When Tom Herman first began looking for a defensive coordinator after landing his first head coaching gig at the University of Houston, his meticulous process led him to an unlikely name.
Herman’s main mission was to find a guy who could simply run a defense with what he described as “multiplicity.” From his own experiences on the offensive side of the ball, Herman wanted exactly what gave himself fits.
“In preparing to be a head coach, I knew what kept me up at night as an offensive coordinator,” Herman said. “So I scoured the country. As a coach, especially a coordinator, you are what your numbers say you are.”
Herman evaluated the best defensive coordinators in the country who were playing a base 3-4 defense “but (who) were (also) very multiple with it.” He then pinpointed some of his top targets.
One of the names on his list was LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who at the time was in the same role at Wisconsin. But Herman knew that a smaller program such as Houston couldn’t pry Aranda away from a marquee Big Ten program such as Wisconsin.
“Am I gonna go get Dave Aranda from Wisconsin at the time to come to Houston? No, I’m not,” Herman said. “And I love Dave.”
That’s when Utah State’s defensive coordinator started to become an increasingly realistic and sensible option. A man by the name of Todd Orlando had caught Herman’s eye. Herman watched tape from Orlando’s defenses at Utah State and liked what he saw.
So Herman and Orlando met for an interview in Columbus, Ohio, in January 2015. It was the Sunday after Ohio State beat Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Herman, the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator for three seasons, had just been named Houston’s head coach the month prior. It didn’t take long for Herman to realize he had found his man.
“When I knew? I mean, within minutes of the interview,” Herman said. “It was lockstep and sync with the philosophies that I believed in, to not only play great defense but to play championship-level football, too.”
When Herman was named the head coach at Texas in November 2016, bringing along Orlando to run the Longhorns’ defense was a no-brainer. But Orlando had his hands full. He was tasked with reviving a defense that was fresh off two of the statistically worst defensive seasons in school history.
Today, however, the narrative of Texas’ defense has completely changed.
“It’s no secret that they’re carrying us right now,” Herman said.
Herman realizes that Orlando could eventually be an up-and-coming name in the revolving door that is the college football head coaching market. On multiple occasions, Herman has stated publicly that he wants all of his assistants to one day become head coaches.
In due time, that could be the case for Orlando. He’s already the highest-paid assistant coach in school history, earning $1,090,000 annually on a three-year deal. Herman said on Monday that they will discuss other potential jobs, but that kind of talk won’t happen until the season is over.
“The beauty of it is that we have provided Todd with the resources to be very, very selective when that opportunity presents itself,” Herman said. “It’s something we won’t even bat an eye about until the offseason.”