There are lots of things that I am excited about. I like the emphasis on team speed. Our corners need to be much faster and should be able to press, and we are now targeting them. Can't wait to see stops on 3rd and 8 and at least once per game the opposing WR's not getting 20 yards behind our secondary. I've heard rave reviews about Willis and his philosophy. A better running game could lead to more wins (see: TTU, 2008). Some of the last minute additions to the recruiting class should be reason to celebrate and Tommy looks sharp in a red tie with a double T on his lapel.
We have a broad based level of agreement here.
But (c'mon, you knew this was coming) can we also agree that this could turn out to be a mess? London Raider put together an impressive historical review of the facts. If nothing else, his article proves that our football team is entering uncharted waters. Here's to hoping that our new coaching staff can navigate through the choppy times.
My question is, how will Coach Tuberville respond if, for whatever reason, our team gets off to a slow start next year? His previous attempt to install the spread has been widely discussed. Here is some history on that attempt and a few questions I have. (All blockquotes are taken from the Tony Franklin bio on Wikipedia)
1. At Auburn, Tuberville and staff didn't have the offensive personnell to run the spread.
I could argue that prior to Franklin's arrival, Troy or Middle Tennessee State (see below) didn't have the offensive personnell to run the spread either, and each had big turn-arounds in their first year under Franklin.
And there is this information about Auburn's victory over Clemson in the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl using, virtually, the same offensive personnell with only 8 days in the system:
After spending two seasons with the Trojans, Franklin was hired on December 12, 2007 by Tommy Tuberville to serve as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Auburn University. Franklin implemented his new spread offense with only 8 days of practice, prior to the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl. The new system proved quite effective as Auburn bested their season average in all offensive categories, posting 423 yards of offense (233 passing / 190 rushing), had 24 first downs and ran an 11-year high 93 offensive plays, all despite playing against the #6 defense in the nation.
However, the success in the bowl game didn't translate to success during the 2008 season:
The Tigers' offense was much less impressive at the start of the 2008 season. Auburn started the season with a somewhat disappointing 4-2 record, losing to LSU and Vanderbilt and having close calls against two struggling teams in Mississippi State and Tennessee. After the first six games, Auburn ranked 104th in total offense out of all FBS teams.
On Wednesday, October 8, 2008, Auburn head coach Tuberville fired Franklin, citing a lack of offensive production from Franklin's spread offense, and noting Auburn's diminishing rank in most of the offensive categories in the FBS. Auburn went on to win only one of the final six games, finishing with a 5–7 record.
2. Tony Franklin was unsuccessful with the spread under Tuberville, but Neal Brown will be different.
In his first season at Troy, Franklin turned the teams stuttering offense around from the last placed offensive unit in the Sun Belt Conference prior to his arrival, to leading the league in passing and ranking second in overall offense. This remarkable turnaround helped the Trojans earn their first Sun Belt Conference title as well as the school's first bowl win, with a victory in the New Orleans Bowl. Prior to Franklin's arrival, Troy hadn't ranked better than 109th nationally in total offense in the previous four seasons. In 2007, the Trojans ranked 16th nationally in total offense (453 yards per game) and 25th nationally in scoring offense (34 points per game), helping the team win back to back Sun Belt Conference titles.
Brown's stats as OC at Troy were a little behind Franklin's in 2008, but pretty similar (taken from the Troy athletic site):
Brown led the Trojans to a national ranking of 26 in total offense with 421.42 yards per game. He also led the Trojans rushing attack to a 36th-place national ranking, while the passing game came in at 32. The Trojans were the 23rd highest scoring team in the country in 2008, averaging 33.25 points per game under Brown’s leadership. In addition, Troy ranked in the top three of every major offensive category in the Sun Belt during the 2008 season.
Does he sound so different? Why will it automatically work here when it failed at Auburn? Were the athletes at Auburn not big, fast and strong? Was Chris Todd not capable of picking up Franklin's offense after spending a few years in Lubbock? Did the Tech personnell automatically fit the spread in 2000?
3. What has Tony Franklin done since being fired by Tuberville?
On February 5, 2009, Franklin was hired to fill the vacant position of offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State University. He replaces G.A. Mangus who left MTSU to become the quarterbacks coach at South Carolina under his college coach Steve Spurrier.
Under Franklin's tutelage, the Blue Raiders offense improved from 7th in the conference in scoring before his arrival (and 84th in the nation) to 2nd in the conference his first season (and 28th in the nation). Despite a losing record the year prior, MTSU finished the regular season with a 9-3 record including a win over the Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference (the lone conference loss came at Troy). The press characterized the year as redemption for Franklin after the difficulties at Auburn the prior year. Franklin's offense helped the Blue Raiders finish with 10 wins (after beating Southern Mississippi 42-32 in the New Orleans Bowl), the program's best record since it entered the Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) in 1999, with the offense averaging just under 420 yards per game.
Tony Franklin is well known for owning and operating The Tony Franklin System Seminar. His copyrighted offensive system has been implemented by over 351 high school and college programs in 44 states across the nation, grossing over $170,000 annually from his consulting services. Several college coaches including Sonny Dykes at Arizona, Chris Hatcher at Georgia Southern and Ed Argast at Fordham consult with Franklin about their offenses. Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah says of the system "If both teams have players who are equal in talent, this offense is impossible to stop".
So, my question is, what happens if we sputter a little? From what I read, Tony Franklin has had success with the spread at every stop except for Auburn. Is it the head coach or the offensive coordinator that sets the tone and is ultimately responsible? Are there inherent wrinkles in the spread that literally make Tuberville's skin crawl? Would Tuberville fire Brown and go back to what he knows best? The man has had success doing what he knows best. What is his plan B, if necessary?
The point here is not to revive the Leach argument. I'm prepared to discuss Tech football without falling back on the Leach era. I'm using the past (LR analysis and the Tony Franklin experiment) to try and gauge what the future may hold.
We can all argue the thousands of points until we are blue in the face. Our common ground, though is that Texas Tech needs a defined edge. We need something shiny and interesting. We need a loud, busy shirt to get everyone's attention in the room. Whether its Coach Cawthon's team traveling coast to coast, the Matadors, in their distinctive red satin uniforms became known as the Red Raiders, or pirates swinging their swords, history shows that Texas Tech needs that defined edge to elbow its way onto the national scene. We've tasted it, and we want more.
If a recruit is visited by a suit with a Longhorn tie on Sunday, a suit with an Aggie tie on Monday, a suit with an OU tie on Tuesday, a suit with an Alabama tie on Wednesday, a suit with a Gator tie on Thursday, and a suit with a Double T tie on Friday, unfortunately the Double T is going to lose most of those battles. (Even though the Double T does his best work on Fridays)
We can't be a suit and tie just like everyone else. We have to keep our shiny edge. We have to proudly wear a loud, obnoxious shirt. We have to keep a powerful, high-octane, exciting offense. If not, we become just another school in the Big 12, trying to keep up with the suits.
Hopefully, on that we can all agree. And the Friday thing.