Spring is an interesting time for college football programs all over the country.
Some elite teams struggle to maintain their status atop the college football world — except Alabama, of course — while irrelevant teams scratch and claw in an attempt to overcome mediocrity once the lights are shining.
Then there’s Texas, a team that knows both sides of this coin all too well, especially the latter side as of the last few years. But aside from Texas’ impressive 2018 recruiting class, some of the largest strides the program is making aren’t even on the field.
That doesn’t mean on-the-field questions won’t surround the program when Texas kicks off the 2018 season at Maryland on Sept. 1.
Who’s the quarterback? And the running back? Will Texas lose to Maryland and struggle to fill the stands throughout the entirety of the season? Or will the Longhorns build off the momentum from the Texas Bowl and an intense offseason?
These questions are fine, but they won’t find an answer anytime soon. Here’s what we know:
Herman, Del Conte make strides in getting Texas “back”
Just 10 minutes before kickoff on Oct. 21 against No. 10 Oklahoma State, Longhorn fans were looking at a sparsely filled student section. It stayed like that for nearly the entirety of the game, and Texas head coach Tom Herman couldn’t help but take notice.
“I was disappointed that we had performed to the point where the students had that kind of apathy for (losing),” Herman said the following week. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
Here’s the thing about the culture at Texas — it takes time to turn things around, especially in Austin. Texas students have arrived to a point where they would rather explore the city than attend a Texas game. This didn’t happen overnight, either. Although Charlie Strong’s campaign was a short one, it still did enough damage to the atmosphere at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoons.
But this challenge isn’t being met without effort across the board. Texas made a huge move in hiring former TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte. Herman and Del Conte have made several strides in the past six months. The new general admission seating for students, the statewide ‘This Is Texas Tour,’ the nationally ranked recruiting class and even the festivities at Texas’ Orange-White spring game may be just what the Longhorns need to get the ball rolling.
The running game isn’t doomed
There’s no hiding it: The running game hasn’t been Texas’ strong suit since D’Onta Foreman hung up his burnt orange jersey for the final time in 2016. Last year’s struggles were in large part due to the nonstop injuries that destructed the offensive line and the limited use of Chris Warren III.
Despite the injuries, though, the running game was one of the larger question marks heading into the spring game on Saturday night, which led to unfair criticism. Yes, both quarterbacks were the leading rushers Saturday night, but the offensive line was playing both ways and offensive coordinator Tim Beck was fairly limited in his play calling.
That’s really all a spring game is — some call it vanilla, others just call it un-entertaining. But that’s what major spring games across the country have come to now that they are televised for everybody to see. The running game isn’t dead. It was last year, but treating the spring game like anything more than that is a mistake.
As for the culture, that’s something Herman, Del Conte and Texas Athletics can continue the fight to return to prominence, but we won’t be able to measure their achievements until the fall.
It’d be silly to expect a sellout on Sept. 8 for the home opener against Tulsa, but USC comes to Austin the following week. If the Trojans can’t bring Hollywood to Austin, it’s fair to say no one can.