One of the names that has cropped up for the vacant South Carolina Gamecocks' post - along with Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Memphis head coach Justin Fuente - is that of Houston head man Tom Herman. Herman, who came over from Ohio State fresh off a College Football Playoff National Championship as their offensive coordinator, won the Broyles Award (given to the country's top assistant) and parlayed his success into a head coaching gig at Houston in place of the fired Tony Levine. It hasn't taken long for things to happen: the nationally-ranked Cougars (18th AP, 19th coaches) are sitting at 7-0 after a 59-10 victory at UCF, are ranked fourth in FBS in points scored (47.6), and are fifth in total yards per game (561).
We wanted to get the word on Herman from someone thats know Houston football, so we enlisted the help of Brian Harper from our sister site, Underdog Dynasty, to help us break down Herman's impact down in Texas.
First off, what impact has Tom Herman had on the Houston program in such a short time?
BH: I think the biggest impact Herman has had is that he immediately put his own personal stamp on the program/culture there. That's an easy thing to say when the result is a 6-0 start, but it's true. He told the story of how Andrew Luck visited him when he was the offensive coordinator at Rice and they didn't have the best facilites, etc., so that caused them to lose out on Luck. What that taught him was to "put your best foot forward", which has led to an almost micro-managing style that goes all the way to cleaning gum wrappers off the floor in the locker room. The trickle down effect of that discipline, that drive to always be prepared, shows in how Houston has played so far this season.
Houston was an eight-win team in back-to-back seasons before Herman arrived. How has he been able to get the current players, as well as players he has recruited, to buy in to what he's selling?
BH: It always helps when you enter a situation and the cupboard isn't bare. I think that his credentials (especially from Ohio State) and ties to the Houston program/Texas football certainly helped his players to buy in. Of course, the number one thing is immediate success, which is a direct result of the success Houston had prior to him taking over there. But I think a major by-product of getting everyone on board and heading in one direction is the togetherness it fosters in the team. A lot of first year, and even first time head coaches struggle with getting everybody on the same page. Herman's ability to not only do that, but do it in six games is pretty remarkable.
Is it too early to consider Herman for a job like South Carolina's given the fact that he's only been in Houston for a single season, or does his body of work at Ohio State and Houston combined give him an edge?
BH: If you want to hire someone based solely on head coaching experience, then maybe Herman isn't your guy. But, from what we've seen from him so far, his ability to get the most out of what he has is pretty desirable. South Carolina would be a major step up, but he has experience in big time programs. Stylistically, I think he could definitely make it work.