Texas Tech's Spread Offense: The Same Kind of Different?

(Source:  NCAA.org)

Many believe that Texas Tech's spread based offense is largely going to stay intact under Tuberville and new offensive coordinator Neal Brown.   

Some have calculated that Texas Tech will likely execute no more than 4-5 additional running plays per game than  would typically be expected from a Leach-led offense.

Texas Tech's past offensive success coupled with Neal Brown's past experience running the spread offense offers  the hope that Texas Tech's offensive success should continue in spite of the recent coaching changes.

Let's review the numbers to see how warranted these assumptions might be.


Texas Tech

In the chart below, we tabulate the number of rushing plays and the number of passing plays run by Texas Tech from 2000-2009.

   Passing Plays  
   Rushing Plays  
   Total Plays  
   % Passing  
   % Rushing  
2000 613 305 918 67% 33%
2001 569 261 830 69% 31%
2002 770 385 1155 67% 33%
2003 780 308 1088 72% 28%
2004 651 293 944 69% 31%
2005 588 308 896 66% 34%
2006 655 220 875 75% 25%
2007 763 246 1009 76% 24%
2008 662 317 979 68% 32%
2009 669 317 988 68% 32%
Totals 6720 2960 9682 69% 31%

On average Mike Leach's offenses passed the ball on 69% of all offensive possessions, while rushing the ball on 31% of all possessions.

In 2006 and 2007, Tech's passing frequency increased to 75% and 76%, before returning to Tech's historical average in 2008 and 2009.

Despite a slight dip in performance from 2008 to 2009, Texas Tech ran virtually the same number of  offensive plays with a nearly identical run/pass ratio.  By this metric, it does not appear that there was a significant difference in the type of play calling between the 2008 team and the 2009 team as some have suggested.


Now let's look at Auburn's statistics during Tuberville's tenure.

   Passing Plays  
   Rushing Plays  
   Total Plays  
   % Passing  
   % Rushing  
1999 346 390 736 47% 53%
2000 354 462 816 43% 57%
2001 303 437 740 41% 59%
2002 299 563 862 35% 65%
2003 323 541 864 37% 63%
2004 308 553 861 36% 64%
2005 339 481 820 41% 59%
2006 282 470 752 38% 63%
2007 356 543 899 40% 60%
2008 341 469 810 42% 58%
Totals 3251 4909 8160 40% 60%

On average Tommy Tuberville's Auburn offenses (1999-2008) passed the ball on 40% of all offensive possessions, while rushing the ball on 60% of all possessions.

During Tuberville's 2004 13-0 season (and despite the services of NFL quarterback Jason Campbell) Auburn passed the ball on just 36% of all possessions, the second lowest passing ratio during  Tuberville's tenure.  Of course, when you have Cadillac Anderson, Ronnie Brown and Campbell in the same backfield (who also happened to be the first entire backfield to be drafted in the NFL Draft's first round), throwing the football probably wouldn't be among your first options either.

Interestingly, in Tuberville's final year in 2008, during which Auburn purportedly ran a spread offense, the Tigers passed the ball on just 42% of all possessions (against a 40% passing ratio during his entire tenure).    In fact, Auburn actually ran more passing plays as a conventional offense in Tuberville's inaugural season than it did as a spread team in 2008.    Clearly, whatever spread offense Auburn thought it was running in 2008 was very different than what we have become accustomed to at Texas Tech.


Let's also look at the passing and rushing ratios for Troy during Brown's tenure as offensive coordinator in the 2008-2009 season.

   Passing Plays  
   Rushing Plays  
   Total Plays  
   % Passing  
   % Rushing  
2008 524 448 972 54% 46%
2009 529 444 973 54% 46%
Totals 1053 892
1945 54% 46%

As we can see, Troy actually passed the ball on 54% of all possessions, while rushing the ball 46% of the time.

Calculating the Pass/Run Differential

Let's now compare Brown's Troy offenses in 2008-2009 to Leach's  Texas Tech offense's historical averages  (I have also broken out Leach's performance in 2008-09 for those who want to see a more current comparison.

   Leach (2000-2009)   
  Brown (2008-09) 
   Leach (2008-09)   
Total Passing Plays
6720 1053 1331
Total Rushing Plays 2960 892 634
Total Plays 9682 1945 1967
Number of Games 127 26 26
Average Passing Plays per Game 53 41 51
Average Rushing Plays per Game
23 34 24
Average Total Plays per Game
76 75 75
Percentage of Passing Plays
69% 54% 67%
Percentage of Rushing Plays
31% 46% 33%

As we can see from the chart above, in a typical football game, Tech's offense under Leach would run 76 plays, of which 53 were passing plays and 23 were rushing plays.  

Similarly, Neal Brown's Troy offenses ran 75 plays per game, of which 41 were passing plays and 34 were rushing plays.

A few thoughts:

First, these numbers suggest that Texas Tech's 2010 offense under Brown is likely to pass less frequently than many presume.    We should expect to see 10-12 fewer pass plays in a given contest, which represents about 19-23% fewer pass plays per game. 

Likewise, we can expect that rushing attempts would increase by an additional 10-11 plays per game, which represents a 45% increase in rush attempts during any given game. 

Furthermore, based on these comparisons, we are unlikely to see any significant increase in the number of plays run in a given contest.  Somehow, Leach's lackadaisical meandering approach to the offense produced 76 offensive plays per game - one more possession than Brown's supercharged NASCAR version of the same.

Time of possession shows no significant difference between the teams.  In 2008, Texas Tech's average time of possession was 30:17 compared to Troy's time of 29:03 per game.  In 2009, Tech Tech's average time of possession was 28:55 compared to Troy's time of 28:58. 


Based on observing Brown's historical play calling patterns, it would be reasonable to expect the following:

  • Passing plays are likely to decrease by 10-12 plays per game
  • Rushing plays are likely to increase by 10-11 plays per game.
  • Total number of offensive plays per game is likely to remain at 75-76 plays per game
  • Time of possession is likely to remain at 29-30 minutes per game

To say that our offense will not change significantly does not wholly describe the transformations we are likely to see. 

We know that Leach's offense has been successful against Big 12 competition and against defenses from other major conferences.

The talent level of the Big 12 defenses is considerably higher than to that which Brown was accustomed in the Sun Belt Conference.  In Neal Brown's two seasons as offensive coordinator, among Troy's 17 victories, just two were achieved against teams with records greater than .500 (7-6 Florida Atlantic in 2008 and 10-3 Middle Tennessee State in 2009). 

In the three games in which Troy played against comparable competition to the Big 12, the offense generated:

  • 315 yards in 2008, against Ohio State's 14th ranked defense
  • 416 yards in 2008, against Oklahoma State's 93rd ranked defense
  • 139 yards in 2009, against Florida's 4th ranked defense

Some believe that a more balanced approach to the offense than was practiced under Leach, will likely lead to a greater rate of success.  However, ‘balance' - although seemingly comforting (like warm cup of cocoa) -  does not necessarily equate to more wins. 

It does not seem clear that the spread offense as previously executed by Brown in the Sun Belt conference will necessarily translate into similar success in the Big 12.

Wreck ‘em!!

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