Like nearly every UC fan I am trying to get a handle on just what the offense of Butch Jones and Mike Bajakian will look like with the personnel that UC has. It is not enough for me to know that it is going to be a spread offense. Anyone who watches the game with an eye for detail can tell you instantly that there is a big difference between Oregon and Texas Tech. Both are nominally spread offenses, but there is a big difference between the Ducks and the Red Raiders. Oregon spreads defenses to create seams for the running game, Texas Tech spreads defenses to leverage open windows in zone coverages. There is a continuum on which any spread team will fall with the extremes of Oregon and vintage (aka Rich Rodriguez) West Virginia Mountaineers on the run heavy end and the Air Raid system on the pass heavy end. Under Brian Kelly UC skewed pretty substantially towards the pass heavy end of the continuum. On the face of it Jones seems to be positioned in the middle, perhaps slightly towards being a more run based team. The numbers from Central Michigan bear out his predilication towards a balanced offense
Central Michigan Play Selection
Rush Attempts Pass Attempts Total Plays
2007 519 557 1076
2008 484 480 964
2009 518 478 996
When you look at the balance that Jones and company displayed in Mount Pleasant it becomes abundantly clear that UC is going to run the ball more often this year than they did under Brian Kelly. In three years under Brian Kelly the most rushing attempts UC had in a year was in 2007 when Kelly inherited a team with three big physical backs that were perfectly suited for the power running game of Don Treadwell and Mark Dantonio. Behind Butler Benton, Greg Moore, Bradley Glathaar and a young Jacob Ramsey UC had 477 rushing attempts. In 2008 the rushing attempts were down to 455. Last year with Tony Pike and a bevvy of talented receivers the attempts plummeted to 361. Comparing the numbers from the Kelly era to what Jones was doing with Central Michigan it is a very safe assumption to think that Isiah Pead and Zach Collaros are going to get more touches per game running the Football than they did under Kelly.
The interesting thing about Central Michigan’s scheme the last couple of years was how involved Antonio Brown was in the running game. He logged 74 rushing attempts over the past three seasons, with a peak of 44 attempts for 350 yards and 3 scores in 2009 which was good for 4th on the team. This raises a couple of interesting questions relevant to Cincinnati.
First and foremost did Brown get that many touches in the run game because there was a dearth of game ready backs in the Chips stable? The numbers relative to previous seasons don’t tend to bear that out. With the exception of the 2007 team, which had an unusually deep backfield for a MAC squad. It seems that the idea behind getting Browninvolved in the running game was just a strategy to get one of the most explosive players in the MAC more touches.
I am hardly an expert on all things Central Michigan, but I watch a ton of Football during the course of the season, and I almost always consume the midweek ESPN games. As a result over the past couple of years I have watched quite a few CMU games. One thing that I noticed when comparing the Central team of last year to previous outfits was that they had taken to using some of the tactics that Florida has made Florida such an offensive power the past few years. From a formation perspective they do some of the same things, such as going empty with the TE, using an H-Back for blocking, and using motion to change personel.
A couple of things to note before you accuse me of saying that CMU ran the same scheme as Florida. They didn’t, not at all, they share some similar formations on occasion, both staffs like to get their WR’s involved in the running game, and both are proponents of using motion to shift personnel groupings. Jones and company aren’t fully committed to the Florida style of offense to the same degree. In fact they stopped well short of creating the Percy Position and utilizing Antonio Brown in that role. However Jones and Bajakian did make a concerted effort to involve the receivers in the running game, and I think that they will do the same thing here at UC.
The question becomes who on the roster is going to assume the role that Antonio Brown held for this staff previously? When looking at the roster and the incoming recruiting class there are about 3 guys that I think can handle that role for this team. I am not going to go into a great deal of detail on each but here we go. The top of the list is DJ Woods I think he has the short area quickness and physicality to get it done, having experience returning punts will be helpful. Danny Milligan is probably the next guy in the list for me. He played running back for St. X his senior year and played the position pretty well. Next in line is Kenbrell Thompkins, because, well he is nasty, and finding multiple ways to get him touches seems like a smart idea to me. Keep an eye out for the 2:25 mark.
To me those are the best options to reprise the role that Antonio Brown, but that is just my opinion. So then, who is the best player on the roster to replicate some of the feats of this man for the Bearcats?