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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Football

With national championship in hand, Herman hopes to accomplish same at UH


Tom Herman passed his final test at Ohio State, so why haven’t the all-nighters stopped?

Herman, 39, was the busiest man in college football for about a month, serving as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator by day and the Cougars’ 13th head coach in the wee hours of the night.

But even after he helped the Buckeyes defeat Oregon in the National Championship Game, allowing him to focus solely on UH, sleep is still elusive. And with National Signing Day less than three weeks away, Herman isn’t expecting a full night of sleep anytime soon.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do here in terms of recruiting,” Herman said. “There will be a lot of early mornings and late nights still, but it might be a little bit more toned down than what it was the last month or so.”

With every position on his staff filled except offensive line coach, Herman and his crew have shifted their focus toward protecting UH’s current commits, while improving the recruiting class.

He identified a high school quarterback as the team’s No. 1 priority and expects to sign six or seven players to compliment the 15 who have already committed.

“When people say, ‘Who’s the best recruiting staff in Texas?’ the University of Houston better be first on everyone’s list, because (we’re only as good as) the players we bring in,” Herman said.

Recruiting will be an integral factor for Herman, who said he wants to create a championship contender — the new standard at UH. The University made that clear when it fired former coach Tony Levine.

Though Levine helped improve the Cougars’ recruiting reputation and had the support of his players, his 21-17 record wasn’t good enough for UH’s Tier One aspirations.

Levine’s team lost all three Homecoming games it competed in and dropped two season openers to heavy underdogs — including the opening of UH’s $120 million-plus football stadium. Both season-opening losses were to teams that won four games that respective season.

“The expectations for this program have changed. We want to be nationally relevant. We certainly believe that we can be (nationally relevant) here. We will be (nationally relevant) here,” said Athletics director Mack Rhoades, after Herman was hired in December.

Herman and Co. aren’t shying from those high expectations.

They believe a staff deeply rooted with Texas connections — defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is the only current coach without work experience in the Lone Star State — can make some positive strides.

“With the recruiting ties that we have, with what this University has to offer, with the location, with the new stadium, with the vision of President (Renu Khator) and (Athletics director) Mack (Rhoades), this is the right time and the right place to get some big things done,” said assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Craig Naviar.

Herman and his crew are expected to bring a potent offense to UH, an area where the previous regime struggled. The offense was boring at times — a Cardinal sin at UH.

After leading the nation in scoring in two of the three seasons before the Levine era and never dipping below 13, the Cougars were never higher than 37 during Levine’s tenure. Herman’s Buckeyes finished in the top 10 of both scoring offense and total offense in each the past two years.

Herman said the team would run a fast-paced spread offense, but he cautioned fans not to necessarily expect a reincarnation of the Air Raid. He said his version of the spread will be adaptable to the personnel.

More important than the run/pass split is developing a “culture of toughness and accountability,” said Herman.

The cupboard isn’t bare for UH. A team that was expected to compete for a conference title before the season began had seven players named to the All-American Conference first or second team.

Herman acknowledged that the team has talent, but also that talent only gets you so far. Exhibit A is the 2014 Cougars.

Herman needs to improve the offense and get the most out of his players, or he’ll be getting a full night of sleep like the rest of us observers.

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