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Tom Herman 'absolutely' expects Sam Ehlinger to come back for senior season

Tom Herman and Kyle Whittington addressed the media on the eve of the Valero Alamo Bowl.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — On the Eve of the Valero Alamo Bowl, head coach Tom Herman took to the podium to address questions one final time before kicking off on Dec. 31. 

At the end of the press conference, Herman was asked about junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger submitting the paperwork to get his NFL Draft advisory grade and whether if he expected Ehlinger back for his senior season. 

"Oh absolutely (expects Ehlinger back)," Herman said. "He's already gotten the results back. I do think he has a tremendous future at the next level. Again, I'll say it as many times as I need to: he sees the game as good as anybody I've coached. Having coached some good quarterbacks in my day, that's certainly no slight on them, it's a testimony to him and his intelligence, his toughness. That's going a long way at the next level."

On Dec. 29, Ehlinger told the media about him submitting the paperwork to get his NFL Draft Advisory grade. 

“It’s just let’s see what they say,” Ehlinger said. “I really haven’t thought about it to tell you the truth. I want to win a bowl game and so I'll probably evaluate and think about things from there.” 

Ehlinger also said he appreciated being included in conversations about who would be calling plays in 2020. 

"We haven't talked much," Ehlinger said on Dec. 29. "He was very transparent with me in what he was looking for and what he wanted to do. He made sure I felt like I was very involved and understanding of the situation and the process ... so I appreciated that tremendously. Right now, we're focused on winning the bowl game and it's not my place to say what his decisions are or where he wants to take this program because ultimately, he's the had coach." 

Here is a transcription of the press conference: 

Utah Utes Kyle Whittingham opening statement: First thing I want to do is acknowledge my good friend Kurt Kragthorpe back here. He's been covering sports in Utah for 30 years. This is his last year. Me and Kurt go way back. Both our fathers coached at BYU. We ran around at Holiday Bowls together, played little league baseball together, high school baseball. A lot of history with Kurt. He's been our beat writer for the last few years. We'll miss him. He's going to have a chance to enjoy life for a while. Congratulations on a great career. Excited to be here, like I said probably 20 times by now. We're excited about this. The bowl has been as advertised. We've had a great time. Players have had a great time. The events, just the whole layout, has been really great. We've been to the Sugar Bowl, as well, a few years back. This rivals any bowl that we've been to. We've had a great time. Looking forward to the game tomorrow night. Should be a great matchup. Texas is Texas, what can you say? They have talented players, class program, a lot of history. Just one of those programs in the country that is kind of iconic. It's great for our guys to be able to line up and play a team like that, a program like that. We're excited. It's been a great week of practice. Preparation has been good. We'll see how we can play tomorrow night."

Texas Longhorns Tom Herman opening statement: "First off, I want to thank Coach Whittingham for recommending the no-tie policy at the press conference. Thank you, coach. That was awesome (laughter). The Alamo Bowl has been fantastic. We've had an opportunity since I've been a head coach to go to two New Year's Six bowl games in the last five years. This one, like coach said, it absolutely rivals any bowl game out there. The City of San Antonio, just the whole layout, everything being so central, is phenomenal for our players. There's not a whole lot of travel time. Everything is within walking distance. They don't have to get in a car when they want to have a night out, whatever it is. It's just an unbelievable set up. We're excited as heck, like coach said. We've had some really good practices. We're about as healthy as we've been. I would like to take a minute to thank a couple guys on our team. We've got three seniors that have been invited to the NFL Combine. All three of them are invited to the Senior Bowl, as well. All three of them will be dressed and on the sideline and available to play tomorrow. I think that speaks to their commitment, not to this program, but to this university. I think that speaks to their commitment, no to this program, but to this university. I want to thank Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay and Brandon Jones personally. I think that's really, really cool in today's enviornment for those guys to go out there one last time for their brothers. I think it speaks to the fellowship, the relationships that are in that locker room, as well. They certainly don't want to let anybody down. Obviously Brandon is a little banged up, but he has practiced all week. We'll see how he feels tomorrow. But fully expect Collin and Devin to play significant roles in the game. Again, we're thrilled to be challenged by a Utah team that played for their conference championship, won 11 games. They play unbelievably great defense."

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Herman on process of hiring Yurcich as Texas offensive coordinator: "The process went great. As I think I've told you guys, getting the defensive coordinator hire right was my first priority because obviously Chris Ash didn't have a job. He was being courted by a lot of suitors. Not to say we didn't realistically look at many other candidates, which we did. We had our eyes set on Chris, wound up securing him. So then we turned our attention to finding the right guy to lead our offense. Talked to five, six guys with great resumes that have great jobs, as well. We couldn't be happier with Mike. When you look at his resume, I think the year at Ohio State is kind of like the icing on the cake. This is a guy that in his six years at Oklahoma State, you look at the numbers, they're off the charts." According to coach Gundy, who I spoke to, he said he's an unbelievable play-caller, very rhythmic, very detail-oriented in the way that he develops quarterbacks and offenses."

Whittingham on success in bowl games:  "The success is simply the hard work that the players put in. There's no magic formula that we have that anybody else doesn't have. It's not some secret practice plan or process. It's just the commitment our players make."

Herman on the emotion for the seniors last bowl game: "They hold a very special place in my heart and our program's heart because when we got here, they were freshman, just finishing their freshman year, most of them, having gone 5-7. We came in with a different way of doing things. It was very difficult. Some of their classmates decided that wasn't for them. All these guys stuck around."

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Whittingham on verge of finishing ranked in the national top 10: "That's something we talked about. The reasons to win the game, not only because we have the bowl track record we have, but being a top 10 ranking, winning our twelfth game, which has only happened two other times in Utah football history, sending the seniors out the right way. There's a myriad of reasons for winning the game, not that you need anything more than being a competitor, but those carrots out there we have talked about."

Whittingham on Sam Ehlinger: "He;s the catalyst, in my opinion. He;s the guy that makes it go. Tremendous leader, at least it appears that way on film, when you watch him. Very good thrower. Over 3,500 yards throwing, 500 yards rushing. Can hurt you both ways."

Herman on Sam Ehlinger seeking info from NFL Draft Advisory Committee and if he expects him to return for his senior year: "Oh absolutely (expects Ehlinger back)," Herman said. "He's already gotten the results back. I do think he has a tremendous future at the next level. Again, I'll say it as many times as I need to: he sees the game as good as anybody I've coached. Having coached some good quarterbacks in my day, that's certainly no slight on them, it's a testimony to him and his intelligence, his toughness. That's going a long way at the next level."

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Texas and Utah will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. The game will be televised by ESPN. 


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