to a rocky first year for Herman.
A three-week stretch of Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State doesn’t help, although none of those three is being played on the opposing team’s home field. A road trip to USC also raises UT’s degree of difficulty significantly.
Herman proved at Houston that he can round a team into shape in a hurry, as the Cougars went 13-1 in his first season on the job. To have anything resembling that kind of immediate success at Texas, he has to figure out how his preferred offensive scheme fits around quarterback Shane Buechele. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has to clean up rampant sloppiness on his side of the ball while acclimating his players to a new scheme.
Put it all together, and this starts to sound like a season in which the ‘Horns will show promise and confusion in equal measure. For Herman, building for the future will likely be his top priority.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Longhorns are an interesting team to watch in 2017. There’s no doubt Texas has more talent in the program than the three consecutive losing records would suggest, and new coach Tom Herman was the top hire this offseason. Herman’s impact should be felt right away on an offense that finished sixth in the Big 12 in scoring last fall. Quarterback Shane Buechele is a rising star, and the Longhorns own one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines. New coordinator Todd Orlando should provide an instant spark for a defense that surrendered 31.5 points per game last fall. With Oklahoma State and Kansas State visiting Austin, there’s a path to finish second in the Big 12. However, road games at TCU and West Virginia won’t be easy.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Charlie Strong had high hopes for the Longhorns in 2017, forecasting a massive jump in the Big 12 standings given what the cupboard was stocked with. Unfortunately for Strong, he won't be around Austin to see that jump but the flip side for Texas fans is that Tom Herman is the new head coach. The staff changeover is one reason to be optimistic about this team and it's not hard to see UT building toward being back in the national consciousness (in a good way this time) late this season. I'd expect a big jump defensively for a team that has struggled on that side of the ball and the offense will be tougher mentally and physically than it has been in a decade. UT isn't quite ready to break into the upper echelon of the conference just yet but the Horns will be a tick behind the Oklahoma schools and still manage to get back on track in a big way this season.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Tom Herman will get Texas to play better, but there is still some room for catching up to the top Big 12 contenders. The Longhorns will give USC a good battle in the Coliseum and learn some valuable lessons in the loss that will pay off down the line, like when Texas pulls an upset at home against Oklahoma State a week after losing to the rival Sooners. Games against TCU and West Virginia will be toss-ups, but the Longhorns will start to look like a program that is ready to go somewhere by the end of the year. Good times are coming back to Texas soon, and the glimmer of hope will be seen this fall in Austin.
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
Tom Herman is a great coach, but he inherits a relatively bare cupboard in terms of talent. He faces arguably more of an uphill battle personnel-wise than Charlie Strong did in terms of getting the Longhorns back to relevance. Although there is some experience at the skill positions and at linebacker, this team is in trouble in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Texas will be a better football team than last year just based on coaching alone, but the record is not likely to reflect a vast improvement.