The first major recruiting challenge facing Tom Herman as the new Texas Longhorns head coach won’t require an in-home visit with a highly-touted target now wavering in the wake of Charlie Strong’s dismissal, or even a visit to a slew of in-state powers pursuing a state championship.
No, the pitch Herman most urgently needs to make is to the man who led college football in rushing yards (2,028) and yards per game (184.3) as a junior — D’Onta Foreman.
If that seems like a bit of deja vu for Texas fans, it’s because Mack Brown faced a similar task in 1998 when his first task was recruiting Ricky Williams to return for his senior season.
Tom Herman is walking in established footsteps here.
For Foreman, the second Longhorn in history to rush for 2,000 yards, there’s every logical reason for him to cash in on his high draft stock and make millions of dollars to carry the ball at the next level.
As part of doing his absolute best to save Strong’s job at Texas, Foreman carried the Longhorns offense on his back with an FBS-leading 323 times in 2016. Considering running backs usually fall victim to a short shelf life due to physical wear and tear, the carries add up quickly.
Now that the coach Foreman dedicated his season to is out of Austin, why return?
That’s quite literally the million-dollar question Herman needs to find answers to if he hopes to enjoy the luxury of one of the greatest rushers in school history during his debut season. With or without Strong, though, it’s not out of the question that the nation’s best back forgoes the NFL and chases the on-field success that’s eluded the ‘Horns since he arrived.
“Charlie being there would really, really give him even more motivation to come back,” D’Onta’s father, Derrick Foreman, told 247Sports. “I’m not saying he wouldn’t if he wasn’t there. But I know what he thinks about Charlie and this team. If you look at Shane (Buechele) being a year older, the offensive line being a year older, the defense being a year older. If you look at the talent, it’s like man.
“If D’Onta comes back, then watch out.”
Of course, this decision belongs to no one but Foreman and his family, but now that Herman is on the 40 Acres with an abundance of resources, why not use them?
If Herman does elect to play recruiter towards the likely Doak Walker award winner in hopes of his return for one more season, why not ask for the assistance of some of the greatest running backs in college football history, who happen to have expressed their support for Foreman throughout the season?
Both, Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell — a pair of legendary Longhorns — returned to Austin for their senior season and each subsequently raised the Heisman trophy during their final stint on the 40 Acres.
Of course, neither had quite the season Foreman did as a junior, as Campbell rushed for only 653 yards and Williams rushed for 1,893, but the additional season proved fruitful in the form of the coveted award Foreman will almost surely fall short of earning in 2016 — the Heisman Trophy.
Though Foreman would see his role slightly decrease if he returned to Texas with a healthy Chris Warren III back in the fold, the would-be senior would remain as the feature back in Herman’s power spread offense, which may become even more potent than the Texas offense was in under Sterlin Gilbert.
NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay recently said Foreman’s draft stock “has exploded,” during his junior campaign, which may or may not ever be higher than it is now.
Is returning to Texas to pursue a Heisman, potentially cementing himself as the one of the two greatest rushers in Longhorn history, along with closing out his college career with his brother, Armanti, worth the risk of potentially losing millions of dollars if his draft stock drops or an injury occurs?
Is there value is returning and adding a bit more speed and elusiveness to his already-imposing rushing repertoire, or is Foreman better suited to address those areas in preparation for the NFL draft?
Those are questions to which Foreman will have to find his own answers, but Herman might be wise to take some tips from his old head coach on getting a Heisman candidate running back to return for one last season.