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Meet Tom Herman, the Coach Who Could Lead USC Back to Prominence

PHOTO: Houston Athletics

Imagine a prospect for USC’s vacant head coaching position with extensive ties to some of the nation’s deepest recruiting pools; a prospect with an offensive philosophy that embraces the run, long the centerpiece of USC’s successful past, while making strides toward the future; a prospect with a national championship to his credit.

Sound like a winner? Well, Houston’s Tom Herman is exactly that.

The Cougar head coach is thriving with a run-heavy offense that combines elements of traditional, power football with the free-wheeling style of hurry-up spread so prevalent in today’s college game. His philosophy brings together the best of both worlds, employing the old-school ideals on which USC has long staked its identity with the updates necessary to compete in today’s high-scoring game.

Just look at how Ohio State’s Herman-led offense performed against Alabama in last January’s Sugar Bowl for evidence. The Buckeyes out-quicked the Crimson Tide, yes, but they also punched them in the mouth with a physical style even the most ardent USC traditionalist could appreciate.

Ohio State wouldn’t have won its national championship without Herman as offensive coordinator — and if you doubt his contribution, contrast the current Buckeye offense with last year’s.

Herman is just getting his feet wet as a head coach, which is the most obvious deterrent for him as a USC candidate. Five games do not exactly make for the meatiest resume, particularly among some of the names already rumored for USC’s vacancy.

Offer up Herman as a possibility, and it’s sure to illicit hemming and hawing. He’ll be a star eventually, but he needs more experience.

If he’s destined to grow into a superstar coach, why not let him grow into it at USC? He’ll have every resource a head coach could want or need at his disposal, including a cupboard fully stocked with talent.

Trojan football sells itself on the recruiting scene, but Herman’s first year at Houston has proven he can fare just fine on the trail otherwise.

And, with ties to Ohio and Texas, Herman would bring with him opportunities to expand USC’s already impressive recruiting net to two premier destinations.

Maybe that all sounds good, but you just cannot shake the experience thing. And it’s understandable, given names like Kyle Whittingham and Gary Patterson are being floated as pie-in-the-sky possibilities.

The Utah and TCU head coaches have certainly proven their head coaching acumen over the past decade-plus. Both did so in what was his first head coaching job.

Patterson was an assistant at various stops over 16 years before taking over at TCU in 2000, while Whittingham ascended to the top post at Utah after assisting Urban Meyer, the same colleague Herman worked under at Ohio State.

But then, Utah and TCU could afford to give first-time head coaches opportunities before establishing their resumes, right? The Horned Frogs were members of the football-defunct Western Athletic Conference when Patterson replaced Dennis Franchione, and Utah was a member of the Mountain West Conference when Whittingham replaced Meyer in 2005.

This isn’t some mid-major conference program we’re talking about, here. This is USC, a program with national championship-winning tradition established under such coaching legends as John McKay and John Robinson.

Maybe it’s an awkward time to mention when they became USC head coaches, it was the first head coaching gig for either McKay or Robinson.

Reaching out to a bright, albeit new star honors USC tradition more so than chasing down and possibly overpaying for proven commodities. Drawing a comparison to Herman, five games into his head coaching career, and two of the Trojans’ all-time greats may be a bit extreme, but how different could USC football history be had university brass waited on either to gain more experience elsewhere before their opportunities?

The sky’s the limit on Tom Herman’s coaching career. USC can get him there faster than any other opportunity, and Herman’s best equipped to elevate USC with the expedience its fan base demands.

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