You know, it’s worth mentioning that Georgia won’t be the only team trotting out a new offense in Fayetteville. Sam Pittman’s offensive coordinator is Kendal Briles, who is Art’s son and runs the old Baylor offensive scheme.
If you want to get the baggage part of the story out of the way first, yes, Briles has been carrying it, as evidenced by his resume since leaving Waco.
Including his final season at Baylor, Arkansas will be his fifth school in five years. Since leaving Waco, Briles had one-year stints as the offensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic, Houston and Florida State before landing the same job with the Razorbacks under first-year head coach Sam Pittman.
He keeps getting jobs for one reason.
Despite not being anywhere long enough to establish sustained success, Briles has been in charge of some dramatic Year 1 turnarounds.
As illustrated in the graphs below, the Owls, Cougars and Seminoles each saw a jump in scoring and total offense – as well as yards per play and the SP+ offensive rating – with him calling the shots.
So, whatever he’s running has worked. What, then, is his scheme? It’s not the Air Raid. Instead, as Ian Boyd explained in his 2013 primer about Art Briles’ philosophy, it’s a spread scheme designed to do a little of everything.
And it’s not the air raid. It’s not the run ‘n’ shoot. It’s not just a spread offense. It’s a blend head coach Art Briles has been cooking up for decades now…
Baylor’s hybrid offensive approach essentially combines many of the greatest tactics in offensive football into one cohesive and simple package.
First is Baylor’s employment of the spread offense. Baylor’s spread is more intense than most, with even the inside receivers lining up outside of the hash marks. Most every team in college football utilizes some aspect of spread tactics, but everything Baylor does is built around spacing out defenses so that individual matchups can be hammered.
On the outside, speed is king. Baylor sends every receiver vertical early and often in every game. In particular, they love that most defensive schemes match safeties or linebackers in coverage against their slot receivers, so they make a habit of using play action or vertical routes. That makes safeties have to turn and run with 4.4 sprinters like Reese.
Who supports a safety in that task? By definition they are already the support players, the last lines of defense, the reinforcements. Briles attacks them first.
The Bear attack to the middle of the field is all about power. Right guard Desmine Hilliard weighs 330 pounds. Preseason All-American left guard Cyril Richardson weighs about 340. Baylor’s run game is primarily based in inside zone and power-O blocking. Meaning, defensive linemen are constantly getting blocked at an angle or by double teams coming straight at them.
Baylor then pairs these running concepts with quarterback reads. Bryce Petty can either throw a perimeter screen or quick pass or keep the ball himself, based on his read of “overhang” defenders. These are the players who are being stressed to choose whether they’ll align outside to run down a screen pass or inside to fill an interior running play. Read-option concepts guarantee those defenders are always wrong.
Of course, Baylor also has some of the best play-action as well. Old school, new school, it’s all there in Waco.
The point is to spread defenses out to an extreme, make quick reads and exploit the numbers. And they go fast, too, which makes adjusting and substituting harder. (That’s probably going to drive Kirby crazy Saturday.)
The Briles offense is among the more unique schemes in football. Some have dubbed it “The Veer and Shoot”– a reference to Art Briles’ experience playing in the Houston Veer offense under Bill Yeoman in the mid-70’s. I personally find “spread iso” to be more fitting of the scheme’s general philosophy.
The offenses’ primary objective is to use spacing to create one-on-one matchups for receivers while also dictating favorable box numbers for a varied run game. The offense operates at a hyper speed, regularly having one of the faster tempos in the nation. Plays are run within 15 seconds of each other, often leading to confused defenses and coverage busts. This is honed during practice, which is conducted at an even faster pace.
Coaches often tout their tempo and attacking mindset. In Briles’ case, it’s not lip service. This offense is one of the more aggressive mindsets I’ve seen in football, at any level. The stated purpose of the offense is to try to score on every snap. Whether it’s the regular deep shots, the tempo or going for it on 4th down, the foot rarely if ever comes off the gas. At its peak, the offense isn’t just among the best in the nation, but aggressive to the point it plays mind games with opposing defenses.
Briles is flexible when it comes to personnel, but there’s only so much he can do in that regard considering Georgia’s defensive prowess. Speed at linebacker, a dominate defensive front and a secondary that can handle single coverage is going to make for tough sledding. That being said, Arky’s offensive line is decent and he’s got one of the best running backs in the conference in Rakeem Boyd. We’ll see how Smart and Lanning handle it.