Profiles In Heroism: Tom Herman Comment Count

Brian December 10th, 2014 at 4:31 PM


Offensive Coordinator/
QB Coach
Ohio State
Age 39
Exp. 3rd year
Record N/A
Previous Jobs
OC/QB @ Iowa St 2009-11
OC/QB @ Rice 2007-08
OC @ Texas St 2005-06
WR @ Sam Houston 2001-04
Playing Career
WR at Cal Lutheran, 1994-97

These again. We're skipping Harbaugh because it's not like you need to be told about Harbaugh. In the event M does hire him, he'll get one.

These are in approximate order of personal preference.

Previously: Dan Mullen, Jim Mora

I know, I know: must be head coach, if not head coach doom doom doom. To me that thinking is excessively narrow when you start talking about guys like Gary Pinkel and Steve Addazio. Many of the standout coaches in college football today started their head coaching careers at Power 5 schools—even major ones.

Here is a list of currently active college head coaches who had never been head coach before their appointment at a Power 5 school, in approximate groupings:


note: "outsider" includes people brought in from the outside as designated successors who went through a coach-in-waiting period like Fisher and Bielema.

Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Charlie Strong (Texas via Louisville), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Bret Bielema (Arkansas via Wisconsin), Bill Snyder (KSU), Mark Richt (UGA), Dana Holgorsen (WVU), Les Miles (LSU via Okie State), James Franklin (PSU via Vandy)


Steve Sarkisian (USC via Washington).


Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Mark Helfrich (Oregon), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), David Shaw (Stanford).


    Paul Chryst (Pitt), Scott Shafer (Syracuse), Paul Rhoads (ISU), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Kyle Flood (Rutgers), Derek Mason (Vandy), Mike Leach (WSU via Texas Tech), Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Kevin Wilson (Indiana)


    This is biased in favor of good coaches because bad ones get fired, but this list contains 18 names before you even get to the "no alternative" section—approximately half of Power 5 existing head coaches had no experience with a top job when hired.

    In addition, there are a number of current head coaches with very brief or almost irrelevant head coaching experience. Before Nick Saban was hired at MSU he had all of one year as a HC at Toledo; Gus Malzahn was at Arkansas State for a single year before Auburn scooped him up; Hugh Freeze was at the same place for a single year and had a couple years at something called Lambuth beforehand.

When you take the guys who were hired based on things other than their head coaching experience you have a collection of assistant-hirin' schools that are amongst the biggest in college: Florida State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Oklahoma State, Washington, Oregon, Clemson, Wisconsin, Auburn, Ole Miss.

Hiring a hot assistant is a valid option if the right guy is available. And Tom Herman has a case that he's the right guy.

[After THE JUMP: all about that case.]

Xs and Os Proficiency

This is not much in question after Ohio State's third string quarterback blasted Wisconsin even deeper into the stone age in which they comfortably reside. Ohio State had the best rushing game in the country last year; this year they lost their QB, RB, and four offensive linemen and experienced almost no dropoff. In a couple metrics they actually improved!

[Italicized years did not feature the coach in question and are provided for comparison. I grabbed the previous two years at OSU to compare the Herman offense to the one piloted by Tressel and a junior Terrelle Pryor as well as the one-off Bollman year.]

Year Team FEI S&P YPP
2006 Rice N/A 69 70
2007 Rice 67 106 72
2008 Rice 7 23 18
2009 Rice 115 118 117
2008 Iowa State 74 105 55
2009 Iowa State 51 42 78
2010 Iowa State 79 83 111
2011 Iowa State 82 101 106
2012 Iowa State 58 65 100
2010 Ohio State 16 12 17
2011 Ohio State 65 65 80
2012 Ohio State 10 16 32
2013 Ohio State 3 2 5
2014 Ohio State 9 1 4

Herman came to D-I after a prolific tenure as Texas State's I-AA offensive coordinator and turned the 2008 Rice outfit into an explosive 10-3 outfit—Rice's head coach is a defensive guy.

That got him a move up to Iowa State, where his offense was kind of okay in year one and then statistically horrible. Iowa State was 90th in scoring offense in Herman's third year, worse in yards per play, and the advanced metrics agreed. His Wikipedia page tries to make it look nice by noting that he put up 41 in an inexplicable blowout of Texas Tech; it does not mention that the next week the Cyclones put up 13 on Kansas and lost to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl with the same number of points.

