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SOME TIDBITS ON COMPLETING HERMAN'S COACHING STAFF ...
Now that Tom Herman knows Major Applewhite is staying at Houston as the new head coach (more on that decision by UH in a minute), Herman now knows what holes he needs to fill on his staff - and they are all on offense.
Look for Todd Orlando to be the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach and for Craig Naivar to also make the move from Houston to Texas as the co-DC in charge of safeties. Oscar Giles will handle the defensive line. (Former Texas DL coach Brick Haley has landed at Missouri under Barry Odom.)
Jason Washington is expected to be the cornerbacks coach and will coordinate special teams with Herman.
On the offensive side of the ball, offensive line coach Derek Warehime is already hired - as is Corby Meekins, who coached fullbacks and tight ends last season at Houston. I'm hearing Meekins could coach a different position (maybe receivers) at Texas.
So, yet to be announced are:
- Offensive coordinator
- Tight ends or receivers coach
- Running backs coach (Kenneth Pope, who coached RBs at UH is expected to retire)
I was told the offensive coordinator will be someone who "runs what Herman runs."
Our OC and remaining position coach hot board includes:
- Ohio State OC Tim Beck, who succeeded Herman as Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator when Herman left for Houston after the 2014 national title season.
- Chicago Bears' RB coach Stan Drayton - coached running backs at Ohio State (2011-14), when Tom Herman was there, and helped develop RB Ezekiel Elliott. Drayton served two stints as Urban Meyer's RB coach at Florida - from 2005-07 (part of a national title winning staff in 2006) and again in 2010.
- Rutgers OC Drew Mehringer, who was receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Houston in 2015 under Herman. Could be a good candidate to coach WRs at Texas. (UPDATE 10:45 AM Dec. 11 - Appears Mehringer has been hired by Tom Herman to coach receivers at Texas, sources tell HornsDigest.)
- Utah State co-OC Luke Wells - was the receivers/TEs coach at Iowa State (2009-12) when Herman was at ISU as OC (2009-11) under Paul Rhoads. In 2013, Wells joined his brother, Matt Wells' staff at Utah State as co-offensive coordinator and helped oversee the prolific career of Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton (2013-15). Wells was a backup QB at Oklahoma from 1997-99 and started his coaching career as a GA at OU.
- Mississippi State co-OC Billy Gonzales - was with Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen at Florida as receivers coach (was part of two national titles in 2006 and 2008) before going to LSU with Les Miles as passing game coordinator/WR coach (and was part of LSU's 2011 run to the national title game). Joined Mullen's staff in 2013
- Mississippi State QB coach Brian Johnson - served as offensive coordinator for Kyle Wittingham at Utah in 2011 and 2012 (at the age of 24 and 25 - then the youngest OC in FBS), before joining Mullen at Hail State. Only 29, Johnson, a Baytown product, coached Dak Prescott in Prescott's final two seasons at Miss State as Prescott broke 38 school records.
- Florida State TE coach/recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster. Brewster is no stranger to Texas, having served as TE/recruiting coordinator under Mack Brown from 1998 through national signing day of 2002 (before joining the San Diego Chargers' staff), helping to deliver many of UT's legendary 2002 recruiting class, including Vince Young. Brewster, a former head coach at Minnesota, joined Jimbo Fishers staff in 2013, when the Seminoles won the national title. Brewster's currently recruiting OT Walker Little, DT Marvin Wilson, S Jeffrey Okuda and LB Baron Browning for FSU.
That's right - Surprise! - Tim Brewster. Never say never.
UH's HIRING OF MAJOR APPLEWHITE
There's a reason people got caught looking the other way when Major Applewhite was named the head coach at Houston.
Because there was basically a showdown between decision-makers over the selection of UH's successor to Tom Herman that included a faction backing Art Briles.
I was told when school leaders - AD, president, key administrators, regents, etc - got in the room to hash it out, there were a couple regents representing the wishes of some big-money donors who wanted to hire Briles. I'm told UH regents chair/megabooster Tillman Fertitta as well as school administrators said UH was absolutely not going to hire Briles. There was a group of regents who resented Herman for leaving after what they believed was a verbal commitment by Herman to stay if UH matched salary offers. That group wanted to move away from all things Herman, including his coordinators - Applewhite and DC Todd Orlando - and preferred Lane Kiffin instead.
