Tom Herman’s first recruiting pitch wasn’t to an athlete, but to the state’s coaches

Posted November 28th, 2016

Perhaps Tom Herman will get to Alaska and Hawaii one day.

Herman, speaking to the media in his first public remarks as Texas’ new coach on Sunday, estimated that he has recruited 48 states over his 19 years as a college coach. He’s never been to Alaska and he’s never been to Hawaii. And that probably won’t change anytime soon. After all, he does coach in the football-fertile soil that is Texas.

At his introductory press conference, Herman extended an olive branch to the state’s high school football coaches. He expressed a desire to keep the state’s top recruits within the state, and called Texas high school athletes the best-coached players in the country. He even name-dropped David Raffield and Kirk Eaton, the head coaches at A&M Consolidated in College Station and Houston Cypress Falls.

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“I also want the high school coaches of the great state of Texas to know that this is their football program,” Herman said. “We’re the flagship university of the best high school football-playing state in America. I want to continue to do a great job in recruiting the fine student-athletes that are produced by our Texas high school football coaches.”

Before spending the last two years as the head coach at Houston, Herman has worked as an assistant at schools like Texas Lutheran, Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice. He addressed the Texas High School Coaches Association’s annual convention in 2015 and it was considered that he had an open-door policy with the state’s coaches.

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) is sacked by Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) is sacked by Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Herman is leaving behind a Houston class that’s rated the nation’s 35th-best, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. He had 20 commitments there, all 3-star prospects. He had the nation’s 36th-rated class in 2016, which included five-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver of Spring Westfield.

Leander Rouse coach Joshua Mann said Houston’s coaching staff was both welcoming and accommodating during the three visit’s taken to the UH campus. Lehman’s Todd Raymond said he came away from a 2015 recruiting weekend in Houston enthralled with how prepared and detail-oriented Herman was during staff and position meetings; when Herman brought up the importance of being prepared on Sunday, Raymond said that was the first thing he thought about. Reagan’s Keith Carey, whose running back Mulbah Car signed with Herman this past February, was impressed by the work that Herman’s staff did on social media.

“He has a real understanding that the high school coaches are important, and I think he really reaches out to them to make them feel like they’re important,” said D.W. Rutledge, the executive director of the THSCA. “Everybody that I’ve talked to that’s visited the University of Houston had nothing but good things to say.”

Herman has seemingly backed up his words on the recruiting trail. Thirty-five of the 44 recruits he signed at UH played high school football in Texas. And 17 of the 20 recruits in Houston’s 2017 class are in-state prospects.

Most of the prep recruits that Herman signed at Houston were three- and two-star talents. He did, though, win the 2016 battle for Oliver, a defensive tackle who was among the top-rated players in the nation. Herman is, of course, is now swimming in a bigger pool at Texas.

So what kind of recruiter should fans expect Herman to be? A lot of that will depend on his staff, which will reportedly include Derek Chang and Corby Meekins. Chang was Herman’s director of recruiting at Houston, while Meekins served as the Cougars’ tight ends coach after an 11-year run as the head coach at Westfield High. The Houston Chronicle also has reported that special teams coordinator James Washington, who was UH’s recruiting representative in the Central Texas area, also is set to join Herman.

“They all did a great job of reaching out. They had a great connection,” said Mann, who coached 2015 Houston signee Will Noble. “I have no doubt that he’ll continue that trend that coach Brown did and coach Strong did.”

The Longhorns’ program has had a long-standing relationship with the state’s coaches. On Monday, Vandegrift’s Drew Sanders remembered having members of Brown’s staff stop by his campus even when he didn’t have a Texas-worthy prospect. And Rutledge recalled Strong’s business-like but accommodating approach, although Raymond noted the consistent changes to that coaching staff made it tough to build relationships.

Strong’s last two classes ranked in the top 10 nationally. Texas’ seven-player class is currently 61st. But even before Herman hits the recruiting trail, he’s already made his first pitch.

“His comment about the high school coaches is legit,” Raymond said. “What he said yesterday, 100 percent falls in line with what he’s said in the past.”

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