A GLIMPSE INTO TOM HERMAN'S THINKING
The following is all information I've picked up from those close to Tom Herman about how he feels about the makeup of the current Longhorns' roster and what he expects of them in 2017.
In a word, he expects his team to be physical.
Herman expects that to be evident in Game 1 against Maryland and again against San Jose State in Game 2. But he expects the whole country will see it when the Longhorns take on USC at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Sept. 16 in Game 3.
"He's definitely told some people to get their tickets and airfare to LA for that USC game, because he plans on having the more physical team," one source said. "I think the quote was, 'We don't want a track meet with them. We want to grind them like hamburger.'"
Herman has noted how Alabama destroyed USC last year - 52-6 - in the 2016 season opener by being the more physical team. USC feasted on less physical teams after that game - including Penn State in the Rose Bowl, Herman said, according to sources.
So, how does Texas plan on being the more physical team? Sources said Herman believes he has NFL talent on the offensive and defensive lines as well as at running back.
Don't be surprised to see freshman OG Patrick Hudson, who redshirted last season with a broken foot, line up at left guard in the spring.
Coaches want to see if Hudson is the road grader they think he is and put him next to LT Connor Williams. It sounds like Herman has visions of Chris Warren, whom he has compared to former Bama Heisman Trophy winning RB Derrick Henry, pounding away behind Williams and Hudson. That ground-and-pound approach would then be complemented by getting the ball to the perimeter in the hands of burners such as Devin Duvernay, Armanti Foreman and John Burt (whom Herman helped convince to skip track this spring).
On the defensive line, Herman has told others he thinks sophomore DT Jordan Elliott has talent on par with Houston 5-star DT Ed Oliver. He thinks OLB/DE Malcolm Roach is an NFL talent and says to file away the name of redshirt freshman DT Marcel Southall.
Herman has made it no secret that he feels UT's linebacker group - the entire group - needs to play better and play up to their physical talents.
When it comes to how he feels about individuals within position groups other than the offensive and defensive lines and running back, Herman isn't handing out platitudes. He wants to wait and see how position battles develop.
"But you can tell he likes his roster," one source said. "He wouldn't be tellin' people to get their airfare to LA if he didn't. And I'm not sure anyone is more confident in his and his staff's ability to X and O with any team in the country. He's reaching out to people and getting them fired up."
BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IN WINTER CONDITIONING
Based on my conversations, the biggest difference between this year's winter conditioning and years' prior - even dating back to the Mack Brown era - is Yancy McKnight's ability to explain WHY everything players are doing is important.
Under strength coaches Pat Moorer and even under Jeff "Mad Dog" Madden, there were definitely "intimidation factors" that helped motivate players, said several sources familiar with all three.
"Where McKnight might be the most different from Moorer and even Madden is his ability to get across the 'why' of the work being put in," one longtime program insider told HD. "That way, players take ownership in everything they're doing - rather than simply hearing demands with an or-else implication in terms of consequences."
And McKnight is no touchy feely guy. He's plenty tough and intimidating. But one source said McKnight is a relentless worker - before, during and after workouts - in trying to get to know what makes individual players' tick. Some need it screamed at em. Others, you can just tell them once, and it's point-taken.
"McKnight and Tom (Herman) both do an excellent job of constantly freshening up the message, so it doesn't get stale," the source said.
THE LATEST ON TEXAS HOOPS - AND TEVIN MACK
I've said repeatedly I feel like sophomore leading scorer Tevin Mack has already played his last game at Texas.
I'm told there are a multitude of questions/concerns regarding Mack that include his behavior off the court (curfew violations and other violations) to talking back to head coach Shaka Smart in front of the rest of the team.
I was told if Smart didn't take the action he took in suspending Mack indefinitely after a 64-61 loss to TCU, Smart might have lost his entire team.
Sources close to the situation told me Mack was a terrible influence on guards Kerwin Roach and Andrew Jones off the court.
"Your expecting your team to be led by your three sophomores, and one of those sophomores (Mack) is basically setting all the wrong examples," one source said.
The source said Mack's suspension was a jolt to Roach and Jones - and they've responded differently. For Jones, it was a wakeup call that has snapped his focus back into place, and for Roach it was disorienting, the source said.
The numbers help tell the story.
Jones' has been playing well above his season averages since the Mack suspension four games ago, while Roach is playing well below his season averages.
In the last four games - three against Top 10 opponents (WVU, at Baylor, at Kansas and home vs OU) - Jones is averaging 15.8 points and 5 rebounds per game while hitting 51.2 percent from the field, including 11 of 22 from 3-point range (50 percent) as well as 12 of 15 (80 percent) from the FT line.
Jones' season averages: 10.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 46.9 percent FG, 38 percent 3PT, 74 percent FT
Meanwhile, Roach for the season is averaging 10.6 points. For the last four games, Roach is averaging 8 points on 9-of-37 shooting (24.3 percent), including 2-of-15 from 3-point range (13.3 percent) while hitting just 12 of 21 FTs (64 percent).
