Taylor Estes - HornsDigest.com


In this week's HD ONLY - HD's weekly one-stop shopping for premium insider notes - we take an in-depth look at Tom Herman's path to Texas and those who saw the promise way back when ... lots of football updates, including a Shane Buechele injury note ... FB recruiting ... a makeover of the fences at the Disch ... a UT hoops update ... and more!!!


Before Chris Del Conte took over as athletic director at TCU in October of 2009, he was the AD at Rice who hired David Bailiff from Texas State as the head football coach of the Owls in 2007. 

Bailiff brought his offensive coordinator with him from Texas State - a 32-year-old Tom Herman. 

“The thing that stood out about Tom right away was how closely he listened,” Del Conte said. “Then you come to find out the guy is in MENSA and had some ridiculous MENSA score - like 170. 

“So he had a legitimate claim to being the smartest guy in any room he was in. But you’d never know it, because he was always asking questions and taking meticulous notes. He was always looking for new and better ways to do things.” 


After Rice went 10-3 with a win over Western Michigan in the Texas Bowl in 2008, Herman sought out Del Conte to talk about an opportunity he had to join Paul Rhoads’ staff at Iowa State as Rhoads took over Gene Chizik (who had gone 2-10 in 2008 but somehow landed the Auburn head-coaching job).

“I asked him, ‘Now, why would you want to make that move?’ And he said, ‘Because it will give me a chance to start competing on the biggest stage.’

“Tom was always looking to be the best coach he could possibly be.”

In Herman’s first year as OC under Rhoads at Iowa State, the Cyclones went 7-6 and beat Tim Brewster's Minnesota team in the Insight Bowl. Iowa State went 5-7 in 2010 but beat Texas, 28-21, on a fateful day in Austin that season.

In 2011, Iowa State beat rival Iowa 44-41 in triple OT, went to Lubbock and waxed then-No. 22 Texas Tech 41-7 and took down then-No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 in 2OT before earning a trip to another bowl game (Pinstripe).

That was enough for Urban Meyer to take a chance on Herman as his offensive coordinator and QB coach when he returned to coaching at Ohio State in 2012.

That and a recommendation from Will Muschamp - of all people. A source close to Meyer said he picked the brain of Muschamp about offensive coordinators he’d faced who had impressed him, and Muschamp mentioned Herman after facing him at Texas against Iowa State in UT’s 28-21 loss in 2010.

“That recommendation by Muschamp was not insignificant in Urban’s mind,” the source said.

In Herman’s three seasons at Ohio State, the Buckeyes went 12-0 (but were ineligible for the Big Ten title game and bowl bid because of NCAA sanctions), 11-2 and 14-1 - winning the national title in 2014.

“I told Tommy, the biggest regret of my coaching career was not making him my offensive coordinator at Minnesota,” said Florida State TE coach Tim Brewster, who was fired after four seasons as the head coach of the Golden Gophers (2007-10).

Brewster added, “I also told Tommy, ‘The best thing that ever happened to you was me not making you my offensive coordinator at Minnesota.’”

A week after being named the head coach at Texas, Herman tweeted out a picture of his business card as a graduate assistant coach at Texas (1999-2000) next to his business card now as the Longhorns' head coach with a message, "To all the GAs out there grinding away, keep working hard. Dreams can come true." 

No one knows that story better than Herman's wife, Michelle. The two were married after Herman's two-year graduate assistant coaching stint at Texas (1999-2000) in a gorgeous setting in California (they met as students at Cal-Lutheran in 1993) in the summer of 2001.

Almost before they could wipe the wedding cake frosting from their faces, they were packed up and moving across the country to Huntsville, Texas, where Herman had gotten his first, full-time college assistant's job, coaching receivers at Sam Houston State.


Herman has said that job paid just $10,000 per year and that Michelle supported the couple by taking jobs in Huntsville ranging from child care and bank telling to waitressing to help pay the bills.

