Texas coach Tom Herman has secured perhaps the most important piece of his coaching staff, as multiple sources told Sports Illustrated that defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has agreed to join him in Austin. Orlando served as Herman’s defensive coordinator in Houston for two seasons, building a reputation as one of the country’s top defensive strategists. Sources said Orlando is expected to sign a three-year deal worth more than one million per year.
With Houston’s season ending on Saturday, two other key coaches will be departing the school for Texas. Houston safeties coach Craig Naivar and strength coach Yancy McKnight have agreed to join Herman, a source told Sports Illustrated. Both moves were expected. That leaves Herman with two open on-field positions on his staff: offensive coordinator and running backs coach.
With Herman’s expertise coming on the offensive side of the ball, having an experienced and familiar presence on the defensive side makes Orlando’s hiring a critical one for Texas. He’s coaching his last game for Houston on Saturday against San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Orlando strung together impressive back-to-back seasons at Houston, as the Cougars finished No. 3 in rush defense in 2016 and led the nation in forced turnovers in 2015. One of Orlando’s signature performances came when Houston stonewalled Florida State for a 38–24 victory in the 2015 Peach Bowl, as star Seminole tailback Dalvin Cook rushed for just 33 yards on 18 carries.
Orlando played a key role in the Cougars’ two hallmark wins during the 2016 season, when they slowed the powerful offenses of Oklahoma (33–23) and Louisville (36–10) to win as double-digit underdogs.
Orlando’s hiring doesn’t come as a surprise, as he’d been leaning toward heading to Austin since getting passed over for the Houston head coaching job. Orlando was initially named interim coach after Herman left for Texas, but the school decided on offensive coordinator Major Applewhite last week. Orlando garnered interest from other schools but landed at Texas because of his strong relationship with Herman.
He takes over a Longhorns defense that struggled in 2016. Coach Charlie Strong demoted coordinator Vance Bedford in early October after Texas gave up 38.3 points per game through its first four contest. The Longhorns will be an experienced group in 2017, as underclassmen have accounted for 112 starts on defense the past two years. There’s plenty of room for improvement; Texas finished No. 95 in total defense (448.3) and No. 89 in scoring defense (31.5).
Orlando’s style is predicated on aggression and risk, aiming to force pressure on the quarterback and create turnovers. What makes Houston’s statistical success so impressive the past two seasons is that it was paired with a no-huddle, high-tempo offense that inherently creates more possessions. In 2016, the Cougars finished No. 14 in total defense (325 yards allowed per game), 11th in first-down defense and 13th in sacks (37).
Orlando has produced statistical success everywhere he’s gone, including back-to-back seasons in the top 15 in scoring defense at Utah State (2013–14). Now he’ll get a chance to showcase his schemes on the biggest stage in college football.