The players who have improved significantly since Mack's suspension - Jarrett Allen (17 ppg, 12 rpg - up from 12.4 ppg and 8 rebs.
Shaq Cleare, who is averaging 15 ppg, 5 rpg while hitting 61.9 percent from the floor and 72.7 percent from the FT line.
Max Cummins Recaps Official Visit
2017 DE Max Cummins summed up his Texas OV as "top-notch”. The Longhorns' commit was among several official visitors in Austin last weekend, and the time spent with his future teammates is an experience he won't soon forget.
“It was amazing," he said of his visit. "The best part was getting to know the coaches a little more, and getting to know my future teammates and the rest of the recruits.
“I spent a lot of time with Coach Orlando and Coach Giles. They said I’m coming in at a perfect time and would fit right into the defense.”
A three-star prospect out of Fort Worth All-Saints Episcopal, Cummins' road to Texas was not necessarily a common venture when compared to other members of the 2017 recruiting class.
The recruiting process really didn’t start to pick-up until the end of his senior season. Though the Longhorns' interest came later than other programs, Cummins' decision to commit to Texas was made well before he received an official scholarship offer.
At the end of the day, he knew he was destined to be a Longhorn, and has already started his preparation for the challenge ahead that comes with his pledge.
“They’re going to give me a (workout) packet right after signing day, but my strength and conditioning coach is getting me ready for that day right now,” the 245-pound DE said of his off-season plans.
“I’m going to try to come in June 1 around 260 pounds, so it’s about 15 pounds from now to then. I think if I want to have a chance at playing early or starting, I definitely have to get to that weight now and not lose any quickness or speed.”
Cummins will sign his letter of intent with Texas next Wednesday during an All-Saints' National Signing Day ceremony.
Cummins’ Delivers The Quote of the Day
While we're on the subject, I asked Max Cummins for his thoughts on first-year head coach Tom Herman - both as a recruiter and based off of his demeanor with the Longhorns.
His answer should - at the very least - give Texas fans a glimmer of hope into the future of the program.
“What I took away is he’s really comfortable with his position right now," Cummins said of his future coach. "He’s really, really confident that the program is going to take off really soon.
“He’s a great recruiter and shoots it straight. The way he has had the strength and conditioning program now set up, the way he is getting the facilities set up, the way he treats the players and recruits and everything involved is world class.
"Nothing can beat it.”
Max Wright (2018), number one DE in Texas says Oscar Giles is “Awesome”
Allen Perkins: HD Contributor
Wright is considered the third best DE nationally and is also the 18th ranked prospect overall in the country. The James Taylor HS product plans to visit a lot of schools and says he’s taking it slow. A native of Katy (Texas), Wright plans to visit Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma among others.
Q - Which Texas coaches are talking to you the most and what do you like about those coaches?
A - (Defensive Line coach) Oscar Giles the most, HE’S AWESOME. Meekins too (Tight Ends coach).
****Editor’s Note - Max did type HE’S AWESOME in all caps as it is shown). ****
Q - Do you know which schools you want to visit down the road?
A - Ohio State, ‘Bama, OU, and some more, but I'm just taking it slow. Especially with the recent coaching changes, and with a lot of coaches being on the hot seat, I want to see how that unfolds.
Q -Which schools are giving you the most attention?
A - The schools showing me the most attention are A&M, Texas, Ohio state, OU, LSU, and Georgia. There's a lot of attention right now haha.
Q - What are the most important things you look for in a school?
A – Some of the biggest things are tradition, the success that’s come through there at my position. Education is also big to me. The area and fans around the school and program, and it helps if I like the coach a lot.
Q – Do you have a top five or leader right now?
A – I don’t really have a set top five yet, still waiting, but there’s a lot of schools that are in the running at my top five. I really want to go and see more places before I make it set.
(ALLEN PERKINS - HD Contributor)
Texas A&M is in the Driver’s Seat for the No. 1 Ranked DT in Texas, Keondre Coburn (2018)
Allen Perkins: HD Contributor
The Houston native is the 4th best DT in the country and the 79th ranked prospect overall. The Westfield HS product has visited Texas A&M three times and attended three Aggie games. Coburn has not narrowed his list and is listening to any and all offers.
Q - Do you have a leading school right now?
A - A&M
Q - How many times have you visited A&M?
A - I went to two games, the spring game, two visits and tomorrow (Coburn attended Junior Day at A&M on January 22nd).
Q - What do you like about A&M?
A - A&M is a great school and it’s huge. Everytime I go up there, it feels great. I really get along with all of the coaches and they’re really cool.
Q - How many times have you visited Texas?
A - One time
Q - When do you plan on visiting Texas again?
A - Their Junior day but there’s no date yet.
Q - How much is Texas talking to you?
A - They’ve come to visit at least once.
*** Editor’s Note - Keondre and I ran out of time but I will clarify how often Texas calls/texts him. ***
(ALLEN PERKINS - HD Contributor)