How old is new Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman? He's old enough to buy a beer if he so chooses. But how old does he look? Well, let's just say that there isn't a waiter or waitress taking orders who wouldn't ask to see his ID before handing over a nice cold bottle of Bud.
But don't let Herman's baby-face looks fool you. The 34-year-old is years ahead of his time when it comes to running an entertaining spread offense that has plenty of sizzle and maybe even more steak. In his two years in the same capacity at Rice University, the Owls broke nearly 50 offensive records and in 2008 they were among the national leaders in passing yards (327.8 per game, 5th), scoring offense (41.6 points per game, 8th) and total offense (472.3 yards per game, 10th).
And, yes, it's the same type of offense that has given the coaching staff down in Iowa City one migraine after another in recent years. That alone should make Cyclone Nation smile.
-DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Tom Herman, the 34-year-old new offensive coordinator of the Iowa State football team, speaks at the Cyclones’ media day on Wednesday. He spent the last two seasons in the same capacity at Rice University.
But can Herman pull the same rabbit out of the hat now that he calls Ames home? Iowa State's success in 2009 probably depends on it.
Let's face it, the Cyclones won't be in many conversations pertaining to stout defensive units. They gave up more than 40 points per game in Big 12 play a year ago, and it's not like the league is expected to fall off the offensive cliff this fall. In other words, don't expect too many 10-7 nail-biters come October and November.
Head coach Paul Rhoads stressed the importance of an improved defense on Wednesday during Iowa State's annual media day, but even he conceded that when you dance in the Big 12, you better be able to put points on the scoreboard.
That's where Herman enters the picture, and he has a plan. Just imagine the Grinnell College men's basketball team on the gridiron. It's attack, attack, attack. And when that's finished, you attack some more.
"We're going to control and dictate the tempo, and you're certainly going to see us go fast at times," Herman said of his version of the spread offense that doesn't include a huddle. "When we feel like we've got our foot on (the opponent's) throat, we're going to go for the kill.
"The advantages are, obviously, the fact that defenses can't substitute (against the no-huddle). We want to wear those defensive players down as much as we can, so in the third and fourth quarter when we're in better condition and those big 310-pound defensive tackles are sucking wind and trying to tap out and get off the field, we're on the ball and ready to play."
Herman promises you'll see four-wide formations, and quarterback Austen Arnaud - tabbed the starter heading into fall workouts - will spend his Saturday afternoons in the shotgun, something the junior from Ames says he relishes. But Arnaud also knows much of the burden will fall on his shoulders.
"I love being back in the shotgun because you get to see the whole field," Arnaud, one of the team captains who threw for 2,792 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008, said. "My play is pretty much going to dictate how we play as a team."
Other weapons at Herman's disposal will be returning running back Alexander Robinson (703 rushing yards, 5 TDs in 2008), as well as wide receivers Darius Darks (477 yards, 1 TD), Marquis Hamilton (301 yards, 3 TDs) and Sedrick Johnson (188 yards, 3 TDs).
Small and shifty, Alexander has the ability to carve up opposing defenses when he's handed the ball, but he can also catch the ball coming out of the backfield - just one more thing to keep defensive coordinators up at night.
And while most spread offenses are pass happy (think Texas Tech), Herman insists that the Cyclones will do whatever it takes to earn the W.
"On a weekly basis, if we've got to throw 50 times to win then that's what we've got to do. If we've got to run it 50 times to win, that's what we're going to do and I think, more than any other place I've been, we've got that ability to be balanced here," Herman said.
Herman sounded confident as he mapped it all out for the media on Wednesday. Not arrogant. Not cocky. Just confident.
Coming off a 2-10 season, a shot of confidence is just what the Cyclones need.