But Urban don't curr, so he gets hired at Ohio State. He had the twin advantages of not having a true freshman quarterback and not coaching under an interim, so a year-one surge was expected. For Ohio State to get instantly back to par with a very good Tressel offense featuring college superstar Terrelle Pryor was not, and the last two years he's taken OSU's offense into the stratosphere. He won the Broyles in a runaway this year.



Herman has a slightly better QB recruiting record than Al Borges

Data relatively thin what with his existence at Iowa State (no recruiting possible) and Ohio State (the prospects throw themselves at you), but Herman was named the 2013 Rivals Big Ten recruiter of the year. He live-tweeted a recruiting trip when he got caught in the Atlanta ice storm earlier this year; he ended up spending 19 hours in a car. That's some terrific battery discipline.

Herman's been tasked with Texas for the most part and has done major work there:

In the 10 years that Jim Tressel led Ohio State, the Buckeyes attracted the same amount of Lone Star State recruits to Columbus as Herman has in the past 10 months.

Those recruits included five-star LB Mike Mitchell, Dontre Wilson, and JT Barrett; Herman spent a decade coaching in Texas before moving to Iowa State.

CEO Stuff

None so far; he's coordinator.

It is worth noting that Urban Meyer coordinators have been top notch when offered head jobs. Dan Mullen just had a season where Mississippi State contended for a playoff spot; Charlie Strong made Louisville into a powerhouse and is now at Texas; Kyle Whittingham has been impressive in a decade at Utah; even Steve Addazio has done decently in two years at BC, though the jury is still out on him.

That's quite a hit rate, and indicates that Meyer both finds excellent coaches and lets them do their thing.

In addition, Herman is a really smart guy. He loathes the fact that a long time ago he signed up for MENSA and people continually bring this up, but it's true. He does party tricks:

Herman’s interview signified “the most intense 24 hours” of his life, he said. Meyer threw concepts at him to memorize and scolded him for using “should” instead of “will.” He wanted to see how Herman processed and relayed back information. He did not yet know that Herman could call an entire game on offense without glancing at a call sheet. Or that he would dominate on “Jeopardy!” and opine on everything from the Bible to ancient history to pop culture.

A couple years back Gerry DiNardo sat down with Herman after Herman's first season in Columbus to break down some plays; Herman comes off as friendly, eloquent, and totally in command of his material. He veritably radiates head coach.

Potential Catches

How much of his success is Meyer? Same question we asked with Mullen. Herman has steadily moved up the ranks, which speaks to how impressive he is in person, but before his OSU gig his main claim to fame was a single year at Rice. Like Mullen, I think there's a good case that Herman is a big reason for OSU's success here. Meyer was never a coordinator and his OCs call the plays; he provides a structure for the offense. Steve Addazio's tenure provides a counterpoint to people who assume any Urban OC is going to be good, and yeah Brantley is not Tebow but guess who has not recruited any Brantley-like QBs at OSU? The OC/QB coach.

Also, Herman's ability to get Miller, Barrett, and even Cardale Jones to perform over his tenure has been impressive.

But he's never been a head coach. It's a risk. You're fooling yourself if you think that just because head coach X has track record Y that your hypothetical other candidate is not a risk. See: Rodriguez, Rich. All kinds of head coaches move and lose their mojo.

The lack of experience does move Herman behind guys who have an obviously great track record like Stoops, but once you get past the slam-dunk level those advantages dim quickly. In the event that the Gundy/Patterson/Stoops level guys are off the table I'm not looking at Herman's relative lack of experience as much of a problem.

But what about the spread transition? It's a downer, but it's really not that different from what Michigan ran most of this year: inside zone. OSU runs it more vertically than most; it's still the same principles. The main problem is at QB, where there's not an obvious spread guy available. It's an issue. Michigan could scrape by with Morris or Malzone doing the Connor Shaw thing where he keeps 'em honest; it won't be ideal.

A hire like this would be hoping for a 20-year tenure, though, and some early bumps are happening no matter who gets the job unless you think a QB answer is going to pop up next year under a pro-style coach. Honestly, a spread that offers the potential to take hard decisions away from the QB is probably a better spot for Morris than your generic West Coast offense.

THAT WOMAN test. Herman passes; more generally, his demeanor and background fits with Michigan's culture. No one is going to deride this guy as a hillbilly.

Would He Take The Job?


Overall Attractiveness

It's a swing for the fences… one I'd be fine with. If you can't beat 'em, steal 'em—Michigan learned that lesson a long time ago. Herman's done outstanding work, has all the recruiting ties you'd need now, and Urban Meyer coordinators have been some of the surest things available in coaching.

