Tom Herman’s debut season at Texas capped with a bowl win and, ultimately, a two-win improvement over Charlie Strong’s final effort on the Forty Acres.
A 7-6 record, however, is still a handful of wins away from the standard expected in Austin, but the future could prove to be much brighter than the past several seasons. That was evident with ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg ranking Texas No. 15 among the most promising college football teams through the 2020 season, thanks in large part to elite recruiting and a stout defense.
“Two factors drive Texas into a higher slot than teams that rate higher in the unit rankings. The recruiting surge in Austin can’t be denied here, as Tom Herman’s first full class finished No. 3 in ESPN’s national rankings, and the 2019 class is beginning to build,” Rittenberg said. “Texas also has quickly upgraded its defense, which should continue to thrive under Todd Orlando after signing ESPN’s top three safeties in the 2018 class.
“Some of their young corners, a couple of their young LBs, really stood out, they were more athletic than Oklahoma,” a Big Ten offensive coordinator told ESPN. “They’re going to be really good on the defensive side.” It won’t matter much without improvement at quarterback, and Herman needs to find an answer, whether it’s Sam Ehlinger or Shane Buechele, a transfer, or young signal-callers already in the program [Cameron Rising, Casey Thompson] or on the way [Roschon Johnson or Hudson Card].”
The theme is much the same as it has been in recent memory.
Texas, as it always does, should continue to recruit considerably well, and the Longhorns typically feature no shortage of elite athletes each time they take the field. Quarterback play, however, has remained as the major inconsistency dating back to the end of the Colt McCoy era, and the result is a mediocre 53-48 record since 2010.
Texas is still without a solidified starter in place just months before the 2018 season, but the Longhorns finally enjoy depth and quality options at the position with four former 4-star quarterbacks on campus and two more on the way. If even just one from that group can emerge as the kind of star quarterback the Longhorns have lacked for nearly a decade, Texas’ three-year upside may be much better than No. 15 nationally and No. 3 in the Big 12.