In May, Texas Longhorns co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Herb Hand received a $60,000 raise to elevate his salary to $700,000 over the last two years of his contract.
In recruiting during the 2021 cycle, Hand hasn’t earned a cent of that raise over the proceeding months.
On Friday morning, as Katy Taylor offensive guard Bryce Foster celebrated his 18th birthday, a Texas hat sat on the table in front of him as he announced his college decision. It was a mere formality — the Longhorns hadn’t been serious contenders in Foster’s recruitment for months. And that’s generously offering that Texas was ever really a contender at all past ranking fourth or fifth or so on Foster’s list at any given time. So when Foster expectedly donned a Texas A&M hat, that action merely cemented failures by Hand that largely happened well in the past, only to wait for the official confirmation.
With an unusually strong and deep in-state offensive line class in 21, Hand had a unique opportunity. Five of the state’s top 15 players are offensive linemen and there are nine four-star offensive line prospects overall in Texas during this cycle.
The state’s top-ranked player, Fort Worth All Saints tackle Tommy Brockermeyer, is a Longhorn legacy whose older brother, Luke, is a former walk-on linebacker at Texas. Tommy’s twin brother, James, is the nation’s top-ranked center. Hand seemingly had an easy sell with the family. But the father, Blake Brockermeyer, isn’t just a Longhorn legend, he’s also a quality control analyst for SMU, so he’s still connected to the college football world.
Hand never convinced the Brockermeyers with his pitch — they chose Alabama in explicit indictments of Hand and the Texas program more generally.
“Honestly, it was everything about it from the strength and conditioning program,” James said. “We got a chance to talk with Matt Rhea and David Ballou. I have confidence in Kyle Flood (Alabama’s offensive line coach). I really like what he is doing along with what Nick Saban has been able to do there. It is nothing short of elite. It is just an awesome opportunity.”
Ducanville’s Savion Byrd chose Oklahoma and respected offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh on Early Signing Day. Houston Episcopal offensive guard Donovan Jackson, a consensus five-star prospect and the state’s No. 2 player, chose Ohio State back in January, following the disappointing 2019 season for Texas. Richmond Foster’s Reuben Fatheree picked Texas A&M in June.
Even secondary options shot down the Longhorns. Dallas Jesuit offensive tackle Ryan Lengyel isn’t ranked among the top 1,000 prospects in the country and chose Baylor over Texas. Highland Park offensive tackle Jack Leyrer isn’t ranked among the top 100 players in the state and chose the Cardinal over the Longhorns.
One of the other backup options was Florida product Michael Myslinski, a center who was initially amenable enough to Hand’s pitch that he committed to Texas in early August. But he decommitted last week, leaving the Longhorns with only two pledges in the class and none of the four-star offensive linemen in the state.
Over three years as the offensive line coach at Texas, Hand’s results have been fair to middling in developing players, results that or more or less in line with his on-field product during previous stops at Penn State and Auburn. But Hand’s recent failures in recruiting will have long-term consequences for the program it will have to make up for through the transfer portal or high-level development of the lower-ranked prospects who have committed to play for Hand.
That’s just not good enough, especially given what Hand’s failures suggest is the limited possibility of landing the key targets in the 2022 class, for which there is now more pressure.
When Tom Herman turned over 70 percent of his staff last year, Hand was one of three assistants to remain on the staff. He even received the aforementioned raise.
Now Herman has to decide if Hand’s abject failure to take advantage of a massive opportunity in the 2021 class is a fireable offense. It’s difficult to see it as anything else.