Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman will tap another Urban Meyer play caller for his offensive coordinator position — Ohio State Buckeyes co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, according to Horns Digest early Monday morning.
Anwar Richardson of Orangebloods later confirmed the report.
The pending move has been in the works for some time, as Burnt Orange Nation was told by a source in Columbus in late December that Beck’s hire by the Longhorns was imminent. With Ohio State’s loss to Clemson on Saturday ending the season for the Buckeyes, Herman and Texas moved quickly.
There is now only one position that remains open on Herman’s first staff and though there are not currently any assigned roles, that position to expected to be running backs coach.
The Youngstown, Ohio native reportedly comes to Texas after spending two seasons in Columbus after replacing Herman as the offensive coordinator. He shared the lead role with the Buckeyes with Ed Warinner, who was also the co-offensive coordinator during Herman’s tenure.
The structure of the offensive play-calling system went through several iterations during Beck’s time in Columbus. At the start of the 2015 season, Beck was in the coaches box. However, he didn’t call plays from there — Warinner did that from the sidelines, though Beck took a larger role at times and was able to make the final decision on calls.
Following a three-point loss to Michigan State, the two traded positions, with Warinner moving to the box and Beck moving to the sidelines.
Meyer was also active in the process and admitted that he made mistakes that season. One of them, perhaps, was in hiring Beck as the quarterbacks coach instead of Warinner, who had previously held that role at Kansas.
Beck himself said that the transition wasn’t easy after coaching at Nebraska since 2008.
“Every area of the program is different than where I came from,” he said.
After spending a season in Columbus, Beck was able to establish a comfort level with the players and the other coaches.
“It’s so much different than what it was,” Beck said. “Knowing the system, knowing how things work, knowing our players, it’s incredible. I can focus a lot more on getting them better and understanding them and coaching the quarterbacks. Last year I was like, ‘What’s that?’ and trying to learn all the stuff on the fly. It was extremely difficult.”
In 2016, both Beck and Warinner were in the box, with Beck offering input on plays ultimately called by Warinner and approved by Meyer.
“It kind of all varies in terms of down and distance,” Beck said in November. “But between series we’ll talk and come up with a set of plays that we like formationally and plays we want to run. Then Ed, sometimes myself, will make that call, depending on what it is.”
So the question is how much blame Beck deserves for an Ohio State offense that ranked No. 1 in S&P+ in 2014, but dropped to No. 14 in 2015 and No. 12 in 2016 — not especially precipitous drops, but significant nonetheless.
The loss to Clemson was especially troubling for the Ohio State faithful, as it represented the first shutout of Meyer’s head coaching career.
The passing game took much bigger hits than the offense overall, dropping from No. 2 in 2014 to No. 26 and then No. 54 in 2016. One possible explanation is that the Buckeyes struggled to replace Devin Smith after his big 2014 season and Michael Thomas after his big 2015 season. Instead, Ohio State has relied on running backs to carry the load catching passes — Curtis Samuel caught more passes in 2016 than the two leading wide receivers combined.
Ultimately, the convoluted play-calling system after Herman’s departure bears some resemblances to the Shawn Watson-Joe Wickline debacle in Austin under Charlie Strong, illustrating that even the most successful coaches like Meyer can have problems effectively distributing responsibilities.
The hope for Beck in Austin is that a likely role as the primary play caller will provide more clarity for the process and result in more success.
A bigger concern moving forward may be Beck’s ability to develop quarterbacks, as the progress of JT Barrett seemed to stall after his monster freshman season. Barrett himself noted that Beck didn’t seem comfortable balancing playing time between Barrett and Cardale Jones, who had led the Buckeyes to the national championship after Barrett’s season-ending ankle injury.
"That was rough on Coach Beck (last year) being that each and every week he had to prepare two quarterbacks because we really weren't sure who was gonna play, " Barrett said during preseason camp this year. "Where he's at right now, we're on the same page as far as where we want to be as an offense and what it's gonna take to get there."
Unfortunately, a full-time return to the starting role in 2016 didn’t result in progress for Barrett, who ranks No. 42 nationally in passer rating, directly behind quarterbacks from East Carolina, UTEP, and Temple.
His completion percentage dropped for a third straight year and his yards per attempt was two yards less than it was in 2014.
However, the Texas native recruited by Herman did throw for four touchdowns and complete 70 percent of his passes against Oklahoma and had an elite 1.4 percent interception rate this season until throwing two interceptions in his final game.
Perhaps advanced scouting is taking advantage of some of his physical limitations like arm strength rather than Beck failing to develop him. Parsing out the answers in these situations is difficult.
At Nebraska, where Beck called plays, he was hamstrung to some extent by the overbearing nature of head coach Bo Pelini, according to a connected Nebraska source. There were moments of brilliance for Beck with the Cornhuskers, but he would often become too reliant on a small handful of plays.
And quarterback Taylor Martinez didn’t improve much during his time under Beck, though Pelini was also adamant about Martinez remaining in the staring role, so it’s once again difficult to determine if Beck simply can’t coach quarterbacks.
All told, however, it’s fair to say that there are significant concerns about Beck’s ability to develop quarterbacks. In fact, combined with questions about his play-calling acumen, those issues suggest that the 50-year-old Ohioan is hardly a home-run hire.
The positives are that he now understands how Meyer runs his program, so he should be able to adjust to Herman’s program without experiencing the level of difficulty he did when transitioning from his long tenure at Nebraska.
One area where Beck will unquestionably make a difference is in recruiting -- he spent six years as a high school coach in Texas, splitting the time between Turner in Carrollton and Summit in Mansfield.
Those Metroplex ties helped him land five-star Kennedale linebacker Baron Browning after serving as his primary recruiter. Beck is also the lead recruiter for the nation’s No. 1 safety Jeffrey Okudah, the South Grand Prairie standout who is widely believed to be a silent commit to Ohio State.
At the quarterback position, Beck is a secondary recruiter for No. 2 dual-threat quarterback Tate Martell in the 2017 class and No. 7 pro-style quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the 2016 class, in addition to taking the lead role with No. 1 2018 dual-threat quarterback Emory Jones. That’s a lot of talent over three classes.
Beck was also responsible for recruiting quarterback Tommy Armstrong from Cibolo Steele and Plano running back Rex Burkhead to Nebraska, in addition quarterback Todd Reesing to Kansas.
A return to Texas for the first time since he left Mansfield for Lawrence in 2005 could further bolster Beck’s recruiting success in the state..
Since Beck does have experience running the power spread under Meyer that is similar to Herman’s offense, the comparisons to Shawn Watson, the offensive coordinator he replaced at Nebraska, don’t quite line up.
For those already predisposed to criticism Herman for how he assembled his staff, the hire of Beck likely isn’t satisfying.
However, Beck does fit philosophically, will provide a bonus as a recruiter, and has had enough of a track record of success that he deserves an opportunity to install Herman’s offense and get it off the ground before his hire is termed a disappointment.