On February 1, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman and his assistants signed what Herman often refers to as a transition class.
In an appearance on the Longhorn Network, renowned running backs coach Stan Drayton referred to the group a little bit differently.
“Well, it’s the foundation block of our culture,” Drayton said of the 2017 recruiting class. “Tom Herman is bringing in guys with a certain attitude, a certain demeanor. We’re trying to get our players to buy into a certain thing. And these players are going to be the foundation blocks for us moving forward, so it’s very important for us to establish a certain type of player that’s going to fit the culture we’re trying to present here, and it’s very exciting because we know that we’re not recruiting stars or whatever it may be — we’re recruiting that type of player the can build into our culture and help enhance what Texas has always been for many, many years.”
To Herman’s point, the hope that the foundation class does include players who can help build that culture instead of succumbing to the high rates of attrition that typically define classes put together on short notice.
And part of the reason why Drayton is now in Austin after leaving a similar position with the Chicago Bears is his belief that Herman can execute his vision for the program.
“Tom Herman is a guy who says something and he does it,” Drayton said. “I can always see bringing me, my family, around someone that I can lay my head on the pillow and know that he’s going to do what he says he’s going to do.”
The mutual respect comes from a mutual appreciation of helping the growth process of young men.
“He loves kids. I love kids. I love developing people and that’s what he’s all about. As long as I can get myself in a situation around people that I trust, with people who love kids, with people who are willing to make sacrifices for that purpose, it’s a no-brainer for me.
“And we’re talking about Texas. I grew up in Ohio and everybody talks about Ohio State and Ohio State is that type of program, but Texas has always been one of the cornerstones of football and for me to sit here wearing this burnt orange right now is a great honor. It really is.”
While Herman hasn’t watched film, Drayton has already taken notice running back Chris Warren, the 6’2, 252-pound behemoth who would not look out of place among defensive ends.
“I have coached some backs in my day, man, but I’ve never seen one who looked like Chris Warren,” Drayton said. “Jerome Bettis is the only one I can think of with that size. But the one thing about Chris is that he’s very conscientious. He wants to be great. We still have to work on some things to help him get to that goal, but he’s definitely got the traits of being a great back. We’ve just go to go to work.”
To succeed under Drayton, Warren in particular and the other running backs in general will have to accomplish a number of goals.
“The number one thing is that you’ve got to be tough. If you can’t bring an element of toughness, then you’re not going to survive in that room. He’s got natural vision. He’s got a north-south mentality about himself that I enjoy. But you’ve got to be smart in this offense — we’re not just a one-dimensional backfield. You’ve got to be able to protect your quarterback. You’ve got to be able to get out and catch the ball. You’ve got to provide more value to this football team other than just carrying the football. Chris does have some of those attributes and some of those traits, we’ve just got to fine tune them.”
The process of building successful running backs first involves Drayton getting to know them and what they want out of football.
“They first know that I really care about them. I care about them tremendously. One of the first conversations that we have is, ‘What do you want to be? How good do you want to be?’ It’s kind of a double-edged sword for them, because they tell me all their goals and their ambitions and I claim them. I use them in all those tough moments when they want to give up or want to give up or don’t believe that they can take it to the next level, I’m in their ear.”
In those moments, Drayton lets his players know that they have already set expectations for themselves and his goal is to make them live up to those expectations.
Former running backs coach Anthony Johnson was vocal about the tradition at Texas, which he called Running Back U. Like Johnson, Drayton believes that the success of former players like Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, and even D’Onta Foreman can help apply pressure on the position room to be great.
“We have a responsibility with guys that came through this program before us to live up to a certain standard,” Drayton said. “It applies pressure on us and I’m a person that love so thrive in that and we force our players to thrive through pressure. Those are the things that make them uncomfortable, and you can’t move forward, you can’t grow unless you are in uncomfortable moments over and over again. So that’s what we try to do.”
The newest additions to the running back room are Toneil Carter and Daniel Young, though the latter won’t be on campus until the summer. Drayton called them both “exciting young football players.”
“Toneil Carter, obviously in the program right now, working his butt off,” Drayton said. “Doesn’t know quite how to grind the way we’re going to grind here. He’s going to figure that out really quickly. He’s a dynamic football player — you get him in space, he’s gone.”
Carter is expected to immediately compete for playing time, with Herman noting on National Signing Day that the Houston Langham Creek product could play a variety of roles on the offense, include speed sweep specialist and slot receiver.
Herman believes that the other running back, another Houston product in Young, could be the steal of the class.
“Danny Young is a guy that’s going to play on contract, play past contact,” Drayton said. “He comes from a tough program. He has good natural vision. The advantage that he has played on both sides of the football, so he understands ‘backer fits.”
Both of those guys are going to have their work cut out for them as far as learning defenses, understanding so they can anticipate a little bit better, but once they figure that part of it out, they’re going to be dynamic.”
Toneil Carter has a similar skill set to Ezekiel Elliott
Tom Herman plans on using Toneil Carter in a variety of roles.Posted by Burnt Orange Nation on Wednesday, February 8, 2017