Despite finishing 7-3 and winning a bowl game during the pandemic-ridden 2020 season, Texas decided it was time for a coaching change. In January, the Longhorns fired head coach Tom Herman after four years, with the additional cost of a $25 million buyout for him and his assistants.

During a recent interview, former Texas defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham was asked about his initial reaction to Herman’s departure. According to Graham, no one expected Herman to be terminated, and a number of Longhorn players were disappointed in the timing.

“I guess it kinda capped off everything from this season,” Graham told The Spun. “First off all, we were disappointed we didn’t get to win the Big 12 Championship. It hurt when I saw it on the news because that’s not something we expected to happen. There were talks about it, but we didn’t think they would do that this year, especially due to COVID-19 and how tough this year was. It was just a hard situation for us players, and it was something we were disappointed by.”

Herman led Texas to a 32-18 record from 2017-2020. The Longhorns won all four bowl games during his tenure, including a 55-23 rout of Colorado in last season’s Alamo Bowl.

However, Herman failed to deliver a Big 12 Championshing during his stretch in Austin. Last year, Texas looked like a league contender until losing a heartbreaker to No. 13 Iowa State on Nov. 27.

Texas also finished just 1-3 under Herman in the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma. In 2020, the Longhorns fell 53-45 to the Sooners after four overtime periods.

“That game, in my honest opinion, there’s nothing like it,” Graham said on the importance of the Red River Rivalry. “The atmosphere when you first walk into that stadium - half is filled with hate for you, the other half is filled with joy. You can’t just replicate that at all. Just the tension we have pregame because we have to walk through the same tunnel, and that’s usually where all the beef starts. That game is just so intense and you never know what’s going to happen.”

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Texas targeted Herman after he became a first-time head coach at Houston from 2015-16, going 22-4 (12-4 AAC) with the Cougars. Herman was Ohio State's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2012-14, including the final season there leading to an inaugural College Football Playoff national championship.

Prior to a rise with Ohio State, Herman served the same roles at Iowa State (2009-11), Rice (2007-08), and Texas State (2005-06). Earlier in his coaching career, he was a graduate assistant with the Longhorns from 1999-00.