Tom Herman, the Lone Star Bandit of NSD

By Kyle Rowland on February 7, 2013 at 10:00a
24 Comments

Persistence, reputation and plain old luck come in handy on the recruiting trail. For Tom Herman, who says he spent six months stalking his to-be wife, those qualities can also lead to love. Ironic, considering the courting of recruits can be compared to securing a prom date. 

Ohio State's Ace of Hearts.

When Herman was hired prior last season, it didn’t elicit too many oohs and aahs. But two recruiting classes later, Buckeye Nation, as well as coaches around the country, hve gotten to know Herman quite well.

A Mensa member and cum laude graduate of California Lutheran, Herman doesn’t fit the normal profile of a college football assistant. Born in Cincinnati and raised in California, he’s been a football lifer with more than a decade spent in Texas. That has been an asset for Ohio State and vaulted Herman to rock star status.

Herman is possibly the crown jewel in terms of recruiting on head coach Urban Meyer’s staff. That was apparent scanning the list of the Buckeyes’ 24 commitments, ranked No. 1 in the nation by some, and when Meyer spoke about his offensive coordinator.

“I knew very well Tom had a background in Texas, and I knew he’s a good recruiter, because I did the homework before we hired him,” Meyer said. “Very good recruiter.”

Among Ohio State’s recruits 14 were out-of-staters. Three hail from the talent rich state of Texas, not a normal Ohio State recruiting ground. But that was during the pre-Herman days.

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. Prior to this season’s haul, Ohio State’s last Texas recruits were highly touted offensive lineman JB Shugarts and lightly regarded quarterback Kenny Guiton.

Despite his employer’s lack of history in the state, Herman was able to make an instant impact.

“Having been the flavor of the month, having gone 12-0, Coach Meyer’s reputation and then this is one of the most storied programs in the history of college football. You can walk into Alaska and they’re going to know what Ohio State is,” Herman said. “There was immediate feedback, but certainly having coached in and recruited that area for 14 years and building the relationships helps you navigate your way through, rather than dumping a guy in there who’s never been there before.”

The first domino to fall was dual-threat quarterback JT Barrett. He committed to Ohio State in April and enrolled in January. Barrett’s high school career ended when he suffered a knee injury during his senior season, but it has barely gotten in the way of his winter workouts. Barrett participates in all drills except for running.

In his spare time, Barrett might want to consider a career in philosophy. While Herman’s built-in Texas relationships have helped lure the Texas Triumvirate to Ohio State, a heartfelt speech from Barrett also may have played a role.

“We were in the weight room, he had just gotten done with a lift and he figured he’d sit down with Dontre (Wilson) since he’s a Texas guy,” Herman said. "(Mickey Marotti) was giving the presentation to the kids and about 10 minutes into it, JT asked if he could interrupt. And for about five or 10 minutes, he went on about why he chose this place over others, wanting to win multiple national championships, what an Ohio State degree can do for you in the future, and playing in this system at Ohio State in the Horseshoe.

Dontre Wilson was another feather in Herman's cap.

“I recruited the kid and I didn’t know he had that in him. For me to witness that, it really kind of got me choked up a little bit. You can’t teach that. It’s really hard to teach guys to be that passionate about competition, winning and making this team better.”

In a month’s time, Herman was able to pry five-star linebacker Mike Mitchell out from deep in the heart of Texas and also compose the getaway for Wilson, a running back originally committed to Oregon. Both Mitchell and Wilson contributed heavily to the Buckeyes finishing near or at the top of the recruiting rankings.

Even after Wilson committed to the Ducks, Herman stayed in his ear – literally. Herman called the speedy Wilson multiple times per week. It also didn’t hurt that Herman knew Wilson’s high school coach.

“Tom Herman did an excellent job down in Texas, an area that traditionally has not been strong for Ohio State,” Meyer said. “I wish I could claim I had more experience in Texas. I’ve been there quite a bit. But Tom set the wheels in motion, and we pulled three excellent players out of an excellent football state with Mike Mitchell, JT and Dontre.”

So what’s been Herman’s magic elixir in brining talented Texans more than 1,000 miles away from home to a less than desirable climate? Those three words: persistence, reputation and luck.

