On Monday, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman hired former North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora as an offensive analyst after interviewing the longtime spread guru last week in Austin.
The addition provides the biggest name yet to a support staff that could still add former Kansas head coach David Beaty as Herman builds an Alabama-like group of coaches that could provide Texas with an edge in close games against top opponents.
Fedora is now on staff in part because he shares a similar offensive philosophy to Herman — after first becoming a spread adherent while watching Rich Rodriguez at Tulane, Fedora operates out of 11 personnel, just like Herman, and uses multiple tempos in an effort to gain advantages against the defense.
Run-pass options are a part of his philosophy as he attempts to punish defenses for devoting resources to stop the run or the pass. Though that particular approach has evolved in recent years, Fedora’s desire to take advantage of the opportunities defenses provide to the offense based on schematic decisions was calcified while working at Baylor under Chuck Teaff, whose stubborn approach to offense frustrated Fedora.
“If I ever get a chance, I’m not going to just bang my head against the wall,” he said. “If a team says we’re going to stop the run, then I’m going to throw it. And if a team says we’re going to stop the pass, then I’m going to run it.”
Arguably the most important area where Fedora could help Texas dates back to his time running the triple option at Air Force.
Beyond valuable experience like working under Mike Gundy as the Oklahoma State offensive for three seasons, Fedora also began assembling a database that has now tracked statistics across college football since the early 1990s and features play-by-play data that helps determine what calls Fedora carries into games.
“If there’s going to be seven 3rd-and-longs in a game, how do I want to handle those seven?” Fedora said in 2013. “If I’m going to call maybe a couple of screens, all right, well, now I’ve got five left. Is one of them going to be a draw? Okay, so now I’ve got four left. So how many passes do I really need to prepare in 3rd-and-long? Do I need to prepare four passes? Or do I need to prepare two and call them twice? To me, it’s just how you put your game plan together, how you whittle it down.”
Fedora’s approach fits with that of Herman, who has also taken an analytical approach to determining how many situational plays to carry into a game. Doing so allows the offense to play at tempo, especially in short-yardage situations, because the play sheet already has those calls ranked and ordered for easy access during games.
Since becoming a head coach for the first time at Southern Miss in 2008, Fedorda has taken a collaborative approach to play calling that also mirrors what Herman has done at Texas. Not only does communication happen between the head coach and members of the offensive staff during games, but every assistant also contributes to the game-planning meetings throughout the week.
And that’s where Fedora will be able to have to most impact on the Texas program as he brings his nearly two decades of experience running spread offenses to bear on what plays the Longhorns carry into games and how Herman’s attack can exploit defenses.