Q&A With Herb Hand Co-Offensive Coordinator - University of Tulsa

By Mark Colyer,
April 28, 2009

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Herb Hand – University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Coach Hand, thanks for participating in another round of Q&A with – Tell us a little about the 2008 season and how the team looked wrapping up spring ball on April 18, 2009? 
2008 was a record setting year for us.  We finished 11-3, setting the school record for wins in a season.  We are actually one of only 10 programs in the country to have back-to-back 10+ win seasons.  We were the only offense in the country that was ranked in the top 10 in rushing (5th) and passing (9th).  We were able to repeat as the number one offense in the country, while also leading the nation in 3rd down conversions, 1st downs per game and yards per play.  We were the second offense in NCAA history to average over 250 yards per game rushing (269) and 300 yards per game passing (301).  And we also set a school record for scoring, averaging over 47 points a game. 
We had a very productive spring, which will be critical for us as we move into our summer workouts.  We have to replace our QB Dave Johnson and currently have three guys competing for that position.  We need to replace Tarrion Adams, who was our feature running back during the past two years.  He wound up his career as the all-time rushing leader in Tulsa history and accounted for over 2,700 yards rushing the past two seasons.  On the line, we lost three starters, including Justin Morsey, who was a first team Conference USA guard.  And we also lost record-setting WR Brennan Marion, who had back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons for us and averaged 28.5 yards per catch over the last two years.  So, needless to say, we have a lot of work to do.
It was great to see the University of Tulsa get some prime-time exposure on Sunday night, October 26, 2008 on ESPN vs. UCF – I bet the players and staff really got juiced for that? 
That was a big game for our program not only for the national exposure, but also because we lost to UCF twice in 2007.  They are a very talented and well coached team, so getting that win was huge.
Let’s talk some shot-gun spread offense stuff – particularly the ‘gun and run’, tell us about some new wrinkles The Golden Hurricane implemented last year and in spring ball 2009 in the run game? 
We are an inside zone based running team.  We also run outside zone, power, counter and a couple of different sweep concepts.  We haven’t really implemented anything new conceptually to our run game.  We have really concentrated on getting better at the fundamentals of each play, whether it be pad level and first steps for the OL, RB alignments and aiming points, QB footwork and reads or WR stalk blocking, fundamentals are critical to success. 
How about the shot-gun spread pass game? Any new stuff you can share or philosophies? 
Just like in our run game, we don’t do anything that is revolutionary or out of the ordinary, we just try to have great execution.  Like most teams, we incorporate triangle reads, high-low concepts and flood routes in our passing game.  The one thing that we have had a lot of success with is our vertical passing attack.  We try to take each of our base runs and have some sort of play action deep ball that we can go to when the safeties start playing down hill to defend the run.  When you couple all of those things with our tempo, it becomes challenging to defend.
What made David Johnson so successful last year at QB? He had some amazing numbers throwing the football in 2008? 
David was incredibly coachable and tried to be perfect on every throw.  He was outstanding in his preparation and with his overall understanding of the offense.  He was the recipient of our ‘Iron Will’ award which represents our training.  We give the award each year to the player that is the hardest working, best conditioned, most disciplined member of our program.  Dave certainly met those criteria.
How important is misdirection or reverses in your play calling? The one play I have in mind, the old “Reynaud Special” from a kid you coached at West Virginia that used to cripple defenses. Is this done to strictly slow down defensive pursuit? Or is it part of a bigger game plan from film study of an opponent? 
For us, misdirection is one of the basics of our offense.  We want to present misdirection in both the run game, with reverses, counters, zone reads, etc. , and the pass game with play action, naked’s and boots.  Misdirection makes defenders second guess their read keys and creates confusion, which slows down pursuit.  When we are preparing to play a ‘fast-flow’ defense, we will go into a game with as many as 3 or 4 different reverses off of our base runs.  For us, a reverse is not a trick play, it is a base run in our system.
Let’s switch gears to the NFL; what did you think of the Miami Dolphins and the ‘wild-cat’ formation and how successful they were at it last season? 
I thought they did a great job of using their personnel in an innovative way.  The one thing that NFL defenses probably do not prepare for are QB runs…those guys get paid to throw the ball, not run it…so, it did not surprise me that they were able to have success running out of that formation.  I found it very interesting that they drafted Patrick White, because he will add a completely different dimension to their offense.
I had wrote in an article last year when the wild-cat emerged in the NFL how the Dolphins offensive coaching staff included the likes of David Lee (Arkansas), and George DeLeone (Syracuse/Temple) – two guys with the spread offense in their blood from coaching on Saturday’s. Do you think you’ll see more of this in the NFL? Guys coaching on Sunday with the college shot-gun spread influence in their background? 
I doubt that an NFL team will ever fully shift to a ‘college shot-gun spread’, but I do think that we will continue to see concepts, whether it be the ‘Wildcat’ formation or zone-read principles, applied in the future.  I think that teams will have multi-play packages that will be player-specific (i.e. Patrick White, Tim Tebow).  While we are on that subject, keep your eye on a guy named James Casey from Rice…the Texans drafted him in the fifth round…he is the type of player that teams can create a package around.
Last Question Coach – How do you (or suggest a coaching staff) prepare for the ‘disaster’ moment if Quarterback #1 goes down with an injury in the shot-gun zone read/option spread offense? I get a lot of questions from coaches on this subject, all trying to prevent the ‘Dennis Dixon collapse’ that Oregon had two years ago when he went down.  Any insight? 
Last year, we went thru the entire season with two eligible quarterbacks on our roster (our third QB was a transfer from Texas and had to sit out the year due to transfer regulations).  So, to say the least, that was not a great situation to be in at QB.  We prepared for that scenario by having our ‘Wildcat’ QB ready to also play in our base offense.  Our guy, AJ Whitmore, primarily plays WR, but was a great HS quarterback as well.  The other ‘dooms-day’ moment that teams should be fully prepared for is if your center goes down.  When I was at WVU, our offensive line coach was Rick Trickett.  He likes to tell about the year that he was at Auburn and they were going into The Swamp to play Florida in game 7 or 8 of the season and he was starting his 6th center of the year due to injury...I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
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