"Michelle is a great lady," Del Conte said. "She has been there from the beginning. They get each other and have great kids with great names (daughter Priya and sons Maddock and Maverick)."


When Herman was announced as the head coach at Texas, I asked him what he took from each of the head coaches he had worked under.

From Mack Brown, Herman said he learned “inclusivity.”

“He included the high school coaches,” Herman said. “He included the former players. He included so many people in this great program that, prior to Coach Brown getting here, probably were not included and felt a bit disenfranchised.”

From David Bailiff, Herman said, “I learned how to love your players.”

“Love them and make sure that they feel that love,” Herman added. “In our program, we spell love T-I-M-E, time. 

“You can't just say it. You've got to do it, and you've got to spend an inordinate amount of time with your players for them to feel love.”

From Paul Rhoads, Herman said, “I learned how to be passionate about the place that you work for.”

“Paul Rhoads was an Iowa native who had an opportunity to coach in his own home state and was very passionate about that.”

From Urban Meyer, Herman said, “I feel like I went to head coaching school for three years.”

“People ask me all the time, what was the thing I took away the most? There was a thousand things I took away from Coach Meyer.

“But I think probably the biggest one is the practice of alignment.

“I think we are in an age now that our student-athletes are being bombarded with messages, and we only get them -- the NCAA says we only get them four hours a day during the season and two hours a day in the off-season. 

“So when they walk in the building, they have to be - every message that is thrust upon them, from a sign on the wall to an interaction with an academic counselor, the expectations and the management of the program has to be aligned.  Because they're just getting hit left and right with all these messages.

“So from your assistant coaches, to your strength staff, to your support staff, to your training room, to the academic people, to the expectations.

“It can't be OK to show up two minutes late for a tutor but not be OK to show up two minutes late for a position meeting. 

“So you have to be aligned in everything that you do or else kids, often times, have a way of going off the reservation a little bit.”

Del Conte said Herman’s comments about what he took from each coach “wasn’t just rhetoric.”

“That’s from the heart,” Del Conte said. “And that's because he is a meticulous listener, always asking questions, taking copious notes and then forming his own message. Seeing Tom adapt to his surroundings and put in the work - he was on a journey to be the very best at his profession.”

Del Conte and others, including Major Applewhite, have said Herman’s decision to build the Houston program with Houston talent the way Howard Schnellenberger built the Miami Hurricanes' program into a national title winner in the 1980s with Miami high school talent was brilliant.

That decision - and the hire of Corby Meekins, the coach at talent-rich Houston Westfield High School, as UH tight ends and fullbacks coach - played key roles in attracting Houston’s first-ever 5-star talent - Westfield DT Ed Oliver - to UH. Oliver earned first-team All-America honors as a true freshman at Houston this season.

Applewhite told UH officials they’d be negligent to abandon Herman’s “H-Town Takeover” movement and promised them he’d keep it alive if he were made head coach.

Those sentiments expressed by Applewhite in his interviews with UH officials became a big part of the reason Applewhite was named Herman’s successor last week, I was told.

“Tom has called me throughout the years to ask me my opinion on things - career moves and other things,” Del Conte said. 

“And he could act like a know-it-all after taking a big risk and going to Iowa State and making that work and then getting on with Urban Meyer and going to, as he said, ‘finishing school.’

“He could act like a know-it-all because of that MENSA score. But that’s not Tom. No one’s given him a thing. The thing I admire about Tom is what I admire about Gary Patterson here at TCU - nothing was ever handed to them.

"They approach every day as if someone is closing in, and you've got to put in the work to stay ahead. From his days at Cal-Lutheran, to Sam Houston State and Texas State to Rice and Iowa State, Tom Herman has earned everything he’s gotten.”

I asked Del Conte if he’s surprised the determined offensive coordinator he knew back at Rice is now the head coach at Texas?

“Did I think back in 2006 or 2007 that he’d end up where is now?” Del Conte said with a chuckle. “I don't know if either one of us could’ve seen or thought that. 

