Cleared for Takeoff: Ohio State's Tom Herman is No Longer Afraid to Call a Pass

By Kyle Rowland on April 19, 2013 at 9:30a
Tom Herman is feeling it in 2013

Tom Herman is no longer frightened to throw a pass. That fear went through his mind 308 times as Braxton Miller and the offense approached the line of scrimmage. Considering the final results – 12 wins, zero losses and Miller’s Big Ten player of the year award – one must wonder what Ohio State will do this season with the offensive coordinator at ease.

In Year 1 of the Herman-Urban Meyer partnership, the Buckeye offense rose from No. 79 in scoring to 21st. With continuity on offense in the form of nine returning starters, combined with a clear understanding of the philosophy, Ohio State’s offense could be one of the best in the country in 2013.

“I would be disappointed if we're not the best offense in the Big Ten,” Meyer said, with one caveat: right tackle. If the Buckeyes can shore up that spot, a 50-point per game offense is a possibility.

“We have a legitimate concern about who that player is,” Meyer continued. “You can’t play with four linemen.”

But offensive line coach Ed Warinner put any trepidation at ease on Wednesday when he admitted with a coy smile that he is no longer staying up late at night thinking about who will play at right tackle. Ohio State will be fine, Warinner said.

The optimism for the offense stems from having Miller surrounded with an assembly line of talent. He’s in a state now where he understands how and why plays develop, and Miller’s wide receivers have shed their inexperience and traded it for dynamic capabilities.

“This year, it’s like night and day,” he said.

There are no more befuddled looks from the coaches during practice or perplexed receivers watching film. With all parties on the same page, the execution of the offense is at a level Meyer and Herman believe can leave the rest of the Big Ten playing catch-up – for years. 

“We definitely have the weapons and we have the quarterback and we have a lot of guys coming back on offense,” offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. “I definitely feel we have the players and the system to do something special.”

The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in scoring last season at 37.2 points per game, scoring 60 touchdowns in 12 games. All that in a year where Herman was scared as he called and watched plays.

“The thought of that sent shivers down my spine at times last year,” Herman said.

In the spring game, Ohio State ran 75 pass plays, a change from last season when around 35 percent of the plays called were for passes. That number rose to nearly 75 percent last Saturday.

Witnessing completion percentages hover around 60 percent and far more touchdowns than interceptions left Herman relieved. It also validated what he already believed. Starting March 5, he saw a group of quarterbacks – and Miller specifically – that clicked.

“Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. But at least I don’t lay awake at night and get night sweats because I have to call a pass tomorrow.”

It’s easy to get swept up in the euphoria of a 12-0 season, and many fans did. But don’t forget, two days after the Buckeyes beat Michigan, Meyer was lamenting the fact that Miller was not anywhere near a finished product, still lacking basic fundamentals. That fell on Herman’s shoulders, Meyer said. 

Ohio State finished 11th in the Big Ten in passing last season – and 101st nationally. Five months after the closing of one chapter, another has blossomed. This time consider the apprentice and his boss satisfied at what took place.

“Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not,” Herman said. “But at least I don’t lay awake at night and get night sweats because I have to call a pass tomorrow.”

Another coach who can put the sleep aids back in the cupboard is wide receivers coach Zach Smith. It was his position group that had an unimaginable 2011. And even though Smith was coaching at Temple during that season, the pressure to restore the receiving corps to not just respectability but also an elite level was immense.

“We were almost in panic mode,” he said. “Where we are today is not panic mode, but we can always get better and we still have a ways to go before we can truly run out into the Horseshoe and say we’re the best wide receiver group in the country or the Big Ten.”

That’s fine with coaches. All it does is leave the Buckeyes motivated as they depart for the final weeks of the semester and then the summer. It will be four long months for the coaches without monitoring the inner workings of what happens on the practice fields at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

It will take leadership, with a majority of that falling on the broad and already tired shoulders of Miller, for the Buckeyes to enter fall camp where the coaches are satisfied. Last year’s seniors – “legendary” as all nine Ohio State assistants put it – were one of the central ingredients in an improbable fairy tale season. That group is still lauded by the coaching staff, but don’t think that isn’t strategic at the same time.

More of this.

“They’ve got to buy in and put in the work and the sweat and the hours and all that,” Herman said. “If all you did was the minimum that the NCAA allows us to be a part of, you’re probably not going to be a real good football team. So the leaders have to get those guys out there, do extra football-specific drills. Obviously the quarterbacks and receivers and skill guys need to throw as much as they can.”

Evidence of Miller’s growth in that category is all around, most specifically in his work, along with wideout Michael Thomas, in California with quarterback coach George Whitfield. Meyer and Herman have already defused the outside praise on that matter, though. Meyer referred to Herman as the quarterback guru, while Herman downplayed the impact of the trip.

