Hand looking for ‘fork-droppers,’ consistency in his first year at Texas

Herb Hand (Will Gallagher/IT)

Herb Hand (Will Gallagher/IT)

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Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand is known not only for his football acumen, but for his culinary expertise. One of the first questions he fielded on August 2 at Texas’ pre-season media day included what some of his favorite restaurants in Austin were.

For Hand, he listed establishments that he called “fork-droppers.”

“Here’s all I want: you take the fork to whatever you’re eating, you cut it, you put it in your mouth, then you just drop the fork and go that’s it right there,” Hand said.

When the questions turned to what the University of Texas pays him to do, coach the offensive line, he was asked if any of the players in his OL room were fork-droppers.

“I think so,” Hand said. “I feel really good about coming out of spring practice. Felt good about our first five guys that we put out there.”

During the spring game, those first five left to right were Denzel Okafor, Patrick Vahe, Zach Shackelford, Elijah Rodriguez, and Derek Kerstetter. Since then, the Longhorns added Rice grad transfer Calvin Anderson to the equation. At media day, Hand said they had high expectations for the All-CUSA honorable mention tackle.

In addition, he spoke about recruiting the grad transfer first to Auburn, then to Texas. In the middle of the recruitment, Hand was hired by Tom Herman away from Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

Hand said that was unlike anything he had experienced in his lengthy coaching career, but though there was a change for him the consistency he had with Anderson was a big part of his ability to land the coveted grad transfer.

“I think what Calvin appreciated is when I did come here to Texas, my message to him didn’t change,” Hand said. “There was consistency in the message.”

That message was not for Anderson to come to Texas to help the Longhorns, but to allow Hand and the Longhorns to help him get to where he wanted to be.

Herb Hand and the offensive line (Will Gallagher/IT)

Herb Hand and the offensive line (Will Gallagher/IT)

Anderson joins a unit that arguably was the weakest on the team last season. A lot of that had to do with injuries to various starters or projected contributors including Connor Williams, Patrick Hudson, and Elijah Rodriguez.

Hand had the ability to dive into last year’s film when he was first hired because he was not able to go on the road recruiting right away when he was first hired. To him, it was apparent that the Longhorns were going through the growing pains of learning a new system. In addition, he saw how much injuries affected the play of the five up front.

For Hand, it boils down to one major factor to help the 2018 unit be better than the 2017 line.

“It just comes down to consistency,” Hand said. “That’s one of our mantras if you will going into fall camp. Getting that consistency up front. You’ve got to operate as a unit. You can’t have four guys that are playing at a high level and one guy doesn’t work.”

One thing Hand kept consistent was most of the verbiage for the o-line. After players like Patrick Vahe and Elijah Rodriguez have learned from a different coach each of the last four years, Hand saw the value in making sure the playbook stayed consistent. He didn’t want the players to have to learn yet another new language, so he tried to learn Texas’ language with a few minor exceptions.

“I learned their language for the most part,” Hand said. “There was a couple of little things we have tweaked. The majority of it, 95 percent of it or so, I wanted it to be consistent so it wasn’t another first year with a guy.”

That language includes a lot of inside zone. Herman in recent months has lauded Hand as one of the best teachers in America of Texas’ bread-and-butter running play.

Hand has experience running that play, and several others, all over the country with stops at Tulsa, Vanderbilt, Penn State, and Auburn.

He admitted that most of the country runs inside zone as well as several other run game mainstays like outside zone and power. For him, there’s one thing he knows he and his unit must do in order to be better than everyone else.

“It’s really not so much what you do it’s how you do it,” Hand said. “The thing that I love about the offense here in coming here was that it was an easy transition because of how aligned Coach Herman and coach (Tim) Beck and the rest of the offensive staff, how aligned we are in terms of how we want to do things. The what’s are pretty much consistent in what everybody does. It’s how you do it.”