We last talked about Tuberville's assessment about the defense and today we focus on the offense. As previously mentioned, head coach Tommy Tuberville did a Q&A with FSSW's Brian Smith and I thought that a lot of Tuberville's comments about this team were accurate and wanted to open things up for discussion. Let's go.
Replacing a Quarterback Receivers and Play-Action
This is all part of one quote, although I think it deserves to be in separate headings, but Tuberville was asked about his impressions after the spring and gave us some things to consider:
Then on the offensive side of the ball, we had to replace a quarterback and maybe two of the better receivers in the conference in Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis. Those guys caught almost 200 passes together last year. We had a lot of areas to fill from voids left by experienced players. The one thing that we wanted to do on offense is become better at running and as a play-action team. I thought we were good in the shotgun, we're good at passing. But we've got to get better in the running game and be more physical, and be able to work off that into a play-action pass game to be as good as anybody.
A couple of things here, yes, replacing a quarterback can have it's ups and downs and replacing production at the receiver spot is tough and in my opinion, replacing Leong is going to be much tougher. Those 19 touchdowns to replace won't be easy.
But it's Tuberville's vision of the offense, which is that he wants there to be better running the ball and wants to be a play-action team. A couple of things here. You can't have play action in the normal shot-gun set. Perhaps a zone-read, but not a true, play-action bootleg play. The only way to get there is to actually be under center or integrate the Pistol Formation (I think it's an offense too, but just go with me here), which Tuberville discusses more later. Tuberville also mentions in the same breath that he wants to run the ball better.
This is complete speculation on my part, but I think Tuberville sees what Oregon and Auburn both did in the national championship game, which is run the spread offense or have spread formations and have a relatively efficient running game to go with that passing game. I don't think that Tuberville wants to turn Texas Tech into what he had at Auburn. Despite recruiting four running backs last year (Kenny Williams, Bradley Marquez, DeAndre Washington and Ronnie Daniels), I still don't think that he wants to be a predominant running team. I think it's pretty well documented that Tuberville is really focusing on recruiting high school players who are either the running back or the quarterback and are usually those teams' best athletes. We don't know how these players will eventually play out, but I think it's a good thing to have some options available.
And I think the Pistol Formation gives Tuberville quite a few options in terms of being a more versatile offense. There could also make it a bit tougher for a defense trying to figure out what's next and it gives the offense a bit more to pull from, which is more than just handing the ball off to the running back, but gives the opportunity for some misdirection, the aforementioned play-action, and gives the running back some room to find a hole. I think this is a good progression of the offense.
More after the jump.
We Want To Be A Passing Team
Despite what a lot of people say I don't think that Tuberville wants to become a running team. I think he wants to keep the ratio where it was last year, which was 60/40 pass to run ratio. Here's Tuberville when asked about using the Pistol Formation and what type of offense he wants:
It got better. I think you've got to practice it and be committed to it. Our offensive coaches understand that we have to do that. We did have a much better running game last year than they've had here in the past. We were more physical. But you've got to keep working on it. You can't just say you're going to have that type of running game. You have to practice it, and you have to recruit for it. You've got to talk about it.
We want to be a passing team. We want to throw the ball down the field, and we want to be exciting as we were last year. But there are games where you've got to be able to control the football and run it. You've got to be able to make a third-and-one, and we weren't very good at that last year. We'll get better and better as we go each year.
We've mentioned that I think it gives the offense a bit more versatility, but Tuberville is correct when he says that the offense has to be committed to it. It's something that Leach preached, which is that repetition is what matters and with OC Brown being a Leach disciple, I would think that this is something that he believes as well.
And if you're tired of hearing about how Tuberville wants the offense to be tougher up front, then you should thank your lucky stars that you're not a player. I would almost guarantee you that Tuberville is constantly preaching to his OC and to the offense in general that he wants them to be more physical and he wants to be able to control the clock as well.
I think I've done a decent job of detailing where I think Tuberville told OC Brown to run out the clock and simply run the ball. You can beg and plead, but I don't think that Tuberville will ever change that aspect of what he believes he needs to do to win a game. Obviously, you can disagree with it, but from his perspective, I think he just wants to get the win.
So now you're Neal Brown and you've been told by your boss that there will be times that he's going to want to run out the clock. And that doesn't mean he wants to pass the ball at all? What's a spread offensive coordinator going to do? Start working in the Pistol Formation so that when those games do occur this team will be better suited to grind out yards one running play at a time.