“But looking at how Tom has maximized every situation he’s been in, I absolutely see how he’s gotten to this point. I admire how he's worked his way up from the bottom. He's outworked people. He's earned it. He's a great dad, a great husband. I'm happy for him - except when he plays Texas Christian University.”





Freshman QB Shane Buechele finished the season with an injury to his throwing hand. 

One source said it could linger and affect his preparation for  spring football. 

Another source said emphatically that it’s a “minor”  injury and that Buechele “should be available after the holidays.”


I mentioned on Saturday Herman has been giving careful consideration to filling the last two spots on his offensive coaching staff, including Ohio State OC Tim Beck, Chicago Bears’ RB coach Stan Drayton and even - possibly - Florida State TE coach and recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster.

It shouldn’t be too much longer before we have some answers.


Major Applewhite made it clear in an interview with 790 AM in Houston he’d love to hang onto UH defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, but that he’d certainly understand if Orlando joins Herman at Texas (as expected).

When Applewhite was asked what Texas would be getting in Orlando as defensive coordinator, Major said:

“Texas would finally realize that bringing pressure up the middle against spread offenses was a good idea.” 


I’m told Tom Herman pulled Texas WR Armanti Foreman aside and told the senior-to-be to start getting into the best shape of his life.

“You do that, and we’ll find every way imaginable to get you the ball,” a source close to the situation quoted Herman as saying to A Foreman.


A graduating Texas senior familiar with Herman’s interactions with current Longhorns’ players said he didn’t expect much attrition from players who would be considered favorites to be in the two-deep in 2017.

“Herman may have come in laying down the law about how hard everything was going to be, but he also made it clear if players did   what was asked that they were going to win - and win big.

“And everyone in the room heard that and walked out wanting to believe it. These guys just want to win. And I think with each day that passes - especially now that Coach Strong has landed in a new job - they are ready to do what it takes to see if Herman can get them there.”


Tom Herman has already made it clear to UT lettermen and to high school coaches they will be welcome at football practices any time they want to show up.



No one should be upset that Charlie Strong agreed to a back-loaded five-year contract with South Florida that takes advantage of the buyout Texas is paying him for the next two years.

Strong will earn $1 million annually for his first two seasons at USF before his salary jumps to $2.5 million in Year 3, $2.6 million in Year 4 and $2.7 million in Year 5. 

The “50 percent offset” of Strong’s buyout in his contract with Texas means UT will be able to reduce what it pays Strong by only $500,000 in 2017 ($4.8 million in 2017 instead of $5.3 million) and 2018 ($4.9 million in 2018 instead of $5.4 million).

Much of Strong’s staff at Texas, most of whom are expected to join Strong at USF, are also getting contract buyouts from UT. And USF seemed to structure Strong’s assistant budget accordingly - $1.66 million in 2017, $2.25 million in 2018 and $3.4 million for the final three years.

While other schools have buyout language in their contracts that protect against coaches being “underpaid” compared to market value, former Texas AD Steve Patterson included no such protection for the Longhorns.







Check out the slide show of the interior and descriptions provided by the Austin Business Journal (especially the movie theater ) 







In Tom Herman’s first meeting with the team, his message was very clear: Things are going to be different around the 40 Acres.

Now that the University of Texas is out for Winter break, the Longhorns have a few weeks to think about the changes Herman will install in the program when they report in January.

“There are a lot of kids that are going to have some fear when they return from break,” a source told HD.

“Coach Herman came down on them pretty hard in that first meeting.”

As Chip Brown and I reported in HD Only Part 2 over the weekend, Herman did not hold back in his first meeting with the team. In speaking with several folks close to the program, the vibe inside the walls is there’s a new regime in town. 

One source said the Longhorns will soon realize that everything moving forward is “going to be earned.”

“His sort of persona introduces a healthy amount of fear that all of the players will reflect on over the course of the break.”

In talking with sources close to the situation, there were a few murmurs of potential transfers following the team meeting. However, those talks have died down in the weeks following. 