Continuing to stay in contact with Wilson helped. Herman and Ohio State already had a stellar reputation and then Chip Kelly bolted for the NFL. It was a perfect storm for the Buckeyes. Plus, no one was going to outwork Herman. Not only does he embrace the role recruiting has in the job description, it’s the No. 1 priority from his boss. 

“I meet a lot of families from a lot of different backgrounds that really care about their sons,” Herman said. “Do I enjoy being away from family as much as we are? No. Do I enjoy being on a 5:45 a.m. flight every morning, staying in a different hotel every night and not knowing from time zone I’m in every day? No, but at the end of the day you know that’s what it takes.”

“Anybody on this staff, there are three job responsibilities: the first one is bringing in quality student-athletes; the second one is taking care of your position group and making sure they’re maximized and doing all right off the field; third is about scheme and X’s and O’s. I’d like to think that the reputation of myself as a decent recruiter helped with the process with Coach Meyer.”

Another benefit with being linked to Meyer is conversations with the uber-competitive recruiting genius. During his time at Florida, and now Ohio State, Meyer’s recruiting classes appear as if they’re magnetically linked to the top 5. But when you tell your assistants to shut up – no, really – the art of recruiting takes on an entirely different persona.

Tom Herman's personal playground.

“The biggest thing I learned in the past year from Coach Meyer is stop talking. That uncomfortable silence is OK,” Herman said. “You don’t need to fill the dead air with a young man because, eventually, they’re going to fill it and start talking about themselves.

“A kid that you might say is quiet because you’ve kept on rambling maybe isn’t really that quiet if you’d just give him a couple seconds of uncomfortable silence to open up. It’s talk less and listen more.”

An unfortunate part of the job is it’s also talk less and see even less when it comes to family. For a two-month stretch, from December to January, Herman is in and out of airports, hotels, living rooms and high schools. There’s barely enough time left to eat. And when recruiting isn’t in full swing, the season where on-field competition takes place usually is.

“(Recruiting) is more tiresome because of all the travel, and it’s harder on families,” Herman said. “Although I’m not home a lot during the season, at least I sleep in the same bed and kiss my daughter goodnight every night. That’s where the stress comes in and the tiredness comes in.”

Recruiting will become even more strenuous with the new rules put in place that give coaching staffs almost unlimited contact with high schoolers. Count Meyer among those not in favor of it. When the subject was brought up on Wednesday, he called it, “bad stuff.”

Coaching football is just like any other profession – you network and get to know a wide range of people across the industry. It’s not uncommon for the Ohio State coach to know the Valdosta State coach. But it’s rare for the CEO of ExxonMobile to be hanging around small business owners from Grove City.

Herman established himself as an up-and-comer when he first burst on to the coaching landscape. He was a graduate assistant for two seasons (1999-2000) at Texas, a valuable apprenticeship that put him front and center with one of football’s top dogs. In a relationship-based business, coaching at Texas is near the pinnacle.

Stops at Texas Lutheran, Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice stretched Herman’s contact list even more. During his stay at Iowa State, he also had responsibilities in the state. With a deep network in a hulking territory plush with talent, Herman went to work and kept tabs on his competition.

“When I got hired, people said, ‘You’ve been at Rice and you’ve been at Iowa State – is there added pressure because you’re at Ohio State,’” he said. “The biggest pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. Whatever millions of fans and 107,000 people in the ‘Shoe and even to a certain degree Coach Meyer (put on me), that pressure is not going to be any greater than the pressure you put on yourself.”

That doesn’t mean Herman feels uncomfortable when he knows certain assistants are battling him for top-tier talent.

“It’s like the coordinators you go up against, ‘Hey, this guy is really good, I’ve got to be on my game,’ or ‘Hey, I’ve recruited against this guy before, no big deal, this guy is a non-factor and doesn’t work hard enough,’” he said, explaining the process.

If there is something Tom Herman wants, he’s going to get it. His wife is all the evidence you need.

24 Comments

Comments

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

Count me in as one of those who were a bit confused from the Herman hire.  I really had never heard of the guy and wondered how he ended up with us.  Presently, I am a massive fan of his and will be sad for the day a big program makes him an amazing offer.

Twitter: @conquestnorman

Dean's picture

*cough*
http://www.elevenwarriors.com/2011/12/herman-named-offensive-coordinator...
Seriously, though, delighted that he's here, and doing such great work.  I only hope that Urban can convince him to stick around for another couple of years.

