This is our AAC edition discussing the new play-callers throughout the conference, the impact their scheme could have on that program at each position, their lineage and coaching tree, and some historical data on their most recent seasons. This article is less about projection and more about coaching trends for you to draw your own conclusion.
To check out the Big Ten Coaching Change article, click HERE.
New HC/OC: Tom Herman/Charlie Frye
Previous HC/OC: Willie Taggart/Brent Dearmon
2017-20 Texas HC; 2015-16 Houston HC; 2012-14 Ohio State OC; 2009-11 Iowa State OC; 2007-08 Rice OC
Influenced by: Urban Meyer
Coaching Tree: Tim Beck (Coastal Carolina HC); Major Applewhite (South Alabama OC)
Quarterbacks: Huge Upgrade
Urban Meyer is no stranger to making his presence felt, and he clearly rubbed off on Tom Herman when it comes to QB production. Herman has produced the QB4 and QB20 with Greg Ward at Houston and QB4, QB6, and QB10 with Sam Ehlinger at Texas. There really isn’t much more that needs to be said. This is a premier coach when it comes to CFF QBs.
2020: Sam Ehlinger: QB10; 28.2 ppg
2019: Sam Ehilinger: QB6; 28.2 ppg
2018: Sam Ehlinger: QB4; 26.7 ppg
2016: Greg Ward: QB20; 25.6 ppg
2015: Greg Ward: QB4; 29 ppg
Running Backs: Slight Downgrade
Say what you will about Willie Taggart, but he did produce 1,000-yard backs from time to time. Herman has been pretty inconsistent with his RB production. That can mostly be attributed to the volume of rush attempts the QB sees in his system. The QB has led his team in rush attempts in five of his last six seasons. He’s never had an RB crack 15 PPG, and that includes a young Bijan Robinson and Keaontay Ingram.
Wide Receivers: Upgrade
The slot WR position for Herman is a “bull position.” Four of his last five seasons have resulted in the slot going for at least 85 catches and 1,100 yards. The boundary has proven profitable at times but inconsistent. Size doesn’t matter as 6’5″, 225 lb. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey played the slot for Herman.
2020: Joshua Moore: WR60; 14.5 ppg
2019: Devin Duvernay: WR7; 19.6 ppg
2018: Lil’ Jordan Humphrey; WR12; 16.3 ppg
Takeaways: QB and slot receiver are the targets here. Daniel Richardson transferred in from Central Michigan. Keep a close eye on the winner of the QB competition as a potential late-round sleeper option. LaJohntay Wester had a solid 2022 at the slot for FAU and could be in line for another step forward in 2023.
New HC/OC: Eric Morris
Previous HC/OC: Seth Littrell
2022 Washington State OC, 2018-21 Incarnate Word HC, 2013-17 Texas Tech OC
Influenced by: Mike Leach, Kliff Kingsbury
North Texas made a controversial coaching change by firing one of the program’s most successful coaches in Seth Littrell and hiring 37-year-old Eric Morris, with no head coaching experience at the FBS level. Despite a recent underwhelming one-year stint as the Wazzu OC, Morris has a strong reputation as a play-caller with deep roots in the Mike Leach air-raid coaching tree.
Many had high expectations for Cam Ward heading into 2022. It is possible that the similarities between Ward/Morris and Zappe/Kittley at WKU influenced those expectations. Ward went for 4,648 yards and 47 TDs with Morris as his play-caller in 2021 at Incarnate Word. But that simply didn’t translate when they both transitioned to Pullman. The fact remains that Morris was a big part of Pat Mahomes being QB2 in 2015 and 2016 and Nick Shimonek as QB27 in 2017. Morris has a higher ceiling with QB production at this level than Littrell.
2022: Cam Ward: QB45; 18.1 ppg
Running Backs: Push
Littrell certainly had his fair share of fantasy producers with Deandre Torrey and Jeffery Wilson, but Morris is no slouch in this area either. Nakia Watson was one of the best-kept secrets in CFF for 2022. Morris also saw his RB1 go for 150/956/12 rushing with 31/312/2 receiving in his last season at Incarnate Word. The last couple of years he was OC for Texas Tech were bleak at RB production, but Deandre Washington was RB12 for him in 2015. Morris favors RBs that can contribute in the passing game.