From what I have gathered from people connected to the program, there may be a few of personnel turnovers, but overall, no expectations of a potential “mass exodus” of players seeking to transfer.





RECRUITING UPDATE - 2017 5-star OT Walker Little to announce on Friday

Five-star OT Walker Little will announce his college decision Friday at Bellaire Episcopal.

People close to Texas feel the Longhorns have a shot at landing the stud tackle, but Stanford poses a legitimate threat and could very well secure Little’s commitment.

As an early heads up, I will be in attendance at his announcement Friday and will provide live updates from the scene.

Stay tuned!





RECRUITING UPDATE  -  2017 4-star WR Charleston Rambo of Cedar Hill  

By ALLEN PERKINS, HD Contributor

Q: I know you're committed to OU, but what are your thoughts on UT? 

RAMBO:  I like the new coaching staff they brought in and the people involved with Texas.

Q: Do you plan on visiting UT?

RAMBO: Hopefully I can make it up (there), it will most likely be an unofficial (visit). I don't know what day.




New baseball coach David Pierce expressed an interest to athletic director Mike Perrin in bringing in the outfield fences at Disch-Falk Field and was initially told by Perrin it might be after the 2017 season before it could be done.

Credit Perrin for granting Pierce’s wish BEFORE the 2017 season.

Work is already being done to bring in the outfield fences, which had been 405 feet in the power alleys on either side of the Disch’s center field wall, which measures 400 feet.

When the work is completed, the outfield walls from the end of the  bullpens in left and right field to the center field wall will measure roughly 375 feet (a reduction of 30 feet).

There’s even talk of getting rid of the Disch’s center field “monster,” which doubles in height, compared to the rest of the outfield fences. But that has not yet been finalized.

While the Disch has always been a great park for pitchers, it’s been absolutely unfriendly and a likely deterrent in recruiting power hitters.

One of the biggest hopes in making the changes to the outfield wall dimensions is making Texas a more attractive program for power hitters.

And Pierce is also lobbying Perrin hard for an indoor pitching and hitting lab that could be built beyond the right field wall.

Pierce said when he got the Texas job the Longhorns were going to be aggressive at the plate with an approach that might more closely resemble the attack mentality of the SEC as opposed to the small-ball approach of West Coast college baseball.

The David Pierce Era is starting off with a bang - that Pierce hopes is reflected at the plate.

Here we go.






With a big game Saturday in Houston against Arkansas next up, the Longhorns are still in search of a point guard - both on the current team … and in the 2017 class.

Of course, Kerwin Roach and Andrew Jones are continuing to grow into their point guard roles. And it’s been a bit like watching a 13-year-old learning to drive a stick shift.

Until some consistency develops at the point, other roles on the team will be slow to take shape. Passes into the post, for example - to Jarrett Allen, perhaps the best and most talented player on the team - are far too rare and don’t usually come to Allen when he’s set up to do damage.

Sophomore starting G Eric Davis is really struggling to shoot the ball this season.

No one has taken more shots than Davis (he and Tevin Mack both have a team-leading 85 FG attempts). And Davis has hit only 25 of those 85 (29.4 percent), and he’s a staggering 9 of 48 from 3-point range (18.8 percent).

Can 2017 sniper SG Jase Febres get here any sooner?

And we continue to wait for the decision of 2017 4-star PG Matt Coleman of Oak Hill (Va), who is expected to decide (between Duke and Texas) by mid-January.

Again, even though Shaka Smart has been recruiting Coleman since Smart was at VCU, I’d simply say when Duke goes all in on a kid the way Coach K has with Coleman - it would be one of the biggest upsets of the 2016-17 basketball season if Coleman picks the Horns.

That would likely force Texas to the JUCO ranks to find a point guard, which would be devastating considering all the talented high school point guards Texas was in on (including Trae Young) but backed off in order to focus on/not scare off Coleman.

Good news (in a delayed gratification sort of way): One of the best players in practice these days is Tulane transfer power forward Dylan Osetkowski, who is sitting out this season under transfer rules.



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