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Thinking Out Loud: Offensive “Fixes”?

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West Virginia v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

According to ESPN.com, the West Virginia Mountaineers have a top 25 offense. No, it’s true!

WVU Offensive Ranks

Name Yards / Game Rank
Name Yards / Game Rank
Total 460 25
Passing 291 20
Rushing 169 47
West Virginia Offensive Totals Thru 5 Games Jake Lantz | ESPN.com

Looking at those numbers may surprise you, they may not. The fact that the passing game is near 300 yards a game, to me, is a bit surprising given how flat the offense has felt. If Leddie Brown isn’t banging out 5-6 yard runs per carry, the offense just seems to falter.

Do you need to increase these numbers and if so, how do you do it? Let’s take a look.

Let’s address the elephant in the room, the drops by the wide receivers. Head coach Neal Brown says they will just continue to practice and rep it with the receivers and maybe that is all you need to do. Perhaps it really is as simple as better technique and more opportunities. I’m not a paid Power 5 head coach so for me to say I know more than Brown would be foolish. At the same time, watching the same mistakes by the same people halfway through a season (that doesn’t mean anything) is frustrating. Most of the drops have been on slants or crossing patterns that have the receivers looking downfield for yards instead of looking the ball into their hands. Instead of the slants, some stick patterns like curls would help. The first job of that pattern is to catch the ball.

The scheme. We run slants. We run post corners. We run seam routes. I’m still not sure what exactly our route tree is but it doesn’t seem to really fit with Jarret Doege’s strengths at times. I can’t say I’ve seen too many dig routes. I also don’t think I’ve seen many curls, as mentioned above. Routes that can simply move the sticks. I’m not sure I’ve seen enough play action for a team that runs the ball like we want to run the ball. I don’t need to see gadgetry but I would like to see some routes that free guys open. Too many times I see our receivers needing to win one-on-one battles. Yes, that is football and these guys have to make plays, but every other college football team seems to have someone free up for an easy throw for their quarterback once a drive. Where is that pick play concept in this offense?

Now, I fully admit I’m a jaded Giants fan so the use of 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end) gives me PTSD. Former head coach Ben McAdoo ran 11 personnel almost exclusively and it was pointed out by every sportswriter and even opposing players.

It’s not just the personnel groupings that make the Giants’ offense so predictable. Despite a preposterously oversized play sheet, there are only so many route combinations in McAdoo’s short-passing attack.

EEK. That hits a little too close to home. If we want to run the ball and be a team that controls the clock, different personnel groupings are necessary. Insistently running the ball up the middle because its the only play that works is fine but as you saw against Texas Tech, teams can adjust. New formations that change where the defense focuses and the angles at which linebackers and defensive linemen take to the ball can only help an offense. We don’t have a fullback so running 21 personnel out of an I-formation is out of the question but perhaps 12 personnel is available. Heck, with the tight end, maybe 13 makes sense.

Lastly, MORE. PLAY. ACTION. We already run the ball well and everyone knows we want to run the ball. We do not have a quarterback who is going to pull the ball and scramble for a first down. Not consistently, so running zone-read with him make little sense. It makes more sense for us to use play action to open up the offense. Running the ball effectively isn’t necessary for play-action but it does help. So instead of doing a zone-read concept with a quarterback who isn’t going to do that, run an RPO with some tempo and take advantage where you can.