News broke earlier today that Herb Hand was going to leave and head over to Austin to become the Texas Longhorns’ offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Sources: Auburn OL coach Herb Hand headed to Texas as co-OC/OL coach— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 16, 2018
First of all, it’s interesting that he’s going back to a coordinator role under Tom Herman. Hand was a co-OC at Tulsa with Gus Malzahn, and then run game coordinator at Vanderbilt and Penn State to go along with his line coaching duties at both stops. Second of all, this announcement has been met with mixed feelings from Auburn fans all over. That’s not much of a surprise.
Herb Hand’s unit was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award this year as one of the nation’s top lines, and he’s been mostly very good for Auburn in his time on the Plains. The offensive line was one of the key pieces during Auburn’s wins over Georgia and Alabama this year, and paved the way for one of the top offenses in the SEC.
On the other hand, the offensive line was a huge problem in each of Auburn’s four losses. The Tigers allowed 36 sacks on the season, placing them 100th in the nation in that regard. In the four losses, Jarrett Stidham was dropped 22 times, with eleven sacks coming at Clemson. The run game stalled in each of those defeats as well, outside of the first half at LSU.
For the successes that Auburn did have, there was a serious lack of consistency, and a lack of confidence in the starting five, it seemed. It took a while for Casey Dunn to get meaningful snaps at center, and the shuffling on the ends with Prince Tega Wanogho and Darius James left the line looking lost at times.
With the offensive line being a key area for immediate improvement next season, it’s going to be difficult to see how this will shape up until we see Hand’s replacement hired. With just three weeks to go until National Signing Day, Pt. II, Auburn’s offensive line commits seemed set today, but it may be hard to nail down a couple extra signees without a coach to show them.
After losing Austin Golson, Darius James, Braden Smith, and Casey Dunn from this year’s unit, there will be a lot of work for whoever replaces Hand. Auburn’s offense could have an uncharacteristic dip if the line doesn’t gel, and the running back situation doesn’t get sorted until a few games in. It won’t be easy to open 2018 against a Washington Huskies defensive front that’s been salty for a few years now under Chris Petersen.
More to come, War Eagle!