Tom Herman rang in the new year, albeit a bit under the weather, according to him, by completing his staff at Texas. On Thursday morning, Herman appeared before the media for the first time since his introduction on Nov. 27 to explain exactly what that means.
“They are unbelievable mentors and teachers,” Herman said, of his new staff. When asked how important it was to “get the band back together,” Herman smiled.
“On a scale of 1-10? 15. 100 percent. Whatever cliche you want to use.”
When Texas hired the former UH head coach, speculation that former Texas quarterback and c0-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite would follow Herman was soon quelled when Houston named Applewhite head coach on Dec. 9.
Once Applewhite was out of the picture, Todd Orlando, who Applewhite beat out for the head job at Houston, was the first major piece of the puzzle for Herman, who hired his former defensive coordinator on Dec. 17. Orlando will be the highest-paid assistant coach in Texas history, just about doubling his 2016 income to make more than $1 million annually for three years.
Along with Orlando came three other Houston assistants, including Craig Naivar, who will serve as special teams and safeties coach under Herman. Tory Teyki will be director of football operations, a title he held at Houston in 2014, and Yancy McKnight is Texas’ new strength and conditioning coach. Herman said that since he’s been a head coach, the most important hires are strength and conditioning and defensive coordinator.
“I was not going to take the Houston job if he didn’t come with me,” Herman said of McKnight, who worked with Herman at Rice and Iowa State. Herman then cracked a telling smile. “I’m not going to say I wouldn’t have taken this job without him.”
Herman completed his staff on Jan. 3, with the hiring of two former Ohio State assistants: Stan Drayton and Tim Beck. Drayton was most recently running backs coach with the Chicago Bears, and will serve as run game coordinator at Texas.
Beck, a somewhat divisive figure at Ohio State, was Herman’s replacement in 2015 after Ohio State’s national championship win, and will serve as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas. With two games remaining in the 2015 season, Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer turned play-calling duties over to fellow co-OC Ed Warinner, and most recently, the Buckeyes were shut out by Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal game. Regardless, Beck has cred among Texas high school coaches, after successful stints as head coach at Carrollton R.L. Turner and Mansfield Summit, and has twice been named a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top college assistant.
“The list was very short,” Herman said, of Beck’s hiring. “I was surprised [at the backlash]. It’s well known he didn’t call plays at OSU. The anger was misplaced.” Herman said he talked to J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, both former Ohio State stars, plus Meyer before hiring Beck. All three gave a ringing endorsement.
Herman said that Texas will play a pro-spread offense, relying heavily on a power run game, led by Drayton. Herman called Drayton—who coached presumptive NFL Rookie of the Year Ezekiel Elliott and 49ers starter Carlos Hyde at Ohio State—a “home run hire.” He also called Drayton his “right hand man” and a future successful college head coach.
Rounding out Herman’s staff is Oscar Giles (defensive line), Corby Meekins (tight ends), Drew Mehringer (wide receivers/passing game coordinator), Jason Washington (cornerbacks/recruiting coordinator). No longer in charge of calling plays—he says Beck will handle that, “with suggestions”—Herman described his role as an overseer, someone who will have to stand behind his multitude of hires.
“I don’t coach a position anymore. I coach coaches … I have to trust those guys are in complete alignment,” Herman said. “I put my head down on the pillow every night knowing that’s not something I have to worry about.”
According to Herman, Texas’ spring practice will tentatively open March 6. After spring break, the team will practice until the Orange and White scrimmage set for April 15.
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