Still, he was thrilled to see Miller step up and take charge when there was limited time to improve his craft.

“He did a good job of taking it upon himself to go and work for a week when we didn’t have bowl practices,” Herman said. “That was good. I encouraged that. That’s great, awesome, pat on the back, job well done.”

A return trip to Southern California the first week of January will be the ultimate payoff.


Comments Show All Comments

osubuck57's picture

This offense could be truly special when all said and done.With what we have coming back plus the guys we have coming in the 2013 class.No reason we shouldn't be #1 offense in Big Ten!!Love all the guys putting in the extra work to get that passing game better.


BROSEPH's picture

50 points a game.  Fifty. that really tickled my fancy.  

tdible2132's picture

Oh yeah. Just think what we are capable of doing this year! This offense is going to be so much more balanced than it was last year, and with the freshman we have coming in and Braxton's improvement in the passing game, this is going to be one dynamic offense!  I can't wait to see how this offense looks.  Especially with the pistol formation being implemented we are going to be VERY tough to stop.  Heck even NFL defenses had a really rough time defending offenses that operate like ours is going to operate.

buckguyfan1's picture

Love it even more if we have a top 5 nationally ranked "scoring defense" to go with...

Bigbutterbuckeye's picture

I hope the defensive coaches are using all the good press the offense is receiving as bulletin board material to motivate the defense. I can just hear Coombs screaming "WHY AREN'T THEY TALKING ABOUT US??"

ESPN starting the SEC channel to concentrate on the SEC is like Baskin-Robbins starting a new store to concentrate on selling ice cream.

FitzBuck's picture

Agreed if the defense is where we need it to be then the offense won't press to put up 50.  I'd rather score 21 a game as long as the other team is 3 or less.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I'd like to do both.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Earle's picture

I like the presence of pulling it back and opting for the pass in that GIF, but it sure looks like Brax is way over the LOS when he throws it.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

Triv's picture

If you take a look right before he throws it, you can see the top of the line marker appears to be right about the 20 so it's very close

Sorry Urban, Woody is still my favorite

Earle's picture

Good catch.  Its hard to tell since it starts after the snap and the OL has already given ground in protection.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Now THAT'S what they call chaos mechanics...

Patriot4098's picture

We COULD have an equally dominant D. COULD. The #1s are outstanding in terms of capabily for both sides. Its been stated over and over, but the rotational aspect of both our lines is MY only concern. If we can keep guys healthy and produce a competent compliment with our 2-deep, then I expect a national title over Alabama. Nothing less.

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

jthiel09's picture

50 per game would be ... amazing.


Hovenaut's picture

With this set of skill and talent I think even Woody would want the pass.

10 (plus) yards and a cloud of smoke.

MediBuck's picture

50-something points would pretty much guarantee that we could win in shootouts even if the defense were to fail. Even the high-flying WVU Mountain-raiders only averaged 39.5 a game. I'm so excited about football come fall. Is it August yet?!

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

smith5568's picture

Remember though that last years spring game was extremely pass heavy and we ended up running the ball most of the time. So I don't think the spring game is any indication of how our offense will actually be ran next year.
Personally, I really liked the run-heavy offense that wore you down and picked up 5+ yards per carry over a pass happy one. I hope our offense is the same as last years, a run first mentality, just with more confidence in the passing game.  

Poison nuts's picture

I don't mind plenty of run either, but I would at minimum want Braxton to run less.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

buckeyepastor's picture

I'm glad we've got Wisconsin early, and at home.  While we beat them last year, their defense, and to a lesser degree Michigan's, did a pretty good job of slowing Miller down in the run game.   They found a way to make it harder to read where the ball should go, somehow.  If in the B1G opener we find that Brax has got that figured out, the title game is a possibility.   For the first time in a long time, while the defense has some question marks, I'm not as worried about them because I think our offense can keep up even if the defense struggles.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

BeijingBucks's picture

That Wisconsin game was ridiculous.  They were just daring Brax to throw!  And we were only doing those deep shots.
Now if Brax isn't the only run threat and Hyde can't keep the middle honest.  Few college defenses are prepared to adapt on the fly to what options the Buckeye attack can bring IMHO

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Buckeye Born's picture

I'm pleased both Meyer and Herman seem confident Braxton is improved since the end of last season but I can't perceive it yet. I thought his footwork was often wrong and his throwing motion still somewhat awkward. Maybe I don't know what I'm looking at.   


CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great so see the O is making such good progress!  I think with all of the talent we have coming in and that is developing it's going to be an exciting year.  If we can get solid play from the right tackle spot and the defense can step up with all of the young players on that side then we'll be in for an amazing year!!  I like our talent on defense and think that we do have enough to make a run at a BCS game or even the National Championship.  Just can't wait for game #1 to get here.  Got to take them 1 game at a time. 
Go Bucks!!