COLUMBUS, Ohio — Texas football coach Tom Herman posted a tweet on March 13 advertising his love of the warm Austin spring. Like any good Mensa member, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator referenced his time in Columbus to compare and contrast.
— Coach Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) March 13, 2017
Although Herman’s message could be interpreted as innocuous, there tends to be no such thing in the world of social media and college football recruiting. Every message means something, and Herman’s intent was clear: to remind prospects — particularly in his home state — how cold it gets in Columbus.
Had Herman taken aim at Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh likely would have sent one “back over his bow.” But in the new cold war between the Buckeyes and Longhorns, tweets about weather are about as frosty as it’s likely to get.
As Herman noted, it’s been just more than two years since he was Ohio State’s offensive coordinator — and it’s worth noting that he didn’t seem to mind the Ohio weather back then. Perhaps that’s because of the success he enjoyed while working under Urban Meyer, which included a 38-3 record and the first-ever College Football Playoff Championship.
When Herman left in 2015 to coach Houston, he did so on good terms. He and Meyer even exchanged scouting reports last season when the Cougars and Buckeyes faced a common opponent in Oklahoma.
Upon taking over at Texas at the end of 2016, Herman thanked his former boss.
“For Coach Meyer, I feel like I went to head coaching school for three years,” Herman said of his time with the Buckeyes. “People ask me all the time, what was the thing I took away the most? There was a thousand things I took away from Coach Meyer.”
Meyer responded by wishing Herman well.
“I think he’s ready for the task. I know he’s always felt very strongly about the University of Texas,” Meyer said of Herman’s new job. “And obviously everybody has great respect for that school.”
That, however, is as far as their public pleasantries are probably going to go. While Meyer and Herman might maintain a mutual respect, the reality is that they’re now recruiting rivals.
Since taking over at Ohio State, Meyer has made forging a pipeline into the Lone Star State one of his top priorities. Ironically, he did so thanks in large part to Herman’s Texas ties.
By the time Herman made the move to Austin this past winter, the Buckeyes’ presence in his talent-rich state had only grown. On signing day, Ohio State inked three of the top six recruits from Texas.
The Longhorns, meanwhile, signed just one in the top 20.
For that reason alone, Meyer and Herman find themselves as frenemies. The former would like to keep his pipeline going. The latter needs to stop it. If Texas is going to return to prominence, it has to keep its top talent in-state.
“We’re the flagship university of the best high school football-playing state in America,” Herman said. “And I want to continue to do a great job of recruiting our fine student-athletes produced by Texas high school football coaches.”
That’s why Herman didn’t have any qualms about hiring Ohio State quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, who took over as the Buckeyes’ top recruiter in Texas following Herman’s departure. He also hasn’t been shy about promoting the players he coached in Columbus, be it Ezekiel Elliott or Braxton Miller.
— Coach Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) January 27, 2017
Ohio State, for its part, has remained mum on the matter, although Buckeyes director of player personnel Mark Pantoni did admit that Texas made a late pitch for Buckeyes signee J.K. Dobbins following Beck’s hiring.
“I think there’s just always the respect factor,” Pantoni said on signing day. “[Beck’s] got a job to do down there, too. So they did go see J.K. That was no surprise to us.”
Respectful or not, it won’t be the last recruiting battle between Herman and his former employer.
As the 2018 recruiting cycle hits its stride, Ohio State has done its best to maintain its Texas footprint. The Buckeyes remain active in pursuing several of the Lone Star State’s top players, including 5-star cornerback Anthony Cook.
But while Herman is focused on establishing his new school’s brand, he’s also kept his eyes to the north. When former Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones graduated from Ohio State earlier this month, Herman returned to his old stomping grounds to celebrate the occasion.
Before he left, he made sure to snap a picture of himself alongside Jones and Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett, a subtle reminder of all he accomplished while working for his newfound rival.
— Coach Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) May 8, 2017
Perhaps Columbus in the springtime isn’t so bad after all.