2020 may very well prove to be a make or break year for the Tom Herman era at Texas, and for obvious reasons. After navigating the rough waters that were inexperienced and injuries rosters, Texas is set to feature more than its fair share of talent, experience, and depth throughout the roster, thanks in large parts to Herman’s efforts on the recruiting trail.
Among the few recruits that remain who were already on board ahead of the Herman era is senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who’s well on his way to solidifying himself as one of the top gunslingers in program history. That reality, in and of itself, only adds more pressure for Herman and the Horns to perform in 2020 — if you can’t win at Texas with a Heisman-caliber talent and potentially the third-best quarterback to ever don the burnt orange, you might just not be able to win at Texas.
And to add even more pressure to, at long last, perform to an championship level, Herman and Ehlinger are considered by ESPN to be among the nation’s elite coach-quarterback combinations, being dubbed as the third-best duo behind only Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney and Trevor Lawrence, and Ohio State’s Alex Day and Justin Field.
“After Vince Young and Colt McCoy made Texas a QB haven in the previous decade, the Longhorns’ offense disappeared from 2010 through 2017 as the team cycled through both coaches and quarterbacks,” ESPN’s David Hale wrote. “But the marriage between Herman and Ehlinger has revived the fireworks in Austin, and their offensive success over the past two years — 80 total TDs, 8,100 yards — is on par with anything Young or McCoy produced in their heyday.”
Of course, Clemson and Ohio State routinely dominate their conferences and enjoyed College Football Playoff appearances last season. Texas, on the other hand, hasn’t exactly enjoyed that level of success, losing at least four games each season under Herman and still starving for the program’s first Big 12 title since 2009.
That said, Herman has revived the program to this point, transforming sub-mediocrity from the early-to-mid 2010s into an above average product that’s notched back-to-back ranked finishes to the season, But above average won’t be nearly enough in Austin in 2020 with a Heisman-caliber quarterback at the helm, especially considering the program’s previous two quarterback talents at that level — Vince Young and Colt McCoy — captured conference championships and made two trips to the national title game, with VY leading the Longhorns to a national championship.
A national title is likely a little far-fetched of an aspiration for Texas next season, but with one of the nation’s premier coach-quarterback combos leading the way, expectations are as high as they’ve been in nearly a decade. And they should be.