Dreaming About Amaro
I may be completely off, but I'm confident that the reason why the offense is running more tight end sets is because he knows that Jace Amaro is the real deal and going to make an immediate impact. When asked about multiple tight end sets, here's what Tuberville said:
Yeah, oh yeah. We did last year in practice. We ran a lot underneath the center. That's a progression. You get in the game and you want to make sure that everything has been practiced enough to work. One fumble can cost you a game. So we're slowly working into it. We want to have a certain amount of snaps underneath the center. We want to be downhill. But it doesn't happen overnight. You have to practice it.
I thought that Tony Trahan would have a quicker impact, and maybe he will and maybe he won't. The only times that the offense looked half-way decent in 11 personnel (1 tight end and 1 running back) was when Chris Olsen was the tight end. I know that Beau Carpenter was looked at as an option at tight end because he was a pretty fluid athlete and he was impressing in the spring before getting injured. Either way, Amaro is unlike any other player on this team and he is a combination of size and speed that doesn't happen all that often.
The Leader in the Clubhouse
Yeah, he's the leader, and he made some progress. But I think the guy who made the most progress is Jacob Karam. I think he covered a lot of ground, and it's not like we're looking for one quarterback. We're looking for two, because we graduated two seniors last year. Jacob Karam and Seth Doege will be the two guys who fight it out for number one. We had Scotty Young, who made a lot of progress. He's a young man who we signed last year from Denton Ryan. And then we brought in Michael Brewer. We had those four quarterbacks working. They got a lot of snaps. They were helping each other.
We're looking for a starter, but again, we're looking for a guy that's just one play away, one injury away from being a starter. I thought we made a lot of progress with both quarterbacks. Both of those guys were running the first-team offense at times, and both have a lot to learn, especially with experience. It's been a long time since Doege's played with the two injuries he had in high school football. But I like the makeup. I liked how they ran the team, their leadership skills, their work ethic. I think all those are going to pay off for both of them.
I think there's a lot of questions about which quarterback is going to jump the other. Will Scotty Young jump ahead of Karam? Will Young transfer if he can't start for a few years? Will Michael Brewer jump ahead in front of all of them? You get the idea. Personally, I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with guessing, but my thought is that it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see the same type of set-up that Leach had, which is that you get a quarterback to practice with the team for three or four years and give him the starting job when he's a senior. Sure, there's always the potential for quarterback to transfer, but that's the reason why you go get a quarterback in each recruiting class. If I had to guess right now, I think that Doege will start for two years, this year and next. Karam will get the nod after that. Young will start for a year and then Brewer and hopefully Clayton Nicholas. I'd be perfectly happy with that. The question is whether or not these quarterbacks will be happy with that set-up and there's still a ton of time between now and three or four years into the future. Either way, I think you have to let the players play it out in practice and figure it out from there. Here's Tuberville:
Yeah, it's pretty much Seth's (job) to lose. He's got a little bit more experience than Jacob. But you know, when you're the backup quarterback, you've got to show what you can do. You've got to do things off the field; you've got to put your work ethic in. You've got to outwork the other guy. I've been real pleased with Jacob's progression and how far he's come. I think he's got a chance to be a good quarterback. But I think the competition will obviously make us better. Both of them will work hard, and I think that the future is bright for the position because of that competition.
The players should determine if they play and/or start.
Running Back by Committee
With a large number of running backs on the roster, there's the question as to how the snaps will be split. Here Tuberville talks about what he thinks will happen next year:
There will be a rotation, but Eric will be our "every-down back." He's a guy who will give us an opportunity to use his experience. He can run the ball. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. There are a lot of things that can go on in terms of our running back playing in this offense. He has to be versatile. But Ronnie Daniels, a young kid that's come in from New Mexico, has made a name for himself in three short months. We've got Aaron Crawford, a young guy that can really carry the load himself. It's going to be running back by committee.
This seems about right. Eric Stephens should be the guy, but he's got to correct those fumbling issues and I'm sure he's all too aware of what he has to do to keep his job. Tuberville has recruited enough talent around Stephens and Stephens should know that his margin for error has become much smaller.
I really like Crawford and would love to see him get more carries. I think he's a productive back and he's certainly more of a bruiser than Stephens. And now you add early-enrollee Daniels and Ben McRoy into the mix and you've got some serious competition to go along with the other true freshmen. Not every recruit will pan out. That's just a fact of life, but at the very least, Tuberville has set it up so that there's more than just one option. And just like the quarterbacks, the players should force themselves onto the field.