When the dust settled, UH president Renu Khator and UH athletic Hunter Yurachek made their argument that Major Applewhite had blown everyone else away in the interview by saying he would guarantee staying at UH for four years, that he felt like UH could keep building on its success the way Boise State has - preserving a winning culture built in the program by promoting from within.
Sources said Applewhite defended Herman for leaving for Texas, saying Texas was Herman's dream job. And Applewhite said in his interview that he and UH would be missing out by not continuing the "H-Town Takeover" mantra that Herman patterned after the way Howard Schnellenberger built the Miami Hurricanes' into a national title contender in the 1980s by recruiting primarily Miami high school kids, sources told HD.
A source close to Tom Herman told HD, "Tom was worried they were going to screw that up by not hiring either Major or Todd (Orlando)."
I'm told Orlando interviewed well but didn't lay out as detailed of a vision as Applewhite.
In the end, it appears something happened that often does not happen when big-money influences and active regents are involved: those paid by the university to run the university and its athletic program got the final say.
Here's a fascinating dynamic that did not come into play: I'm told a big part of the reason Ed Orgeron got the LSU job was because he basically promised LSU administrators he'd be able to get Lane Kiffin as his offensive coordinator (based on their days together at USC and based on the fact Orgeron knew Kiffin was not getting his contract renewed at Alabama).
And when it appeared Kiffin might get the UH job, I was told Orgeron was already in contact with Major Applewhite about an interview for the assistant head coach/OC job at LSU - although I believe Applewhite would have chosen joining Herman at Texas as OC.
SO WHAT DOES APPLEWHITE'S HIRING AT UH MEAN FOR THE BEV KEARNEY CASE?
I'm told talks of a settlement of former Texas women's track coach Bev Kearney's discrimination lawsuit against Texas - naming Major Applewhite as a key figure in her claim - ended when Applewhite was hired as Houston's head coach.
I was told the group of big-money donors who pushed for Herman made it clear to school leaders, namely UT president Greg Fenves, they would pay for the buyouts of Charlie Strong and his assistant coaches as well as pay to settle the Kearney case to help clear the way for Applewhite to return to Texas as a part of Tom Herman's staff - if necessary.
Briefs to be filed in UT's appeal to the Texas Supreme Court - seeking dismissal of the case - had been pushed back from Nov. 28 to Monday, Dec. 12 - I'm told, so a settlement could be reached before the briefs had to be filed.
But now, I'm told, the briefs will be filed Monday to the Texas Supreme Court by Texas, seeking dismissal, and by Kearney's attorneys, defending their claim that Kearney was discriminated against in her 2012 termination for having a sexual relationship with one of her female track athletes 10 years earlier.
Kearney's lawyers have argued discrimination based on the fact Applewhite was allowed to keep his job as then-running backs coach after it was revealed he had sex with a graduate student trainer while at the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2008 season.
THE LATEST ON THE TEAM AND THE MESSAGE IT TAKES INTO THE HOLIDAY BREAK
So a little clarification on the team meeting that Tom Herman had right before his introductory press conference.
Herman did walk into the team meeting room and demand everyone sit up straight, feet flat on the floor, eyes on me. And when he spotted a player not doing so, Herman yelled, "Get me his name, because when I say sit up straight, feet flat on the floor, eyes on me, I mean sit the f*ck up."
I was told, "You'd be surprised who it was."
Herman went out of his way to recognize Charlie Strong as a good man and a good coach. But he also said the players will need to be "ready for some changes, because the result wasn't getting better."
As we reported in last Wednesday's HD ONLY, Herman also met with some players individually, including Shane Buechele, Malik Jefferson, Malcolm Roach, D'Onta Foreman and Breckyn Hager.
Herman ended the team meeting by telling everyone to do well on their finals, enjoy their Christmas break and come back ready to work harder than they've ever worked before.
Other than Herman seeking out some individuals for meetings, there really wasn't much contact between the players and the new staff, because the new assistant coaches who have been hired by Texas (Oscar Giles, Corby Meekins, Derek Warehime and Jason Washington) were all out on the road recruiting before the recruiting "dead period" begins Sunday night.
