Head coach Tom Herman has Houston off to a hot start
This time last year, Tom Herman was the offensive coordinator calling plays for the Ohio State Buckeyes as they put up their fourth-straight 50+ point game in a win against Rutgers. We all know how the rest of last season worked out for Herman and the Buckeyes — a national championship and unparalleled offensive production of 59, 42, and 42 points in the Big Ten championship and two playoff games with a third-string QB. For his team’s performance, Herman was named the Broyles award winner as the nation’s top assistant coach and shortly thereafter accepted the head coaching position at the University of Houston.
In 2011, the Houston Cougars went 13-1 under Kevin Sumlin, who left to take the head coaching job at Texas A&M. However, with higher expectations and a hope of continuing what Sumlin had built, Sumlin’s successor, Tony Levine, went just 21-17 in three seasons before being fired in December 2014. Enter Herman, and needless to say, things are working out quite well thus far. Herman has the Cougars off to a 5-0 start, including a 34-31 win at Louisville in Week 2 and a No. 24 ranking in the AP poll this week — the first time they have been ranked since the end of the aforementioned 2011 season.
How has he sped up the process? It begins and ends with his specialty: offense. After highly productive stints at Rice, Iowa State, and the past three seasons at Ohio State, Herman has transformed Houston’s offense into the nation’s sixth-best in both points-per-game (46.4) and total offense per game (573.4 yards). Under Herman’s direction, junior QB Greg Ward Jr. (+18.4 grade) is excelling in the dual threat role much like J.T. Barrett did last season for Ohio State. Ward Jr. is averaging 371 yards of offense per game, which includes 110 per game on the ground, completing 72.5 percent of his passes — good for N0. 2 overall in the nation — and 19 total TDs. All of this is good enough to make Ward PFF’s No. 2 overall rated QB behind Cal’s Jared Goff.
Examining Herman’s impact on Houston isn’t the only data point emphasizing his coaching abilities; let’s also take a closer look at his success with the Buckeyes. Under Herman in 2014, the Buckeyes offense was fifth nationally in points-per-game (44.8) and ninth in yards-per-game (512) with the freshman Barrett (+14.8 grade) excelling in Braxton Miller’s absence and Cardale Jones (-0.5 grade) playing well enough to lead the Buckeyes to victory in the three biggest games of the year.
This season, though, has been a different story. While many believe the Buckeyes are going through the motions, the bottom line is they have struggled at times offensively and looked out of sync even though they returned a majority of their offensive starters. In 2015, Ohio State currently sits at 27th in points-per-game (36.8) and 26th in yards-per-game (460). Furthermore, both Barrett (-4.9 grade) and Jones (-12.8 grade) have struggled to repeat last season’s success.
While the Buckeyes look to find their 2014 mojo, Herman and his Cougars are looking at a favorable schedule that, assuming they take care of their business, could set them up at 9-0 heading into a November 14th showdown at home against another unbeaten ACC team in the Memphis Tigers. Along with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and Jim McElwain at Florida, Tom Herman is another example of something that’s becoming more and more evident with each passing week of play — coaching matters.