He's also on the upside, unlike a lot of the previously mentioned options. I would take him over many names mentioned in this search. Right now my list goes Harbaugh, Stoops, Herman.



December 10th, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

He's been my #2 CC hope as well.  Not only because of this year, but also the QB change that was made last year when Miller was injured.  From what I remember Guiton was more of a traditional QB and he excelled in the offense.


December 10th, 2014 at 5:14 PM ^

It wouldn't change mine one bit. They're the best team and defense in the country. I'm not sure one bad performance against such a good team should determine hiring or not hiring him. You could pull a bad game that Harbaugh has coached.  You could pull many examples of questionable coaching throughout Miles' career as well.


December 10th, 2014 at 11:54 PM ^

If you have been paying attention, team can and so score on Alabama. It's called going deep on them. If your quarterback moves around and gets outside of the pocket and goes deep, the 'Bama secondary goes Derp .. Derp and gives up big plays. We experienced it a bit when we played them a few years ago, and nothing has changed. 

Watch the game against Missouri, while it was their only offense, going deep against Alabama showed their weakness. Now, you hit a couple of big plays, they make adjustments, and suddenly your solid running game starts to become more effective. 



December 10th, 2014 at 7:51 PM ^

The biggest issue I have with hireing a non proven head coach is all the administrative BS type stuff the head coach has to deal with. A head coach is more of an administrator type person while your coordinators are like your top salesman in an office. Not every great offensive or defensive mind is great at being a head coach. So is Michigan going to just take a chance on a guy like Herman and hope he can handle the head job, I doubt it.

The part that intrigues me with Herman is that Urban Meyer is leaving a wake of good coaches across the NCAA as he changes jobs every three to five years. Charlie Strong, Mullen, Anderson, Whittingham so is Herman going to be the next one.


December 12th, 2014 at 9:10 PM ^

I only mention him because Brian has mentioned him and others have mentioned him. I also hope he is not a real candidate. My point is, Herman is most definitely someone I would like over some others that have mentioned. But yes, other, much better candidates are obviously at the top of my list. 


December 10th, 2014 at 4:58 PM ^

The problem with this line of thinking is that the list of available proven head coaches and winners is really short. As far as I can tell it consists of Harbaugh, Stoops, Miles, and a bunch of people that are even less likely to come to Michigan than those three.

Everyone agrees that if you can get Harbaugh or Stoops, that's the answer. Opinion is divided on Miles for various reasons. But as soon as those names come off the table, you're not looking at many "proven head coach" candidates anymore except in the sense of being proven to be just okay.

I'd be very happy with a Herman hire. At least then, even if he doesn't work out, we know that the people in charge have their sights set higher than just getting back to 8-4 or 9-3 every year.


December 10th, 2014 at 4:43 PM ^

While more risky, I would be ecstatic about this hire I think.  His track record is very impressive, topped off with OSU's 3rd string QB looking like a Heisman contender against Wisconsin's top-10ish defense.

I agree re: order.

It pains me that he is probably not being seriously considered by Hackett.


December 10th, 2014 at 4:44 PM ^

This is a spot on option.  He could be the next Bob Stoops. 

Still behind Mullen, Graham, and (of course) Jim Harbaugh.  But I think he's the best of the coordinator types I have heard referenced. 


December 10th, 2014 at 4:46 PM ^

A risk, yes, but the upside here is really high, as Brian explains well. If you can't get an experienced head coach home-run hire, then I think Herman is the way to go.

In the previous searchbits thread, I see people assuming that the longer we have to wait to hire someone, the more likely it's an NFL guy we're waiting for, whether Harbaugh or someone else. But wouldn't we need to wait for a guy like Herman too? His team's in the playoff, and presumably he wants to see that through before taking a new job. Point is, I don't buy this argument that a longer wait automatically = current NFL guy.

MI Expat NY

December 11th, 2014 at 9:43 AM ^

I would hope that a guy we hire as head coach wouldn't leave his current team in the lurch right before the playoffs, even if that team is Ohio State.  Coordinators regularly take head coaching jobs, begin their duties there while coordinating their current team in their bowl game.  


December 10th, 2014 at 4:53 PM ^

If we make it all the way down the list to Herman without find a decent head coach willing to come to Michigan, then we are in way worse shape then I thought.


