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Eddie Gran, His Staff, And A New Orthodoxy

This is probably clear by now, but one of my least favorite things in the world is how football strategy is discussed. It is discussed with vague, meaningless catchall phrases that sound like they mean something. In reality they are as empty as the calories in your favorite bag of chips.

Streeter Lecka

Misinformation persists, but i guess that's not surprising. Linked before was a post by Paul Dehner from yesterday. The entirety of it was an attempt to make known the primary unknown about Eddie Gran and his offense, namely how it will look come August 31st against Purdue. A small sample.

Right now, Gran's plan revolves around finding which personnel pieces from Butch Jones' spread puzzle fit into this pro style with multiple sets concept. That means considering any player an option, not only at their position, but any other position on the field. When instituting a new style of play, the slate must be completely clean and the mind wide open.


Tendy college spread and gimmicks, even those which filtered into NFL playbooks, aren't necessarily a part of this scheme. Still, the correlation between this offense and those run in the league sparks excitement in players hoping to end up there.

(emphasis mine). Paul Dehner is a good guy why writes well on the Bearcats. But he has no idea where he should be looking to begin to answer the main question about Eddie Gran and what this first time coordinator will run on offense.

For a start the personnel on hand will probably fit just fine for what Gran wants to do. I have charted quite a few games from the last two Florida State seasons. I have also charted several games from the last two UCLA and Arizona State seasons.* Care to guess what the base personnel grouping for those offenses was? Three wide receivers, with a tight end, usually in the shotgun. The base personnel grouping for the Bearcats under Butch Jones? You guessed it, three wide receivers with a single tight end operating primarily from the shotgun. I will come back to this information at a later date.

*Remember that one of Grans first calls after getting hired was to Noel Mazzone, current UCLA offensive coordinator, and the former OC at Mississippi and Auburn with Tommy Tuberville.

As for the "trendy spread gimmicks" not being a part of this scheme, Dehner is probably wrong. Partly because spreading the defense horizontally via formation isn't a gimmick, and it hasn't been since Sid Gillman prowled the sideline at Nippert. Its one of many possible ways to dictate favorable match ups for your skill position guys, not to mention numbers in the running game.

If Dehner is talking about the read option not being a part of this offense he is almost certainly wrong again. Tight Ends coach Tyson Helton was the QB coach at UAB when Joe Webb became the first player in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in back to back seasons. Webb did so utilizing plenty of designed QB runs, and the ubiquitous shotgun zone read.

Offensive Line coach Darren Hiller has spent the past two season coaching for Chris Ault at Nevada and Hugh Freeze at Arkansas State before that. Ault is the godfather of the Pistol offense which based large portions of the running game on optioning a single defender. In total Hiller spent a decade at Arkansas State, during that time the Red Wolves had their QB run for at least 200 yards each season. A feat that is bloody impossible to accomplish without designing ways for your QB to run the ball.

Passing game coordinator/QB Coach Darin Hinshaw spent the last three seasons working for Jim Chaney at Tennessee. Chaney was a long time collaborator with Joe Tiller, first as an assistant at Wyoming, and then following him to Purdue to be offensive coordinator. Chaney is probably best known for popularizing one of the signature plays of the spread decade,* the bubble screen. After his stint with the Rams the Chaney that showed up at Tennessee wasn't any more mellow, but more refined.

*and the personal nemesis of Chris Bains

Rounding out the offensive staff is Blake Rolan who's first collegiate job was at Auburn during the 2008 season. After that year with the Tony Franklin System turned sour and got everyone fired Rolan went to work for Bobby Bowden's old offensive coordinator Daryl Dickey at West Georgia before landing a quality control job at Tennessee.

If the intention of Eddie Gran is to run a buttoned down, run first, power based offense in the mold of Wisconsin, Stanford or LSU he assembled a comically miscast coaching staff to do that. That is the main reason why I don't think there will be much difference at all in how this offense looks and feels compared to the Butch Jones/Mike Bajakian offense.

The only reason why what Gran and his staff are likely to run could even be considered "pro style" is that the professional game is slowly but surely assimilating all of the advancements that college football has made since the turn of the millennium. What Gran will probably run will be the new football orthodoxy.