Without continuity, there’s no alignment.
The latter buzzword is almost cliche at this point when discussing first-year head coach Tom Herman and the Texas Longhorns, but it does matter — the only assistants he didn’t bring with him from his first staff in Houston were his offensive coordinator and his running backs coach.
And his offensive coordinator, Major Applewhite, became the next head coach. Herman also knew his running backs coach, Stan Drayton, from his time at Ohio State. Not to mention the fact that Drayton is considered one of the best in the business.
So it was hardly a surprise on Monday when Herman defended his entire staff — and most especially, heavily-criticized offensive coordinator Tim Beck — by indicating that he expects all nine to return next season.
After all, that continuity has value in producing alignment and it’s something that the ‘Horns simply haven’t had in recent years.
As Herman pointed out, fifth-year senior B-back Naashon Hughes has seen 33 assistant coaches work at Texas since he enrolled in 2013. In every season, there has been a different offensive coordinator. Former head coach Charlie Strong change his offensive play caller and his defensive play caller in consecutive seasons.
In sharp contrast, Mack Brown’s coaching staff was remarkably stable during his incredible run — by Herman’s count, there were only 15 coaches over a stretch of 12 years.
“I think continuity and consistency with your staff is really, really important in college football,” Herman said. “It is one of the most underrated reasons for success in my opinion, and it's why now as a head coach -- now I see why all the other head coaches that I worked for were always so protective of their assistant coaches and didn't want them to leave because they understood the value in continuity.”
The other area that Herman wanted to emphasize is that Beck is the play caller as the offensive coordinator, but he’s not solely responsible for the plays that go down to the field. Wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer is now providing another set of eyes in the coaches box, while the entire offensive staff provides feedback and makes personnel decisions.
There are a variety of interactions that occur when the defense is on the field between Herman, Beck, Mehringer, and the rest of the staff. Beck and Herman solicit input on what plays the staff likes, what adjustments are necessary, what plays can beat specific fronts or coverages. The offensive line coach provides insights on how the defensive line is attacking the line of scrimmage and suggest possible plays as a result. The position coaches make decisions about personnel.
Between games, the ultimate responsibility rests with Herman to evaluate and provide feedback to his coaches.
“It's my job as the head coach to coach the assistants and provide them feedback as to areas I think they need to improve, provide them with support and praise in areas that I think they are strong at and allow them to continue to enhance their strengths,” Herman said. “But that's my job as the head coach is to coach the assistants.”
Herman admitted that at some point a coach may become uncoachable, just like a player, but Texas is not approaching that point yet.
“I hired these guys knowing exactly what I was going to get, and we've all got to get better, especially on that side of the ball. But I have full confidence that we will,” Herman said.
Unfortunately, significant improvement, especially offensively, probably won’t come until 2018.