The list of offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches who can thrive with their first-choice at the most important position on the field is long. There are probably other assistants who can successfully integrate a backup and keep the attack rolling along.
But on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game, Tom Herman put the capper on a résumé for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach that simply couldn’t be denied by unleashing a third-stringer on one of the best defenses in the nation, and the 59-0 destruction led by Cardale Jones basically made it impossible to deny Ohio State’s third-year offensive coordinator when the trophy was presented on Tuesday.
“Tom Herman is an excellent coach,” Urban Meyer said after the game last weekend. “His unit the first year was very average. I talk about we got a Player of the Year in the Big Ten [in Braxton Miller], but as a unit they weren't very strong.
“Now it's one of the strongest units on the team. He's done a marvelous job.”
If Herman had worked with Miller only, maybe it would be a different story. But clearly everybody in Ohio State’s quarterbacks room is getting hands-on attention and a quality football education, because three other players have successfully stepped in when needed to lead the spread attack thanks to injuries over the last two seasons.
First it was Kenny Guiton coming off the bench, winning games and setting a few Ohio State records along the way.
Then it was J.T. Barrett, who tagged in on short notice after Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury about 10 days before the start of the season and would go on to set the Big Ten record with 45 total touchdowns while keeping Ohio State on track for the College Football Playoff.
And after losing Barrett to a broken ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan, the Buckeyes simply moved on to the next guy once again and watched as Jones established a new conference record of his own after posting an eye-popping 255.8 quarterback rating while carving up Wisconsin to clinch the Big Ten title.
Maybe Herman isn’t the only assistant in the country who could have molded all of those guys into players capable of keeping a high-octane machine humming along. But this season Herman left no doubt that he could do it, and he certainly deserved to be honored for it.
All that’s really left for Herman now that he has proven himself as the country’s top assistant is to try his hand running his own program. Odds are that opportunity is going to be coming sooner than later, and his résumé has a fresh new entry listed under his accomplishments.