Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Will Texas’ Tom Herman be calling his own number when it comes to calling the plays?

Posted February 7th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Tom Herman isn't saying he will call the offensive plays next season but "is open to it."
  • Herman doesn't strongly defend offensive coordinator Tim Beck but suggests it might not be fair to judge him because of mitigating circumstances like average quarterback play.
  • Before considering the move, Herman said he reached out to coaches like Chip Kelly, Scott Frost and Gus Malzahn.

Tom Herman and his staff scoured the countryside for talent and secured the signatures of some of the 27 best and most versatile high school players for the third-rated class nationally.

He got a defensive lineman from Baton Rouge, La., in Mike Williams, who was a 6-2, 250-pound quarterback in high school as well and a guy who Herman watched do six clean reps of 315-pound squats. Joseph Ossai, the No. 15-rated defensive end in the nation from Conroe Oak Ridge, may play linebacker. Yoakum’s Joshua Moore averaged almost 14 yards a carry, but may be ticketed as a slot receiver in Austin.

Herman may prove his own versatility as well.

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He might call the offensive plays, come September. More power to him. I think he will.

And if there’s anyone who can call plays and chew Dubble Bubble at the same time, he’s the guy.

After discussing the option a bit on Wednesday afternoon, Herman was asked if he was open to the idea.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he said.

Later he was asked what factors would lead him to call the plays, and he said, “If I felt like it helped us win.”

Herman’s done his research.

Texas coach Tom Herman has intimated that perhaps he will be the one calling the Longhorns’ offensive plays in 2018. Ricardo B. Brazziel/American-Statesman

He admitted he’d had conversations with other college head coaches who had also called the plays. He talked to UCLA’s Chip Kelly about his doing it at Oregon. He spoke with Nebraska’s Scott Frost, who called plays well enough at Central Florida to go undefeated and, ahem, celebrate a national championship (sorry, Alabama). He picked the brain of Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, who did it so seamlessly that his Tigers beat both teams who played for last season’s championship, Alabama and Georgia.

Doesn’t sound like Herman heard anything negative enough to make him discard the idea. And why not?

Lincoln Riley has no problem juggling those duties and still overseeing the rest of his Oklahoma obligations because his Sooners reached the College Football Playoffs in his very first season. True, it does help to send in plays to a quarterback who wins the Heisman Trophy. OU, UCF and Auburn all finished among the top 25 offenses in the nation with the Sooners and Knights in the top three.

Kliff Kingsbury still handles that part of the job at Texas Tech even though the Red Raiders’ defense is the real issue. And he has had the luxury of calling plays for quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes, Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield as well.

Mike Gundy called plays at Oklahoma State until giving up those duties a few years back. Dana Holgorsen did likewise at West Virginia. A Big 12 alumnus, one Mike Leach, wouldn’t think of not calling the offensive plays.

And let’s not forget that Herman did that chore at Ohio State and succeeded in helping Urban Meyer win a national title just four years ago.

Who exactly will call plays in 2018 remains the biggest mystery in these city limits this side of Austin’s flirtations with Amazon and the Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. Herman was properly evasive on the subject, but did more than hint that someone besides Tim Beck could call the plays. And that could include him.

[anvplayer video=”4315201″ station=”Cox Newspaper – Austin”]

Asked about the identity of the play-caller, Herman initially answered, “It’s to be determined.”

If that doesn’t sound like a vote of confidence for Mr. Beck, you would be correct. Of course, in sports, no figure gets second-guessed, criticized, hated on Twitter and downright abused more than a football play-caller. Why? Because everyone and his uncle can call plays. Or thinks he can. Herman demoted offensive line coach Derek Warehime to tight ends coach and may be demoting Beck as well although Beck will call the “scrimmage situation plays” this spring.

Tim Beck needed replacements for Connor Williams and added a fifth option. Ricardo B. Brazziell/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Play-calling wasn’t exactly a strength last season. Texas couldn’t run the ball effectively, couldn’t pass the ball effectively, couldn’t score in the red zone. Otherwise, nothing was wrong with the offense. Now maybe labeling the play-calling a liability is excessively harsh and a bit unfair to boot because the Horns had below-average play at quarterback and everywhere else offensively.

Even if all can agree the proper assessment fits somewhere in between, even Herman acknowledges that Texas has to do better.

And he might be just the man to do it.

“To judge any kind of coach’s abilities based on the circumstances that surrounded the offense, we got to be better as coaches,” Herman said. “We have to get better as coaches, OK, on that side of the ball. There were a lot of circumstances there that probably didn’t allow for a fair observation.”

At least in title, Herman remains wedded to Beck as his offensive coordinator but also to his new co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand, who Texas hired to run the offensive line and assist with gameplanning. Herman didn’t go out of his way to defend Beck, and Herman did call the plays himself in the Texas Bowl to the tune of a pedestrian 280 yards, but still a victory over Missouri.

So it won’t surprise if Herman starts the season calling the plays against Maryland and adjusting if he has to. Besides, what can it hurt?

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