2022: Nakia Watson: RB37; 17.9 ppg
Wide Receivers: Push
Littrell produced some elite seasons from Bussey and Darden, but the last couple of seasons have been an absolute mess for WR production. 2022 was quite unspectacular for Morris WRs as well, with the production spread around and Ward’s inability to make accurate throws on anything beyond ten yards. Tight ends haven’t played much of a role in this version of the air raid, so avoid them for now. Three out of the last four seasons haven’t been very impressive for Morris WR production.
2022: De’Zhaun Stribling: NR; 9.6 ppg
2022: Robert Farrell: NR; 10 ppg
Takeaways: Some caution probably needs to be taken with Morris and his CFF prospects. He’s had four seasons as the primary play-caller, and three of them weren’t great. Not to mention that GJ Kinne (Texas State’s new HC) actually blew away Morris’s best season when Kinne succeeded him at Incarnate Word this past season.
New HC/OC: Alex Golesh
Previous OC: Jeff Scott HC/Travis Trickett OC
2021-22 Tennessee OC, 2020 UCF OC
Influenced by: Josh Heupel, Bill Cubit
Jeff Scott certainly had his moments, but he had a challenging time replicating the offensive success he saw at Clemson without the likes of Watson or Lawrence under center at USF. Alex Golesh is a Josh Heupel protege, so expect many concepts of the Art Biles, veer-n-shoot, lightening-tempo, Baylor system that tends to be extremely lucrative for CFF assets. Unlike many of the OCs that work under prominent offensive-minded head coaches, Golesh actually held play-calling duties at UFC and Tennessee.
Quarterback: Huge Upgrade
We don’t have an extensive history from Golesh, but we have seen an impressive three-year run with his QBs. His offenses have averaged 129 rush attempts from the QB position, so look for that to remain a component of the system in Tampa.
2022: Hendon Hooker: QB17; 26.9 ppg
2021: Hendon Hooker: QB16; 24.4 ppg
2020: Dillon Gabriel: QB8; 28.6 ppg
Running Backs: Push
The leading RB for Golesh over the last three seasons has had 141, 158, and 149 carries. Both Small and Wright were fantasy relevant in 2022 because of their double-digit TDs, not because of their volume or involvement in the passing game. In fact, the leading receiver out of the backfield under Golesh has caught 9, 12, and 14 balls, so it’s not an integral part of this system. It is a TD-dependent job, so don’t expect too much in year one.
2022: Jabari Small: RB50; 13.8 ppg
2021: Jabari Small: RB89; 13.2 ppg
2020: Greg McCrae: RB61;15.3 ppg
Wide Receivers: Huge Upgrade
Similar to QB, Golesh has produced some monsters at WR. He’s had both a target hog (Williams) and uber-efficient deep ball guys (Tillman/Hyatt) be producers. He’s also had his WR1 come from the boundary and the slot, so just expect the best guy to produce. TE historically hasn’t seen much volume in this system.
2022: Jalin Hyatt: WR4; 20.8 ppg
2021: Cedric Tillman: WR23; 17.7 ppg
2020: Marlon Williams: WR5; 24.5 ppg
Takeaways: Over his three seasons as a play caller, his offenses finished first, seventh, and eighth in the country in scoring. He and Heupel took Tennessee from a bottom-20 offense to a top-10 offense in their first season in Knoxville. It is unrealistic to expect that kind of turnaround in year one at USF, but if we see things trending in the right direction, then this could be a program to invest heavily in QB and WR in 2024.
New OC: Grant Chestnut
Previous HC/OC: Ken Niumatalolo
2014-22 Kennesaw State OC
Chestnut doesn’t have any FBS experience, but he has a proven system from the FCS. It is quite different from what we have traditionally seen from the triple option at Navy. Chestnut is still very run-heavy and option-based but more spread option. His two most recent seasons have seen him average about 130 yards/game through the air, and most seasons range in the 100 to 150 pass attempts. Like the triple-option, his QBs are heavily involved in the run game and generally see 200+ carries. Their volume only increases around the goal line as Chestnut has had QBs go for 29 and 23 rush TD seasons since 2018.
2022: 1130/7/7 pass; 205/589/11 rush
2021: 1341/15/3 pass; 240/867/23 rush
2020: Covid = Five Games
2019: 1021/9/4 pass; 259/1156/30 rush (split among 2 QBs)
2018: 1043/10/6 pass; 189/905/29 rush
2017: 1307/9/3 pass; 255/1103/18 rush
The rushing volume tends to be spread around among the RBs and basically takes a backseat to the QB every season. There also isn’t enough pass volume in this system to support a fantasy-relevant WR.
