AUSTIN, Texas -- In his six years as a Big Ten offensive coordinator, Tim Beck won 60 games. Think about that. Whatever grievances Ohio State and Nebraska fans harbored about a coach they seemingly loved to hate, they must concede the guy produced results.
Why Tom Herman hired Beck to be his offensive coordinator is fairly easy to explain. Two men with too much in common who go way back are finally teaming up. What doesn’t make sense to Herman is why he would even need to justify the hiring of Beck, or why Buckeyes fans were so eager to see him go this offseason.
"I was really surprised," Herman said, "because it’s very well-known Tim Beck didn’t call plays at Ohio State. I think the negativity was misplaced on him."
At least Beck is well-prepared for the pressure and harsh scrutiny that comes with coaching at Texas. He’s going to be the Longhorns' seventh offensive play-caller in six years, in charge of a unit begging for consistency in offensive purpose and leadership.
After two years of attempting to replicate what Herman accomplished at Ohio State, Beck joined forces with him. He’s the one assistant on Texas' staff who has never actually worked with Herman, but the fit still made too much sense.
"When Tom got to Houston and Major (Applewhite) was there, they taught Major the system," Beck said. "I know the system."
During Beck’s two-season tenure, the Buckeyes' offense averaged a Big Ten-best 37.5 points per game and ranked No. 1 in the conference in rushing and yards per play. He coached the Big Ten’s Quarterback of the Year last season (J.T. Barrett). In his second year recruiting for Ohio State, he landed the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year (Tate Martell) and Defensive Player of the Year (Shaun Wade) plus Jeffrey Okudah and Baron Browning, two of the five best recruits in the state of Texas.
But when the expectation is national championships, anything less gets called disappointing. Like a 12-1 season in 2015. Or a College Football Playoff loss to the eventual national champion. The 31-0 beatdown Clemson delivered naturally prompted a lot of scapegoating and finger-pointing, and Beck was an easy target after the shutout.
"We didn’t play well in the last game, obviously," Beck said. "But I think we were 23-2 going into that game. I don’t know if that’s necessarily broken."
Herman knows enough to appreciate what his new offensive coordinator achieved in Columbus. He’s been following Beck’s work for a long, long time.
Back when Herman got his start as an assistant at Sam Houston State, Beck was a Texas high school football coach. The two crossed paths on the recruiting trail when Beck was at Kansas and Herman was at Texas State and Rice.
Then Herman got to Iowa State when Beck was at Nebraska. He says he studied what the Huskers were doing on offense "quite frequently." Eventually, the two struck up a relationship.
"Whenever we were in the same area recruiting at the same time," Herman said, "we’d get together over dinner and talk football."
Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten in 2011. Herman jumped to the Big Ten in 2012. When Herman became the head coach at Houston, Urban Meyer replaced him with Beck.
He was asked to juggle the Buckeyes' remarkable quarterback battle of Barrett vs. Cardale Jones, though Meyer made the call on the starter. Beck held the title of co-offensive coordinator, though Meyer and Ed Warinner called the plays. Beck tried to describe that situation politely last week, but there’s no other way to sum it up: "It’s kind of weird. Everything was by committee."
At Texas, Beck is fully in charge of the offense and welcomes any input Herman wants to offer. The input that convinced Herman he’d made the right hire came from his former Buckeye quarterbacks.
"The thing that sold me on Tim Beck was his relationships with his players," Herman said, "and the fact that two young men I love dearly and care about deeply in J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones gave him the big thumbs-up."
Going into another high-stakes gig featuring a demanding fan base, Beck says he only worries about what his coaches and players think of him. He knows to expect the second-guessing. What did he learn from those last two jobs? He brings up an old Bobby Bowden quote.
"It’s six inches from a halo to a noose," Beck said. "One minute, everybody loves you. Next minute, they want to kill you."