Business As Usual For Departing Herman

Tom Herman has had a busy couple of weeks, but the Ohio State offensive coordinator and new Houston coach has remained focused on the task at hand as far as preparing the Buckeyes for the upcoming Sugar Bowl.

The first question many media members had for Tom Herman, who spoke to Columbus reporters Sunday for the first time since he took the head coaching job at Houston, was obvious.

How much have you slept of late?

The father of three has certainly been busy, having to prepare for one of the biggest games of his life – Ohio State’s upcoming Sugar Bowl vs. No. 1 Alabama – while also assuredly thinking about recruiting, stocking a coaching staff, meeting new players and packing up his family and life to move to Texas.

The answer at its most hectic was three to four hours per night, by the way, and while Herman made it clear he wanted to focus on the game and not the job he’ll devote his full attention to at the end of Ohio State’s playoff run, he did talk a little about the situation at hand.

“It hasn’t been terrible,” he said of his multitasking. “The extended dead period (in recruiting) from the NCAA has kind of alleviated a little bit of the stress from having to worry about getting guys out on the road recruiting and so on, so I’ve been able to focus most of my energy where it belongs.”

Herman elaborated a little bit as well on how he had been upset with the media that reported his hiring as fact before it he had signed on the dotted line with Houston, which made his players learn about his impending departure from Twitter rather than from the coach himself.

In fact, it was clear there were a lot of raw feelings involved about Herman’s departure, with the players having to balance their happiness for the record-setting coordinator and Broyles Award winner at moving up the coaching ladder with the fact that he was no longer going to be coaching them once the postseason concludes.

“It really doesn’t seem like he’s leaving, it’s pretty sad,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “I’m glad that he is being able to further his career.”

For an outgoing player like Jeff Heuerman, a senior who will also be done with his OSU career once the playoff run ends, the breakup hasn’t quite been as intense. But he has been joking with Herman the past few days, mimicking a cougar growling to tease Herman about his new job at Houston.

“I think they’re the Cougars or something,” Heuerman said with his trademark joie de vivre. “I just hope he has his hands full with the tight ends with all the crap he’s given me over the years.

“He really hasn’t discussed it with us as a team,” Heuerman added on a serious note. “I’m pretty close with Coach Herman, so I obviously talked to him about it and we joke on him a little bit. We know he is totally committed to us and what kind of guy Coach Herman is. We’ve been with him for three years now. We know that him taking that job and becoming the next head coach there isn’t going to affect us and our championship run, so I think everyone is 100 percent sure on that so there wasn’t a whole lot of talking that needed to be done.”

Herman’s offenses have been among the best in Ohio State history in his three-year tenure, not to mention good enough to pace the Buckeyes to a 36-3 record since he arrived on Urban Meyer’s staff. Last year’s team set the school record with 45.6 points per game and also shattered such records as yards per carry, and this year’s team rebounded from losing two Heisman Trophy candidate QBs – not to mention its top rusher, receiver and four offensive linemen – to post 45.2 points per game.

His record has impressed observers all the way to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

“I still remember to this day, I don't know what year it was, but watching maybe it was a Thursday or Friday night game,” Smart said. “Iowa State was playing Oklahoma State, I guess it was. Man, he did a phenomenal job. I remember having a lot of respect for him then, thinking who is this guy. Then he got on with Ohio State. I knew right away they were going to be a good team.

“Coach Meyer made a great hire and the guy does an unbelievable job. As good a job as anybody I've seen in all my years of being a coordinator of mixing it up, changing it up and keeping you off balance. No real tendencies, outstanding coach.”

Herman will try to finish his Ohio State career by turning in the same types of performances in the postseason before heading to Houston to set out on his own. In the meantime, his charges say he’s done everything he can to steer the Buckeyes on the right track despite all that’s been going on in his life – sleep or no sleep.

“Unbelievable, actually,” said quarterback Cardale Jones, who has been in meeting rooms with Herman the last three years. “He still has to pick freaking coaches and get ready for freaking team meetings and all that and he’s still taking orders from Coach Meyer and preparing for this game and the next game. It speaks a lot on his part.”

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