Ohio State has reportedly found their man to replace offensive coordinator and noted quarterback whisperer Tom Herman, who is headed to become the new head coach at Houston. According to an ESPN report, the Buckeyes will bring on former Nebraska OC (and Youngstown native) Tim Beck to Columbus after Monday's championship game. Beck's name wasn't floated by many watch-lists before, so this move seems like at least a little bit of a surprise.
Most fans are at least somewhat aware of Beck's work, having watched some Nebraska games over the last few years, but what exactly does Beck bring to the table? Is this a good hire? Let's take a closer look.
Beck is most known for his work at Kansas and Nebraska, but he's bounced around lots of places before that. Beck graduated from famed Cardinal Mooney high school in Youngstown (the same one that produce the Pelini brothers), and headed to UCF, where he played for two years. For the next decade, Beck moved around, taking various high school coaching jobs in Florida, Arizona and Texas, while also serving as a linebackers coach for Illinois State, a GA at Kansas State, and as the offensive coordinator at Missouri State.
Beck's high school stints were all successful turnaround jobs (he won an Arizona state title, and made the playoffs multiple times during his Texas stints), and during his one year as the OC for Missouri State, back in 1998, he led the team to 4,542 all purpose yards (one of their best ever) -- although the team finished 5-6.
After a successful stint coaching high school ball in the Dallas area, Beck was tabbed to return to college, taking the job as the wide receivers coach for Kansas in 2005. The struggles of the Jayhawk program have been well documented, and while the program wasn't quite in the depths that it is now after the Charlie Weis era, it was still pretty bad, having won only 10 games over their combined previous three seasons. After Beck's first year on the job, the Jayhawks improved to 7-5, and won their first bowl game since 1995, crushing Houston 42-13 in the Fort Worth Bowl.
Kansas went 6-6 the next season (without a bowl bid). in 2007, Beck got a promotion to Passing Game Coordinator, and he turned in perhaps his greatest career achievement. The Kansas Jayhawks, a program that had not finished the season ranked in the AP Poll since the early 1970s, went 12-1, winning the Orange Bowl, and ending the season ranked No. 7. Kansas was successful in large part due to the development of quarterback Todd Reesing, who threw 33 touchdowns against only seven picks. Kansas also finished 12th in F/+ that season.
In his three year stint working with the Jayhawk offense, Kansas saw their S&P+ rank on offense improve every year, from 69 to 60 to 32. In 2008, Beck left Kansas to head to Nebraska.
From 2008-2010, Beck worked as the Cornhusker running backs coach. The Cornhuskers had the 15th ranked offense in S&P+ in 2008, and while the unit dipped in 2009 into the 60s, they rebounded to 32 in 2010. The Cornhuskers won 29 games over those three years, and saw the emergence of a dominant running game. Roy Helu Jr ran for over 1,000 yards in 2009, and in 2010, thanks in part to Taylor Martinez, Nebraska had three different people run for over 900 yards, with Helu Jr topping the charts at 1,245. Beck was then promoted to OC, a position he held at Nebraska from 2011-2014.
The Cornhuskers may not have enjoyed the most consistent quarterback play over that time period, thanks to the up and down (but never boring) career of Taylor Martinez, but they didn't have problems scoring points. The 2012 Cornhusker squad had the eighth best offense in the country according to S&P+, and never finished worse than 46th during Beck's tenure. Nebraska had two different 1,000 yard rushers in 2012, and had a back break the 1,600 yard mark the last two seasons.
Urban Meyer had said that finding a candidate with ties to Texas would be critical, as Herman held that role for the Buckeyes. Beck should be able to fill that slot nicely, as he coached high school football in Texas at multiple locations, and recruited the state while at Kansas and Nebraska. He doesn't have the ace recruiter reputation that others on Ohio State's staff might (per 247Sports' assistant coach recruiter rankings, Beck finished 510th in 2014), he'll have advantages and resources at Ohio State that he didn't have at Nebraska.
Beck has a track record of success, especially with running game development at Nebraska, and in rebuilding a moribund unit at Kansas. With Ohio State's success, tradition, and with Urban Meyer and others just a phone call away, it's a safe assumption that Beck will have a higher recruiter ranking in Columbus.
Beck's tenure at Nebraska isn't beyond criticism. The quarterback position hasn't been a consistent strength, as Taylor Martinez struggled with turnovers and decision making at times for the entirety of his career, and this season, with Tommy Armstrong Jr., was a mixed bag, as Armstrong threw 12 picks and had only a 53% completion percentage.
It's hard to say how much of that is on Beck, and how much of that is on the players themselves. Very few of Nebraska's skill position players were blue chip recruits, and turnover issues aside, it could be argued that at his best, Taylor Martinez overachieved a bit. Some of Nebraska's three-star recruits, like running back Ameer Abdullah and wideout Kenny Bell, blossomed into players far better than anybody could have expected them to. Others did not. It's entirely possible that once he has access to better players, Beck's offenses may look more like 2012 Nebraska than 2014 Nebraska. Tom Herman struggled at times at Iowa State when he was working with lesser caliber athletes, after all.
Ultimately, Beck brings a background steeped in the spread offense. He's coached up wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks, and has shown how to get results with a down hill power rushing attack, which is similar to what Ohio State wants to do. It's highly unlikely that he will be calling the plays, but combined with Ed Warinner, and Ohio State's deep roster of blue-chip skill position players, there is reason for optimism that Beck's background will mesh well and continue to deliver strong results.
If nothing else, Urban Meyer has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his hiring decisions. His coaching tree, and his record of success, speak for themselves.