LITTLE ROCK — Tackled at the Middle Tennessee 40 after making an interception, linebacker Nathan Herrold offered a long-distance salute to a master filmmaker.
Herrold pointed to the press box, where Arkansas State assistant coach Brandon Hall resides during a game. ASU defensive coordinator John Thompson interpreted Herrold’s gesture.
“OK, that was from the Magic Tape,” Thompson said. “How cool is that?”
Hall says Thompson coined the term; Thompson says the credit belongs to Hall, who worked until midnight Sunday and Monday during the season to prepare video on the upcoming opponent.
“Coming out of the Oregon game, we needed to do something to prepare our kids a little more,” Hall said. “All the info from offenses these days is pretty overwhelming.”
Hall, who did two stints at Oklahoma as the defensive assistant for quality control, was already putting together a tape for the safeties he coached. Thompson wanted something the defensive unit could watch together and Hall was accommodating.
On occasion, there were as many as 80 plays on the tape, including the name of the formation, the run-pass percentage from that particular alignment, down and distance tendencies, “any piece of information that was pertinent,” Hall said.
It was so detailed, Thompson said, that on the interception, Herrold knew “they only run this play at this point out of this formation with wide receivers exactly like that.”
“I was studying that play for over two weeks and had a great idea of what they were running,” Herrold said after the 45-0 rout that secured the Sun Belt title.
On Middle Tennessee’s first snap after the interception, Herrold was moving before a sweep developed, making the tackle for a loss.
Watching and winning led to wanting more to the point that players badgered Hall for an ETA on the tape.
“It kind of took on a life of its own,” Hall said.
Nobody spent more time consuming the video than Herrold, a senior from Ozark, Mo. He had taken care of his school work to the point that his only classroom obligation was an internship with the strength and conditioning department. As a result, he had oodles of time to watch tape, including hours at night.
“He has done things strictly through his preparation that are phenomenal,” Thompson sad.
On the road in early October, Herrold was calling out Florida International plays prior to the snap.
“One of their guys came up to him and said, ‘How did you know our plays?’” Thompson said. “Brandon took pride in it because Nate was just devouring it. Telling everybody the plays, our confidence level shot up. He got better, everybody around him got better.”
Thompson admitted that dedicated is a cliche, but used it anyway to describe Herrold. For example, he said that at one point Herrold needed surgery on both knees and was told he would be in a wheelchair if he had the surgeries simultaneously.
“He chose two surgeries where his rehab would be cut in half,” Thompson said.
During the season, a couple of 30-minute treatments per day were prescribed for a bruised knee.
“He got seven per day. The only reason he didn’t get more, he had to get lunch and supper,” Thompson said.
“He’s unlike anybody I’ve ever coached,” said Thompson, who was a graduate assistant at Arkansas in 1982. “You’ve got to be dadgum careful what you tell him; he’s going to remember that. He’s going to take every little morsel of information out there and digest it and study it.”
Asked about Herrold’s 40-yard time and possibly playing in the NFL, Thompson said, “Whatever time he runs, he’s going to play faster because he’s going to diagnose and anticipate and react.”
Herrold finishes his college career against Kent State tonight in a bowl game in Mobile, Ala. If Kent State stays true to 2012 form, Herrold will be more than ready.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is email@example.com.
Kent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas State (9-3)
• When: 8 p.m. today
• Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
• TV: ESPN