Total Recall

By Kyle Rowland on August 10, 2012 at 10:00a
A brainiac, literally, heads the offensive gameplan.

Perhaps no coordinator in the country has more on his plate than Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman. The Cincinnati native arrived at Ohio State with a destination job in hand working for one of the game’s best head coaches, Urban Meyer. But it wasn’t all gravy once the plane touched down. Herman immediately went to work on a complete overhaul of the Buckeyes’ stagnant offense. Luckily, he’s a member of the high-IQ organization MENSA.

For the past decade, the Ohio State offense has been adequate but not exemplary. Conservative play-calls that put a premium on the Silver Bullet defense and special teams were the rule of order. All of that hit rock bottom in 2011.

The pass offense ranked 115 out of 120 teams, with total offense placing a few spots up the rung at No. 107. Since full Division I statistics have been available, it’s the worst Ohio State has ever faired offensively. Several things factored into the Buckeyes’ struggles: Jim Tressel’s ouster, suspensions and poor quarterback play. And those are just a few. But, ultimately, it comes down to the on-field performance.

Ohio State’s newly formed offense lacked firepower entering the spring and was discombobulated leaving it. Herman, who will leave play-calling duties to Meyer, deemed them a “2” on a scale of 1-10 following spring practice. But they’ve already improved by 100 percent in a handful of fall get-togethers.

"Light years,” said Herman, describing the improvement. “We can actually throw and catch a football. We are still not real good, but we are still a lot better than we were at the end of the spring, which is a testament to our guys and how much they worked in the offseason."

Herman’s offensive philosophies are closely aligned with those of Meyer, and while Herman doesn’t have national championships to his name, the offenses he’s oversaw have produced extraordinary results.

For two seasons as offensive coordinator at Texas State, Herman orchestrated the Southland Conference’s leading unit. He moved down the road to Rice for a two-year stint, where the Owls broke 40 offensive school records and won 10 games in 2008. Their Texas Bowl victory was the program’s first since 1954.

During the 2008 season, Rice ranked in the Top 10 nationally in passing offense, scoring offense and total offense. Rice scored more than 41 points per game compared to 18 the following season without Herman. Also in the ’08 season, the Owls had two receivers compile more than 1,300 yards catching, while tight end James Casey had 111 receptions and quarterback Chase Clement was the Conference USA MVP.

Rice's once-in-a-generation success halted after Herman left.

For the past three seasons, Herman directed Iowa State’s high-powered offense. The Cyclones’ quarterback, Austin Arnaud, ended his career as the program’s second all-time leading passer with 6,777 yards and 42 touchdown passes. His 8,044 yards of total offense is also the second-best total in school history.

Those are eye-popping stats, and keep in mind, they’ve been accumulated at schools that attract less talented players than he’ll have at Ohio State.

Herman’s shining coaching moment came last year when Iowa State shocked undefeated and second-ranked Oklahoma State in November, scoring 37 points.

His offenses have a history of being very kind to quarterbacks and receivers. For Braxton Miller, Devin Smith and Co., it’s a welcome change to the previous system.

"I’m just trying to learn everything," wide receiver Philly Brown said. "Coach Meyer wants me to learn all the wideout spots. There’s no set position right now. Everybody is just working to become a starter, and it’s pretty much even for everybody."

So far in practices open to the media, Miller has shown improved footwork and alertness in the pocket. He’s also delivered accurate passes to his targets. Facing Ohio State’s first-string defense that includes a dominant defensive line, many of Miller’s passes have come on the run, but the sophomore has not appeared unsettled.

"I think he’s a lot more mentally confident and you can see a little bounce in his step," Herman said. "He certainly still has a long way to go, but you can tell he studied in the offseason and he’s worked with his wideouts in the offseason, and that’s paid dividends here as we’ve started camp."

For Miller and the wide receivers, the pace of learning and executing the offense must be quick. The entire playbook will be installed in the first six practices before they go back and modify the product until it’s finished. After Friday’s practice there will be two weeks until game week arrives.

The result after Herman's offense toppled Oklahoma State.

For a unit still grasping a new playbook and a two-deep that features five underclassmen at quarterback and receiver, a fine-tuned machine on Sept. 1 may be asking too much. That’s not to say the Buckeyes won’t score six or seven touchdowns; it just won’t be the masterpiece Meyer and Herman long for when Big Ten play opens.

"Once the offense becomes second nature the whole game slows down and the tempo doesn't seem nearly as fast," Herman said. "But right now it seems like we are going 100 miles an hour because their brains are trying to turn and it is not second nature for them. Once it becomes second nature, then the tempo will internally slow down but externally will stay the same.

"The retention has been better than expected but still it is hard to watch at times. A lot of things get accelerated, which heightens your anxiety a little bit.”

Another issue that raises Meyer and Herman’s blood pressure is the loss of Jordan Hall and who will replace him. Philly Brown is a logical candidate, but the coaching staff seems to have cooled to Brown filling the hybrid offensive playmaker role.

