Herman Highlights: Ohio State's OC Opens Up

Tom Heman's turn to talk to reporters prior to the Orange Bowl came Tuesday, and he had some enlightening thoughts on a variety of topics, including offensive philosophy, playing up-tempo and watching Urban Meyer coach. We highlight them for you here.

Tom Herman has been regarded as an up-and-comer in the coaching business since even before he was hired as Ohio State offensive coordinator two years ago.

It's easy to see why when he gets to talking football, as he did Tuesday during preparations for the Buckeyes' matchup with Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

While the Tigers were not a major topic of discussion, Herman enlightened reporters on several topics, including offensive evolution at Ohio State and beyond, lessons from a loss, what he's learned from Urban Meyer and more.

Here are some of the highlights:

On the evolution of the Ohio State offense this season: I think we evolved kind of in separate phases, if you will. I think we certainly made some dramatic improvements throwing the football from where we were last year, and through the middle part of the season, I think that showed. I think maybe we regressed a little bit as our bodies got fatigued and we started losing a little bit of numbers on the perimeter and guys were playing more snaps and playing banged up. The competition got tougher a little bit too.

"But the beauty of it is we're not going to change who we are. We're not going to throw the football 50 times a game, but we did feel like after last season we needed to throw it more effectively and efficiently. I think we started that process.

"Again, I think we might have taken a step or two back, which allowed us some things to work on during bowl prep, but we're a downhill, inside zone, two-back run team that just happens to do it from the shotgun and add the quarterback run as part of the element.

"But we felt like last year teams were able to kind of crowd the line of scrimmage on us and make it really, really difficult to maintain that identity, and I think having at least an effective, productive passing game has allowed us to continue that mode of operation."

On Braxton Miller and the progression of the offense this season: "I think he needs to continue improving. I mean, he's certainly not perfect and wasn't perfect in the middle of the season, but I think maybe some of the flaws, the mistakes were able to be masked by some of the simpler things that we did and that defenses allowed us to do.

"So as you move towards later in the season, obviously, defenses say, here's what they're doing. We've got to stop this. So when you stop that, what's your counter? So now it, again, becomes an adjustment kind of chess match. Okay, we do this well, the other defense says we've got to stop this. So when the defense says we've got to stop this, now we've got to start doing this well. I don't know that we ever made that push into the next phase of the adjustment in the throw game, but we will.

"He's gotten better these last three weeks, absolutely. So we will. Just like we did this offseason as well."

On Dontre Wilson: "Probably did not evolve into the complete player that we thought that he would be. I think kind of the term we used early in the year was more of a novelty when he was in. So we needed him to be more of an every down player, and he was slower to progress in that area.

"And then to be quite honest with you, we thought we would need him. By need, I mean ‘need  need' him to win more games and to score points. At the end of the day, we got what we believe is the best offensive line in the country. You've got one of the top two or three running backs in the country. You've got a quarterback in Braxton Miller that  I mean, these guys were touching the football, and really good things were happening to us offensively. So you hate to disrupt that rhythm a little bit.

"We've told we've talked to Dontre about that. It's certainly not a wasted year by any stretch of the imagination. With his kick return yards and rush yards and receiving yards, it's a very productive season for a true freshman, and I think he's got 1,000 all-purpose yards or close to it. Another year in the weight room and offseason training and training at kind of both positions, slot receiver and running back, will increase his value and production as we move forward in his career.

On the next evolution of offenses in college football: "I think that defenses are making it harder to throw the football with so many out-of-spread formations. I think there's so many combination coverages that teams over the last five or six years have developed  not perfected, but gotten very good at. To still hold up against the spread run game but also stop the spread pass game too, or not stop but at least attempt to. So I think, as you see with us a little bit, even though we're on the gun and have three wide receivers and all that, but sometimes getting them a little bit closer and moving guys around a little bit kind of helps break up some of those coverages.

"… You go back to the Big Ten Championship Game, it's very well-documented their quarters coverage with press on the outside, their safeties are standing at seven yards, they've got nine in the box. The ball is snapped. So you say, okay, what's your answer? Well, throw it. Okay, great – where are you going to throw it? They still have nine guys within the short to intermediate passing areas. They're pressing your outside guys. Are you going to try to throw it over their head 20 times a game? I'm not sure that's a road we want to go down.

"So I think it's important we find ways to make sure we're still able to run I think. At least for us, the offense is built around the run game. So when teams devise coverages to add hats or people to stop the run game, you have to be able to counter that by throwing the football.

"I think that's the biggest challenge for us is to kind of find those different ways, based on the coverages we're seeing now as opposed to maybe four or five years ago, when defenses were just now getting a taste of what we were trying to do offensively.

On Urban Meyer: "He's a real guy, I can tell you that. He's a real human being. I think at times we look at guys in his position, and we forget that they're real men with real wives and real kids and real families and real hearts. I know he's been tremendous for me and my family and the support that he's given me and the advice.

"I've learned more about how to be a head coach, and I'm not talking X's and O's. I'm just talking about the management of the team and the management of personalities and the management of a staff in my going on two years now with him than my first 20 years of coaching. For that, I'll forever be grateful, and I learn different things every day.

"The gift that he has is he is able to be unbelievably intense and demanding of both his players and his staff, but yet when you walk off the field, people want to walk into his office and sit down and talk to him on a personal level and get to know him because they know that he cares about them.

"So there's always been those coaches that are demanding and they're grinders, if you will, and they go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. But I think the players maybe stay a little bit separate from those kind of guys. And then there's the quote, unquote, players' coaches that really get to know their players and know their team, but I think they, right, wrong, or indifferent, they have a perception that their teams maybe aren't as physical or aren't as intense or aren't as tough as this other head coach who does these things.

"So I think, more than any other person I've seen in this profession, whether it be working with or reading about or seeing or talking to friends that have worked for other guys, he walks that line better than anybody I've ever seen in terms of truly loving and caring for his players and his staff, but at the same time, being very demanding and intense."

On offensive tempo: "For us, offense, defense, special teams, they're not mutually exclusive. We're all intertwined into winning the football game. So we're going to do whatever it takes offensively tempowise to win the game. If we've got to run 95 plays, that means we've got to run 95 plays. If it means we've got to hold the football and control the clock and keep our defense off the field, then we're prepared to run 62, 65 plays a game.

"… Studies have shown, if you win (the turnover and explosive play battle) in the course of a football game, you've got a 98 percent chance of winning the game. So those are the two things we want to win coming out of every game. Your defense is also a part of that, winning the turnover battle and winning the explosive play battle, having more explosive plays than your opponent. And we want to be  there's a certain percentage that we want to be on our third down. There's a certain percentage we want to be efficient on first down, making four yards or more, and there's a certain percentage that we want to score points and/or touchdowns in the red zone.

"Those are really the five things that we focus on, and the amount of plays to get that done is really dependent on the flow of the game and really what it takes to win that specific game."


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