As the search for someone, anyone pretty please with a fat paycheck on top to coach the Texas offensive line now stretches into it's second month, Bobby Burton of Hookem.com reported on Tuesday morning ($) that a new name has emerged. After failing to land Steve Addazio, Jeff Grimes, and Joe Wickline, the newest name is Vanderbilt OL coach Herb Hand, joining guys like Chris Klenakis of Arkansas and Chris Strausser of Boise State who have been mentioned throughout the process. Rice's Robbie Vinklarek is, like Hand, another name recently thrown into the mix and Burton is reporting that Bob Bostad, despite the false starts on Monday, could still be in the mix as well.
Hand's name may not be familiar to casual followers of college football, but probing a little more deeply into his experience, it quickly becomes apparent that he fits the profile of the youthful coach Texas has been targeting at 41 and that he has experience working with some of the best spread minds in college football.
Before spending the last year at Vanderbilt, Hand spent three seasons at Tulsa, where he was the co-offensive coordinator with Gus Malzahn and served as the offensive line coach and assistant head coach. Prior to Tulsa, Hand was with Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia and Clemson, also working with Rick Trickett during that time, known as one of the best teachers anywhere of the zone blocking scheme.
If that experience isn't enough to get you excited about Hand and his coaching pedigree, I really don't know what to tell you except to keep reading on. It's safe to say that Hand and Malzahn learned from each other at Tulsa, with Hand learning about Malzahn's tempo (though he had experience with a fast-paced offense under Rich Rodriguez) and Malzahn adopting a more balanced approach and Hand's zone-blocking scheme. As Chris Brown of Smart Football pointed out: they were co-coordinators for a reason. In fact, in another post, Brown opines that Hand "deserves as much credit as Malzahn" for the success of the Tulsa offense.
At West Virginia and Tulsa, Hand was a part of a major shift in option and zone read concepts as offenses began to adjust to the adjustments made by defenses to thwart the zone read. Though it's not worth going into all the specifics for the purposes of this post, check out this post from Smart Football about adding a pitch phase (usually the shovel option people loved so much at Florida) or bubble screen to the zone read to help control backside defenders that were making it difficult to run the zone read made so popular at Texas by Vince Young.
Besides his pure pedigree, what's most appealing about Hand is his philosophy about the modern-day spread offense. Compare this quote from Hand with a quote pulled from that famous Smart Football post about Boise State. First, Hand:
The first thing we look at is formations and how our formations affect the opposing defense...The last thing we look for is match-ups and how we can create favorable match-ups in our passing game through formations, motions, shifts, play actions, screens, etc.
Now, about Boise:
Boise specializes in getting defenses out of position to make plays by utilizing the three major essentials in offensive football: numbers, leverage and grass.
Of course, these are things that most good offensive coaches attempt to do, but the point here is that both Hand and Harsin understand how essential they are and functionally employ that understanding in their offenses, something that couldn't be said about Greg Davis, who had one base formation and almost never used motion.
In case that leaves you wondering about how Hand's spread philosophy will help a Texas team seeking to develop a physical running style, here's more from Hand:
Probably the biggest change in spread offenses over the last decade is complexity and diversity of the run game out of traditional spread formations. The incorporation of the option and the zone read concepts that have developed during that time have really revolutionized spread offenses. I also think that general perceptions of the spread being a ‘finesse-style’ offense have drastically changed during this evolution. People now realize that you can have a very physical run game out of spread shotgun formations.
To sum things up with Hand, he believes in keeping his offenses simple and tailoring the schemes to the personnel, once again things that seem relatively obvious, but often concepts that only receive lip service. To see an offense that attempted to be something it couldn't with the available personnel, simply look at all the time Texas wasted last spring and fall trying to become a power-running team.
With Hand, the Longhorns would gain his incredibly invaluable experience with zone-blocking schemes developed under the master, Rick Trickett, as well as his ability to mold Harsin's multiple offense with his ideas about running a no-huddle offense with some spread and zone-read concepts to create a unit capable of exploiting the mismatches in space that made the spread offense so wildly successful upon it's widespread introduction to college football.
To sum it up, the combination of Bryan Harsin, Major Applewhite, and Herb Hand could produce one of the most unique and successful offenses in college football and after exploring Hand's philosophy and experience, there's no question that he fits extremely well with the other two. Along with Harsin, Hand could help establish the physical running game that Mack Brown wants, but bring it into the 21st century. In fact, there's no question that Hand is the best available candidate for the position at this time (yes, even better than Bostad), with his only downside being his lack of Texas ties, something covered up by hires like Darrell Wyatt, Bennie Wylie, and Bo Davis.
And if that still isn't enough to endear Herb Hand to you, dear Texas fan, when asked to choose a quarterback to run his spread offense in a hypothetical game to save Planet Earth against the University of Mars, Hand chose none other than Vince Young. 'Nuff said.
So, as Mack decides whether or not to talk to the Hand, consider this your Tuesday open thread for the never-ending search for the next Texas offensive line coach.