BammBammRiley's picture

Excellent write-up...piecing together excerpts from the presser with great insighful narrative... that really flowed nicely, well-done sir.

BammBamm is my dog, Riley is my 4 yr old daughter, and THE Ohio state Buckeyes complete the three most sacred loves I cherish

BammBammRiley's picture

Yeah I see why Urbz has a hard time keeping the assistants...he really plucks some good ones, some who it seems appear out of the blue. Then everyone else jumps to snatch-em once he schools them Urban-style. He's like excellerated hooked on phonics for grooming coaches. Why spend 10-15 extra years assisting when Urbz will have ya primed in two?

BammBamm is my dog, Riley is my 4 yr old daughter, and THE Ohio state Buckeyes complete the three most sacred loves I cherish

Matt20Buckeye's picture

I'm really becoming a big fan of this guy. What him and Meyer were able to with a offense that was basically Braxton for most of the season was really impressive.  I cant wait to see what they can do in the future. Sadly I wouldn't be shocked if he is one of the first coaches to leave for a HC job. I hope he sticks around two more years and gets to hoist a crystal ball.

Denny's picture

Los Recruitos Hermanos

Taquitos.

carence's picture

Yesterday Tom Herman said probably one of the best things that a Buckeye fan would want to hear and that was "They bring in players to create competition". He said they brought in Barrett to create competition for Braxton. That means that no matter what you have done and what you thin you're entitled too, you will earn your spot.

Codeezy's picture

The only scenario in which I would ever root for UTexas is them firing their bum of a coach and hiring Herman. Love this guy.

SonOfBuckeye's picture

Great piece, thanks Kyle.

jthiel09's picture

I'm hoping Herman stays at least until Braxton has graduated ... might be tough to keep him after this year if B. Miller & Company put up some numbers and OSU runs the table.
Same thing happened with Meyer and Dan Mullen, but Mullen stayed for a bit with Meyer so hoping we get a few good years with this combo ... it's worked magically so far.

JT

jthiel09's picture

And thank you Kyle, great article and title as well.

JT

Jdadams01's picture

Couple big takeaways for me in the video:
Herman mentioned that Cardale Jones has bought into the system and that he likes where Jones is. With all the physical tools that Jones has, you have to like hearing this.
Fickell includes Darron Lee in with the LBs, so my guess is that's where we see him start in the spring.

Dougger's picture

Kyle great article. 
JT Barrett....wow. I was holding back a few tears myself even after hearing that for the second time... the future is here. what a joyous ride this has been!!!!!!!!!!!!
p.s. tom herman is the man

I like football

funky123's picture

Good stuff Glad he is a Buckeye!

dan_isaacs's picture

Can someone get a box for Drayton to stand on?

Dan Isaacs

Nappy's picture

I hope Texas keeps their dirty hands off Herman whenever they decide to fire Brown

Fan of bacon since 1981

RedStorm45's picture

Loved him on all-access with the movie quotes.  Hilarious.

WiliestBuckeye's picture

I was all Herman from day 1. Glad he has surpassed all my expectations of him already. He probably will be gone after this year, unfournantely, as the 2-year agreement that Urban had with his staff will have come to an end.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

The more I learn about Urban and his staff - the more I feel something very incredible is about to happen to the state of Ohio State football!  You can just feel it and it is obvious, by the quality of kids that are becoming Buckeyes, that they believe it as well! 

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

okiebuck's picture

What a class act of assistant coaches we have here at TOSU!!

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

gwalther's picture

Awesome article.

Class of 2008

Silverbuck8's picture

Very good read.  Always enjoy hearing about things behind the scenes, there were mentions about Barrett being a great host, but this article told that story very well.

Colorado Buckeye's picture

what was the 1st question Stan was asked about "filling a void"? I was unable to hear what the reporter said to him... thanks and Go Bucks! still stoked from all the great talent they brought in with this class :)

Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever!

osubuckeye4life's picture

Alright so Herman is our Texas guy. The guy is such a great assistant it will be painful to lose him eventually. 
 
Now, we need a Cali guy. If we could get a Cali guy then we could be truly nationwide. I know we got Baugh this year and then Thomas last year. However, having someone recruit Cali regularly would really put tOSU over the top.