May 19, 2024

SEC Unbiased: Where should Tom Herman go?

Where should Tom Herman go? In this week’s SEC Unbiased, David Bradford discusses the options.

No changes made

In a matter of three seasons, Tom Herman has gone from little-known offensive coordinator at Ohio State to the next big thing in college football head coaching.

Oh, how the turn tables.

Herman has produced at rapid pace during his two seasons at Houston. The Cougars are 20-3 since the beginning of last year, with wins over Louisville (twice), Florida State and Oklahoma. Because of his string of success, once vacancies flood the coaching market during the offseason, Herman will essentially have the pick of the litter.

There isn’t much confirmation on which jobs will be available, but it’s more likely than not that Texas is moving on from Charlie Strong. In addition, the loss to Florida sealed Ed Orgeron’s fate at LSU — he will forever be the ultimate interim head coach, which is a blessing for fans in Baton Rouge. Throw in Oregon and Notre Dame — where speculation of regime changes have been heavy, but not confirmed — and there are plenty of appealing jobs for Herman to take.

But of the four mentioned, what’s the best fit and overall situation?

Texas has long been called not only the best job in college football, but the best job in all of sports. It’s hard to disagree. Not only do the boosters have oil money — which means their influence over the program is tremendous — but the Longhorns are an institution of college football with a rich history and passionate fan base that has resulted in the program having its own network. Plus, as the major player in the state of Texas, Herman would further tighten his chokehold of high school recruiting in the Lone Star state.

It appears, on the surface, to be an obvious fit.

However, Herman is such a hyped commodity, that walking into Austin would yield unrealistic expectations. Herman would have to pull off an almost instant turnaround to satisfy the impatient boosters and psychotic fans. If Herman wants a situation with a bevy of resources at his disposal in a state he’s already familiar with, then Texas is obvious option.

But I’m not convinced Herman would want to venture out to the “real UT” given how toxic the Strong era has appeared from a distance. Plus, the Longhorns aren’t a program on the verge of breaking through to national relevance. Even though they have been “back” at various points this season, the reality is that there is still plenty of work to do.

From one institution to another, we have Notre Dame, a team that Texas beat during the season’s opening weekend. The Fighting Irish have fallen into a spell of inconsistency that dates all the way back to the 1990s. Sprinkled in are a few prominent seasons — the 2006 Sugar Bowl season, the 2012 National Championship season and the 2015 Fiesta Bowl season. Of course, Notre Dame lost all three games by an average of score of 42-18.

Needless to say, this isn’t the Fighting Irish of yesteryear, when they were the gold standard for success.

Despite the inconsistencies, South Bend is a dream destination for any coach. Notre Dame’s brand is as strong as any due to its outstanding tradition, which includes 875 wins, 11 National Championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners. And don’t listen to the hoopla that it’s hard to win in South Bend nowadays. This was a program one win away from making the College Football Playoff last season. Plus, if Stanford — the most academically challenging program in the nation — can experience consistent success, so can Notre Dame.

But similar to Texas, Notre Dame is both a rebuilding project and features unrealistic demands. It isn’t as toxic as the situation in Austin, but if Herman were to venture to South Bend, he’d be turning down two jobs that are, in their current state, much more appealing.

Of the four schools mentioned, Oregon possesses the least amount of tradition, but features the least resistance on the path to success. Herman is an offensive guru (more on that later), so his services in Eugene would reverberate the Ducks’ offense back to the explosive Chip Kelly days.

And is there a cooler program to play for in the country than Oregon? We all know Herman is an elite recruiter. With those gorgeous uniforms, five-star skill position players would line up for miles at Herman’s door. In a conference where defense is basically non-existent, that’s an invaluable asset.

The down side of working at Oregon would be the lack of access to elite defensive recruits. Herman would have no quarrels with offensive recruiting, but this is a man who can work magic with any offense he interacts with.

The aforementioned jobs all carry attractive benefits, but the clear-cut choice for Herman is LSU.

I can already hear the detractors ask, “why would you want to lose to Nick Saban every year?”

The gap between LSU and Alabama isn’t as wide as most make it out to be. Just take a gander at the Crimson Tide’s 10-0 win over the Tigers this season. There’s no question who the better team was, but Alabama wasn’t the unstoppable force of nature it had been against Tennessee and Texas A&M in previous weeks.

If LSU has an average quarterback, then the Crimson Tide lose that game. Instead, they had Danny Etling, who was so petrified by Alabama’s pass rush, that he was seeing ghosts all evening long even when a pass rush wasn’t present.

With Herman, the Tigers won’t face that pressing issue. The evidence suggests that Herman is a quarterback whisperer. At Ohio State, he turned J.T. Barrett into a superstar. When Barrett suffered a season-ending ankle injury at the end of the 2014 season, third-string quarterback Cardale Jones took over the starting reigns and Ohio State didn’t skip a beat, scoring 59 points against Wisconsin, 42 points against Alabama and another 42 points against Oregon in the National Championship. At Houston, Herman has taken Greg Ward Jr. — a converted wide receiver — and turned him into a Heisman candidate.

What Herman accomplished with Jones should be classified as a miracle. This is a quarterback who is better at Twitter than he is at reading defenses. This is a quarterback who bragged about his victory in NCAA over a sick child.

This is a quarterback who, after three games of Ezekiel Elliot carrying the offense, held a press conference announcing he would return to Ohio State despite only being relevant for one month.

LSU isn’t a rebuilding project. They have the defensive talent. They have the skill position players. All they require is a quarterback who can execute at, the very minimum, a mediocre level. But expecting a mediocre quarterback in Herman’s system is like expecting Marcus Mariota to come up clutch in the fourth quarter — it isn’t happening.

Bringing down Nick Saban’s empire at Tuscaloosa is akin to locating and accurately firing into the minuscule target that would destroy the Death Star, but if anybody can take down Saban — which is what the rest of the college football world desperately wants — Herman is the man to do it. He’s already proven he can.

If he wants to do it again, he’ll have to do it in Baton Rouge.

Edited by Dalton King

Featured image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

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Follow me @DavidJBradford1 on Twitter, email me at dbradfo2@vols.utk.edu for any questions.