Skip to main content

Three hours with Herb Hand, an O-line coach's O-line coach

Herb Hand is an offensive line coach's offensive line coach. A big guy with a big personality and a bigger voice, one look at him and you can see he was put on this planet to teach his group of big people how to push another group of big people around. He spoke for more than three hours on Saturday at the Tony Franklin OC Magic clinic, with an intermission down the middle to change out of his team-issued Texas pullover, because he had sweat through it.

And this was Hand with his intensity at a Level 5, at best. There was only one moment when it pushed to Level 8 or 9, when a high school offensive line coach in the audience at the San Marcos Embassy Suites asked the best way to handle a bull rush. "That's a topic for its own clinic," Hand said, "but you want to set your feet, GET SOME STRENGTH IN YOUR ASS AND BOW YOUR BACK! My old offensive line coach said, 'YOU AIN'T A MAN UNTIL YOU'VE STOPPED A BULL RUSH!'"

But that was Hand at Level 8, and he spent the rest of Saturday at Level 5.

What follows are scattershots of quotes and observations from Herb's presentation.

-- Hand talked a lot about identity. Texas is clear about its identity, which makes sense because the identity wasn't clear until Hand showed up.

Hand 1

“What does balanced actually mean? I can run it when I want to run it, and I can run when I have to run it. I can throw it when I want to throw it, and I can throw when I have to throw it. If you can do all four of those things, you’re balanced.”

-- While on the topic of identity, Hand warned about the pitfalls of making the hurry-up only a part of your offensive identity. “Don’t hurry up to screw up. Understand, from an offensive line perspective, what does tempo do to the O-line?... If you’re not a tempo team and say you’re going to have a tempo package, it ain’t gonna be worth a piss."

-- On that subject, he also warned against bringing too many plays into a game. Scout yourself, Hand said, and determine (for example) how many 3rd-and-1 plays a game you run. If it's three, put four 3rd-and-1 plays on your call sheet. "Have you ever seen the show Hoarders? Some coaches are like that," Hand said. "They've got plays piled up everywhere."

-- Find what you're good at it and stick with it, Hand emphasized. "The worst thing that can happen is the Thursday revelations."

-- “If you’ve got Pat White, run him. Run him until the defense stops him. If you’ve got Sam Ehlinger, you want to run him situationally. You want to run him third down, red zone, 4-minute drill.”

-- Don't mistake knowing your identity for being simple and easy to game-plan against, though. “Nobody on defense wants to defend the option, defend the misdirection," he said. "They want you to line up in 21 personnel, run iso and see who’s tougher.”

-- Hand emphasized the importance of having a Helmet Plan -- a plan in place in case a starter needs to be replaced for one snap in the event a helmet or a cleat gets knocked off. This past season, Texas' left tackle Calvin Anderson lost his helmet for a play and Denzel Okafor, on track for a redshirt, was sent to replace him -- thereby burning one of his four allotted games on a single snap.

-- Like many coaches, Hand is a big fan of Sun Tzu. This quote below is the basis for Hand's motto: Know Us -- Know Them -- No Fear.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

-- I tweeted these quotes out from inside the room, but I'll repost them here for those who missed them.

-- With respect to quote No. 3 above: “If you spend all your time on the who-tos, your guys will never get beat on the chalk board but they won’t know how to do anything," Hand said. "If all you work on is the how-tos, they can go to Rivals camp and kick ass, but they won’t know who to block.”

-- Perhaps the topic that drew the most reaction in the room was Hand's grading system for each player. Each player is graded simply on two scales -- did he execute the block and he did block the right man? How-to and who-to, basically. Executing both assignments gets a two, executing one gets a one, and failing on both fronts earns a zero. Plays where all five lineman earn a two are shaded green.

Hand 2

Paired with his GA Graf, grading each lineman on each snap is a 4-hour job. The Texas staff meets together to review the previous game's day at 10 a.m. on Sundays. This means Hand and Graf are in the office, clicker in hand, at 6 a.m. the day after the game, no matter if it was a noon kick at home or a primetime kick in West Virginia.

-- Hand said he'll coach his guys hard on the practice field and in the film room, but he's strictly positive on game days. If he has to correct a player on the sideline, he'll do it up close in controlled tones, so as not to embarrass him in front of God and country on national television.

Hand wasn't always this way, but he had an epiphany at Vanderbilt. The Commodores were playing an FCS team and winning the game, but didn't look good doing it. As the offense trotted off the field after a sloppy touchdown drive, Hand lit into them -- and the epiphany came through the looks in his players' eyes at the coach who was ripping them after scoring a touchdown.

-- On the topic of game day ettiquite, Hand had a, uh, polite request for silence on the headsets during a series. “During the series, I do not speak unless spoken to," he said. "And I’m usually not spoken to.”