AUSTIN — Tom Herman’s been on the job little more than one month and, already, he’s defending his offensive coordinator as well as his grocery list.
Apparently there weren’t enough vegetables in Herman’s shopping cart Wednesday, according to tongue-in-cheek social media posts. But Herman’s culinary choices paled in comparison to the previous day’s outcry bewailing his pick of former Ohio State QB’s coach Tim Beck as Texas’ new play-caller. Beck arrived in Austin on the heels of Ohio State’s 31-0 shutout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal Saturday. It was the program’s first blanking since 1993.
The ever-poised Herman conceded that the disenchantment caught him off-guard.
“I was really surprised because it’s very well known that Tim Beck did not call plays at Ohio State,” Herman said.
Well, sort of.
Urban Meyer reportedly gave co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner the keys to the offense in late 2015 following the 17-14 loss to eventual Big 10 champ Michigan State.
Herman later qualified his remarks by mentioning Beck may have called a play here or there this past season in Columbus but “he was never the primary play-caller.”
“I think the negativity was misplaced (on Beck),” Herman said, before adding: “Tim Beck was extremely successful when he was the play-caller at Nebraska (2011-14). I chalked it up to a lot of misinformation on social media. I’ll never be swayed to any of that because we’re privy to a lot more information than Joe Fan has.”
Texas officials gave Herman the green light (which is to say, the cha-ching) to hire whoever he wanted. Herman said he also received the thumbs-up from Buckeye QBs J. T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, who gave Beck ringing endorsements.
“Beck was definitely Plan A based on what I know of him as a teacher, as a person, and as an offensive coordinator.”
Beck brings a reputation as a pass-happy coordinator who’d throw five-out-of-four downs, if he could. Said Herman: “Philosophically, we’re going to be a downhill, inside zone, A and B gap, power running football team.”
Herman vows to be highly involved in game-planning and in personnel decisions.
“Tim will call the game with suggestions from me,” Herman said, whose 2014 national champion Buckeye offense averaged 45 ppg with three different QBs.
Herman expects Texas to run an up-tempo, pro-spread offense that has placed a premium on mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks. Inquiring minds want to know: does Texas have that kind of triggerman on campus?
The new head coach concedes that he has “not watched a snap of film from last season.” Nor does he intend to. Based on what little Herman has seen of Shane Buechele, however, Herman believes the program has a capable quarterback.
“He just has to make the defense pay if they ignore the quarterback in the running game,” Herman said.
The operative phrase in Herman’s first press conference since his November 27th introduction had to do with the team’s “culture”. It has to do with the expectations, mindset, work ethic, core values, and alignment of all the many faceted parts that comprise a championship-caliber program.
The head coach is the “disseminator of the culture”, Herman said, but the culture always begins with the Strength Coach.
That title now belongs to Yancy McKnight, who left Iowa State to join Herman’s staff in Houston. Herman actually referred to McKnight as a “soulmate” because they are cut from the same cloth with regard to conditioning. In fact, Herman thinks so highly of McKnight, he said, “I was not going to take the Houston job if he would not have come with me.”
Moments later, Herman quipped: “I’m not going to say I wouldn’t have taken (the Texas) job if he hadn’t come with me.”
The two most important hires on any football team is the Strength Coach and the Defensive Coordinator, Herman believes. Todd Orlando follows Herman from UH to upgrade a Texas defense coming off its two statistically worst seasons in program history.
“We’re going to play tremendous defense around here,” Herman vowed.
McKnight may be Herman’s “soulmate” but new RB coach Stan Drayton “is my right hand man.” Drayton worked with Herman at Ohio State but spent the past two seasons with the Chicago Bears.
“I gave him the ‘associate head coach’ title for a reason. I think Stan Drayton is going to be one of the next great head coaches in college football.”
Herman does not buy into the football adage that players pick universities rather than coaches. It is not dismissive of all that Texas has to offer, but rather the importance the tough-love coach places on interpersonal relationships.
“Anybody who tells you that a young man should choose a school because of the school and because of the people, I think that’s wrong. If you’re a college football player, you’re going to remember two things from your college experience. One is the winning. How much did you win? Was all your blood, sweat and tears worth it? Two, is the people, and those people include coaches. As coaches, it is our job to push them to the limits that have never been pushed before in their lives. But we’ve also got to be build some trusting, loving relationships with them.”
Signing Day is little more than three weeks away, and Texas currently sits with 12 pledges. Despite all that a program like Texas has to offer, Herman cited a study revealing that a coach’s first recruiting class has the most attrition and mis-evaluations than any subsequent group he will sign.
The evidence suggests it primarily has to do with fledgling relationships that new head coaches have with high school coaches.
A prime example, Herman said, was Urban Meyer’s first class at Ohio State. A relatively small class of 19 ranked No. 5 on Signing Day but only three emerged as impactful players.
For now, it means that Longhorn assistants, despite their combined 108 years recruiting the Lone Star State, remain at some disadvantage until firmer relationships are established.
“We don’t have a relationship with a lot of these guys,” Herman said, “so that makes it very difficult to get in.”
Herman has met informally with approximately 30 returning lettermen since arriving in late November. There is no depth chart in Herman’s meritocracy where playing time is earned.
“The earning starts January 17th,” Herman said. That’s the official start of Texas’ off-season, strength-and-conditioning program. Spring drills are tentatively set to begin on March 6th while the annual Orange-White scrimmage is penciled-in for April 15th.