Those recruiting efforts have resulted in new offers to:
- RB Eno Benjamin, Wylie East
- RB Daniel Young, Spring Westfield (committed to Houston)
- WR/ATH Bryson Smith, John Tyler (committed to Houston)
- WR Charleston Rambo, Cedar Hill (committed to Oklahoma)
- WR CeeDee Lamb, Richmond Foster (committed to Oklahoma)
- TE Salvatore Cannella, Scottsdale C.C.
- TE Reese Leitao, Jenks, Okla. (committed to Nebraska)
- TE Camron Horry (Robert Horry's son), Katy Taylor (committed to A&M)
- TE Cade Brewer, Lake Travis (committed to SMU)
- OL Grant Polley, Denton (committed to Colorado)
- CB Kendall Sheffield, Blinn J.C.
- S Devin Morris, Caldwell (committed to A&M)
- ATH Kamren Curl, Muskogee, Okla.
Or preparing for this weekend's recruiting visitors:
- QB Sam Ehlinger, Westlake (signed with Texas)
- RB Eno Benjamin, Wylie East (unofficial visit)
- WR Omar Manning, Lancaster (committed to TCU)
- TE Salvatore Cannella, Scottsdale CC
- TE Reese Leitao, Jenks, Okla. (committed to Nebraska)
In talking to a graduating senior on the team about reactions to Herman's team meeting, I was told, "It's the new coach being a hard-ass. That's expected. Trust me, Charlie Strong came in breathing fire, too. And we got worked into oblivion that first off-season with Strong and Pat Moorer. If anything, they probably worked us too much. Hell, they worked us so hard in bowl practices leading up to that Texas Bowl against Arkansas, we were all dead-legged. I'm not sure anyone can out hard-ass Strong and Moorer. The guys will be ready."
The graduating senior said it didn't surprise him Herman had met with Roach and Hager.
"Those two guys are going to be all-conference performers. Hell, Roach is probably a first-round draft pick. You gotta get your war daddies on board," the senior said.
"But Herman comes in at a great time. He has great timing. He's going to win and win immediately.
"The team has talent on both lines. Shane Buechele is a mature, talented, team guy.
"There's guys who redshirted who are total badasses like Chris Brown and Andrew Fitzgerald and Peyton Aucoin, Reggie Hemphill and Davion Curtis.
"You could already see guys like Brandon (Jones), (Jeffrey) McCulloch, (Erick) Fowler, (Gerald) Wilbon, Jordan Elliott and (D'Andre) Christmas coming on. Denzel Okafor, Jean Delance and Patrick Hudson are players, and everyone saw what Zach Shackelford did as a freshman and Jake McMillon did as a sophomore. Chris Warren is a beast, and if Kirk Johnson can stay healthy, that guy is versatile and slippery.
"Yeah, Herman has great timing. Charlie stocked the cupboard for him."
(CHIP BROWN and TAYLOR ESTES)
SPEAKING OF CHARLIE STRONG ...
I'm hearing South Florida is very interested in Charlie Strong and is looking at his buyout from Texas and trying to figure out how it can get UT to basically pay most of the freight for Strong's salary the first two years of any deal that is agreed to.
Right now, Texas' buyout obligation to Strong is for $5.3 million in 2017 and for $5.4 million in 2018.
Under the terms of Strong's contract, Strong agrees to "make every reasonable effort to obtain other employment." And if Strong lands a new job, Texas would be able to reduce its buyout obligation to Strong "by taking an offset in the amount of 50 percent of the total compensation received by (Strong) in his new position."
So, for example, if USF offered Strong $2 million per year (former USF coach Charlie Taggart earned $1.7 million for 2016), then Texas could reduce its annual buyout obligation to Strong by $1 million - meaning Texas would owe Strong $4.3 million instead of the $5.3 million.
Strong would end up with a total of $6.3 million for 2017 under that scenario.
So it will be interesting to see if a deal considered reasonable to USF but worthwhile to Strong can be reached - considering Strong would get $5.3 million for 2017 if he was simply sitting on the beach.
By the way, Tom Herman's contract includes a "100 percent offset" of any buyout obligation Texas would owe Herman if he was fired without cause. So if another school hired Herman in such an instance for say, $2 million, Texas would be able to deduct a full $2 million from whatever its buyout obligation was to Herman, who signed a five-year, $28.75 million deal with $25 million guaranteed.