December 10th, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

Herman over Mora, Mullen, and Miles?  Interesting.  I like him in a "second five" list, but I'm timid about him in the top five.  
Except it probably does not matter, since our top five contains some lottery tickets like Harbaugh and Stoops.
So the likely choices are Herman versus your Mullen/Mora types.  I can see the appeal of Herman, but I think our AD will chicken out on a Coordinator unless they are down to the bottom of their list.
I wonder what Florida's take on Herman was?  Seems like he could have been a good fit there.  Their AD probably had the same Coordinator gun-shyness this time around.  

Space Coyote

December 10th, 2014 at 4:52 PM ^

OSU uses a flipper technique while Michigan uses a hand technique.

This transition will probably be likely with almost any college (and especially spread) coach that is brought in, and assuming if Herman came he would probably install the same blocking type.

FWIW: Hand technique is used more widely in the NFL and allows you to control the first level better and control defenders when you attack. Flipper technique moves a little more and results in more movement in the defense, which is why spread coaches like it so much (and option coaches in general).


December 10th, 2014 at 5:00 PM ^

What about Kirby Smart?  Unless head coaching experience is a requirement, it's pretty hard to find someone with a much better pedigree.  Only 38 years old w/three national championships, and maybe a 4th this year, under his belt as DC.


December 10th, 2014 at 6:49 PM ^

It's Iowa State is not an excuse.

Kevin Wilson has a bunch of nobodies who when they have a QB who is not the 7th string true freshman puts up points on a lot of teams.   It's easier to get offense at "bad schools" then it is defense because you can scheme to compensate for your lower skilled players.  On defense you are just plain screwed if you dont have the athletes. 

Mike Leach went into the same conference at a nobody school and put up lights out numbers on offense.

Until he met Urban Meyer Herman had 1 good year in 5 running offenses - his 2nd at Rice.  A 20% success rate is not a positive endorsement.

I do like how urban tests his coaches in the interviews.  Made me laugh when I thought how it would compare to Hoke.  It's all those small things like that, that set apart elite coaches.  Details.

MI Expat NY

December 11th, 2014 at 10:11 AM ^

Just because you gave two examples of good offenses at shit schools doesn't mean "It's Iowa State" isn't at least some form of an excuse.  Bad college football programs are bad for a reason and just because it's theoretically possible to do well at such a school, it's not like the failure to do so necesserily indicates a bad coach.  Maybe 1 for 5 under the circumstances of coaching Rice and Iowa State is great?

I was more looking for if there's any other information out there.  For instance, in his third year, two different QBs started multiple games, with the backup starting the last 6 of the regular season and the starter coming back for the bowl game.  Injuries?  Just shitty QBs because you're Iowa State?  I don't know.  But it probably has something to do with the offense struggling.  The two years before a different two guys got multiple starts at QB, and though one seemed to be largely the starter, there are enough games in there where both saw action to indicate that it was far from settled.  If I had to guess, I'd say that Iowa State had very, very bad QB play.  I don't know how much can be said to be Herman's fault.  

I wonder if there were other issues on offense?  An O-line injury collapse?  A Maryland-esque WR apocalypse?  I don't know.  What I do know is that Urban Meyer saw enough in Herman, or someone influential to Urban Meyer saw enough in him, that Meyer plucked him out of Iowa State to run his offense.  That means something.  


December 11th, 2014 at 4:17 PM ^

You're listing two guys who were a) head coaches at those schools, not OCs, and b) guys who were much farther along in their careers than Herman was at ISU.  

This does not by itself refute his performance, but it's not exactly apples and oranges.  Both of those guys had extensive experience as OCs before going to those schools and boosting their offenses, and even in those cases it took a few years.  It may have taken a few more at ISU, but he didn't stay there long enough.


December 11th, 2014 at 12:29 PM ^

and a person who put a lot of confidence points on Iowa State in his 2011 bowl pick 'em after their high-scoring upset of previously-undefeated Okie State, I have to say that "it's Iowa State" goes a long way, especially in one respect: his QBs that season were unfathomably terribad. I was ripping my hair out watching The Immortal Steele Jantz chucking moonballs and bounce-passing screens all game in their bowl loss to Rutgers that year.


December 10th, 2014 at 4:55 PM ^

I could handle Herman being hired.  Besides his being a spread guy with a good chance at succeeding, it would piss off a lot of OSU fans.  Since their fans have been laughing at Michigan for the last ten years, it would be nice to be able to laugh at them.