"I would love to do that," Brown said. "Obviously having Jordan out is bad, but hopefully I can step in and fill in for him. I did play running back in high school, but if the coaches want me to do it, I’ll do it. It doesn’t really matter to me."

Brown contains all the qualities for the position: speed, body type, and pass catching. He also has the ability to knife though defenses and move swiftly in and out of traffic. But Herman pointed out Brown lacks the requisite size to travel consistently inside the tackles.

”Everywhere you go, I think the mark of quality offenses is don’t try to fit square pegs into round holes,” Herman said. “You deal with what you have. So the biggest challenge we have as an offensive staff is evaluating what we have honestly, and sometimes brutally honest, saying, ‘This is what we have. This is who we are. This is what we can be,’ without straying from our core tenets of being a spread, no-huddle, up-tempo offense.”

Meyer and Herman’s track record for mixing and mashing players’ talents is notable. Browns and his fellow receivers will learn that they’re placed at a particular spot on the field for a reason. Opposing defenses will long for the Halcyon Days of the “Dave” play.


Comments Show All Comments

bassplayer7770's picture

Opposing defenses will long for the Halcyon Days of the “Dave” play.


Devin1024's picture

Just the thought that the first play of every game, every half, every series, and every 1st down every year won't be a run off tackle is going to be awesome.
Since we always knew that the first play would be an off tackle run, we would bet on whether it would be to the left or to the right...not exactly Vegas stuff... 

osu07asu10's picture

Silly Devin,...for the last 3 years the first play of every game was a false start by Shugarts 

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

OSUBias's picture


7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

This is a great article... Really gives us something to look forward to.  JT was a great coach and a remarkable run at OSU, but watching his offenses was sometimes brutal.  The one thing I don't understand is why the playcalling will be left up to Meyer.  It seems that as much success as Herman has had, he would take care of playcalling duties.  Any reasoning on that?

bassplayer7770's picture

Herman has always said Meyer had veto power on playcalling, and I believe Herman will be up in the booth rather than on the sideline.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Cool that he's a memeber of MENSA.  The offense has no where to go but up from last year.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Rapping Bum's picture

God bless Dave.

Help is on the way.

SPreston2001's picture

I simply cant wait!! I have tickets for the Cal game and im pumped!!

thebuckeyefan's picture

Same and same although pumped might not be strong enough


Geraffi's picture

Every article I read about the new offense has me so pumped for the start of the season. Despite our dominance of the B1G over the past decade, I have always wanted the Buckeyes to run a more aggressive, more dynamic offense.  And now we finally have it!  Or at least the beginning of such an offense.  I absolutely can't wait!
Also, great job 11W!  Your articles describing the offense and new coaching staff are second to none!  I can't get enough!

Buckeyejason's picture

"Bringgg itttt onnnn!!!!!"- Joe from Family Guys voice
Seriously though, I'm very intrigued to see how this offense looks in Scarlet and Grey.


DJ Byrnes's picture

Still can't wrap my head around the Buckeyes rolling with no-huddle. It's like a NCAA fantasy I had when I was 15.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

bassplayer7770's picture

Given the Offenses we've watched over the last decade, this Offense will definitely be a shock to the system for most of us.  Change is certainly good!

EastwoodsCousin's picture

If the offense lives up to the expectations everyone seems to have for this year, I will be pleasantly suprised.  It will be hard to improve that much in just one season.  But to be fair, if what we see this year is half as good as what the predictions are, this will be a fun team to watch.  

"I tried being reasonable, I didn't like it"

LouGroza's picture

Can't you see opposing coaches and defenses wondering what the heck is going on during games? And just pining for good old Dave to be what was needed to be stopped as opposed to this??? Good stuff.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

It really didn't matter what play we ran anyway....we always had the same snap count. Whether it was Dave or a designed pass play. This offense is going to be crazy fun to watch.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Geraffi's picture

You mean like Tress and the gang did when Urbs and his gators took it to us in the NC game?

OldColumbusTown's picture

Don't think Herman is long for this position at Ohio State.  Especially if he has big-time success early and often this season and next, I fully expect him to be a hot head coaching candidate in 2014.  A national championship in 2013 would do nothing to hurt those chances.
He seems to be an impressive guy.  He's obviously smart, and he seems to relate to his players very well.  Two years in the spotlight in Columbus should give him enough high-profile looks to be a popular name.

buckeyedude's picture

I think this new offense will be as much of a shock for our opponents as it is for our players and fans.  Hearing about it is one thing, but seeing it in action is going to be f%^king great!
I just hope Mr. Mensa doesn't make it too complicated for these kids. There is something to be said for simplicity. Keep it simple.
And I was thinking the same thing as you, OldC-busTown: If Ohio State does well this year and next, Herman may be gone and will have his own big time program.



buck-I.8's picture

If Oregon players can pick up that offense, these players will be fine. I think we probably hold our admission to a 200% better standard