Todd Orlando used to be a 4-3 guy in his days back at UCONN. He played LB at Wisconsin himself and his defenses used to be defined like much of the rest of the Midwest or Northeast with an emphasis on sound, physical play and “bend don’t break” strategies.
The dreaded transition class has now finally come together for Tom Herman and includes several players that were obviously chosen for their fit and the staff’s comfort level with making the most of their talent. As Herman himself noted, their first class at Ohio State was ranked 5th nationally but only produced three contributors because of lack of fit.
We’ve now examined the foundation of the Herman offense, which is the power and inside zone run game, as well as the basics of the Todd Orlando defense, which are the coverages he uses to structure his schemes. Now it’s time to dive into the Herman passing game.
On my computer I have little text edit documents with the depth charts for just about every power 5 program as well as 20 or so mid-majors that are nationally relevant. I track all the starters and some of the backups with their size, class, where they came from, and sometimes their 247 ranking coming out of HS or JUCO.
So I have quite the archive of college player info. It’s useful for evaluating teams but it’s also useful for recognizing patterns:
Last week we broke down the two foundational plays of the Tom Herman offense, which are the inside zone and power run schemes. Everything in Herman’s offense flows from first being able to attack the space between the tackles with these two runs and then punishing defensive overplays with spread formations, option concepts, and play-action.
Most coaches have favorite schemes. Good coaches can adjust to the players they have on their roster, but there’s a reason that there’s a degree of challenge involved in doing so. Every coach has schemes or a system he believes in for teaching, training, and then deploying his players. Tom Herman and Todd Orlando have a few key schemes they believe in for allowing them to make the most of the players on their roster, today we’re going to start with the foundational schemes of Herman’s offense.
If you didn’t already know, Beck got the call to replace Herman as QB coach when he left Ohio State after the 2014 playoffs for the Houston job. Urban made Beck Co-OC with OL coach Ed Warriner and they proceeded to have difficulty over the next two years matching the output of the 2014 offense, navigating the Cardale Jones vs J.T. Barrett QB battle, or rebuilding the passing game.
Houston was the perfect job for Tom Herman to take for three reasons.
The first was that it allowed him to get back to work in the familiar grounds at Texas, recruiting and developing in a state he already knew well thanks to previous stops at Texas, Sam Houston State, Texas State, and Rice.
From the beginning it was always Charlie Strong’s intention to install a run-based, ball control offense that could beat down Big 12 defenses and protect his own defense. His once innovative 3-3-5 defense was heavy on disguised blitzes and shifting fronts designed to disrupt opponents. Gameplans for college defenses rarely have enough disguise or variety to hold up under the microscope of spread offense for 70+ snaps a game.
While Major Applewhite is officially taking over Houston for their bowl game (the Las Vegas Bowl), both of Herman’s Cougar coordinators be there for this game and Applewhite will be incentivized to make this game count as he seeks to continue the program momentum built up by Tom Herman. If you want to get a final glimpse of what Herman’s Houston team looked like and aren’t one to dig up old games on YouTube, this is a great opportunity.