Takeaways: Avoid everything here except QB, which has the potential to be a sneaky good play in the coming years should a clear frontrunner emerge.
New HC/OC: Trent Dilfer/Alex Mortensen
Previous HC/OC: Bryant Vincent
2019-22 Alabama analyst, 2018 AFL WR coach, 2014-17 Alabama grad assistant
Trent Dilfer takes over as UAB’s new head coach. After years of knowing exactly what UAB would look like under Bill Clark and Bryant Vincent with consistent production in the run game, we enter an era of uncertainty for the Blazers. New OC Alex Mortensen has never been a play-caller or an OC at any level. The majority of his career has been spent working behind the scenes in Tuscaloosa. Dilfer has spent the last three seasons as the head coach of Lipscomb Academy, so we don’t really have any data on the scheme or play-calling tendencies from Mortensen or Dilfer in which to apply to UAB for 2023. Draft with caution.
New HC/OC: Kevin Wilson/Steve Spurrier Jr
Previous HC: Philip Montgomery
2020-22 Miss State WR coach; 2018-19 Washington State WR coach; 2017 WKU WR coach; 2016 Oklahoma analyst; 2005-15 South Carolina WR coach
Spurrier Jr Influenced by: Mike Leach, Lincoln Riley, Jeff Brohm, Steve Spurrier
Tulsa is getting a staff overhaul with Kevin Wilson coming to town. He has had his hand on some impressive offenses at Ohio State, Indiana, and Oklahoma over the years. Steve Spurrier Jr comes over from Mississippi State, where he was working under Mike Leach and his air raid system since 2018. This is a formidable duo that has a history of being involved in some very prolific offenses. Neither has been play-callers recently, so I won’t list specific productivity but will discuss offenses they have been involved in. Expect Junior to call the plays.
Quarterback: Slight Upgrade
Mike Leach and Ryan Day called the plays, but Wilson and Spurrier Jr certainly played a role in the success of CJ Stroud (QB10, QB14) and Will Rogers (QB15, QB35). While Wilson’s system isn’t all that dissimilar from Philip Montgomery, the choice of Spurrier Jr as OC makes us assume this offense will have many air raid concepts that could result in a pass volume upwards of 500 pass attempts.
Running Backs: Push
A lot of variance and uncertainty could be in play here. Wilson has overseen many productive RBs like Treveyon Henderson, JK Dobbins, Tevin Coleman, Demarco Murray, Chris Brown, and Adrian Peterson. But if we assume Spurrier’s air raid comes to T-town, then this position is very dependent on PPR. Someone with receiving chops could certainly thrive here. Montgomery produced some solid RBs here, so much of an upgrade from what he accomplished with this position.
Wide Receivers: Push
Let’s be honest, Montgomery produced some solid WR seasons during his tenure. The Briles Baylor system tends to do that. But Wilson is no stranger to productive WRs either, given his time at OSU and even had multiple 1K yard guys at Indiana. We should see an increase in the passing volume with Spurrier Jr, so we likely won’t see any fall-off here.
Takeaways: With the right pieces, this has a chance to be a fun offense worthy of drafting all spots other than TE. We likely see an increase in pass volume. There is certainly a chance the production gets spread around, but an RB in PPR formats could be a sleeper option. Braylin Presley is an undersized, four-star RB that transfers in from Oklahoma State that could fill that role or slide into a lucrative slot WR spot.
New OC: Justin Burke
Previous OC: Will Stein
2022 UTSA Special Teams Coordinator; 2020-21 UTSA Offensive analyst
Influenced by: Will Stein, Barry Lunney Jr, Kerwin Bell, Sterling Gilbert
Jeff Traylor and the Road Runners have been a machine for the last few years. UTSA is on their third OC in as many seasons, and the next man up is Justin Burke. He’s never been a play-caller on this level, but neither had his predecessors, Will Stein or Barry Lunney Jr. They both came in, did a fantastic job, and moved on to Oregon and Illinois, respectively.
Burke has been on staff the last three seasons, so he is familiar with the personnel, the rest of the staff, and the offense’s terminology. Similar to Jason Beck at Syracuse, Traylor is hoping the promotion from within will continue to keep the ball rolling on what has been a very productive offense averaging 37 PPG each of the last two seasons and productive at all QB, RB, and WR. There is no reason to think there will be much change in 2023, especially with some very productive pieces returning with Harris at QB, Barnes at RB, and Franklin, Cephas, and Clark at WR. Maybe Burke fails to demonstrate the same level of creativity as Lunney Jr or feel for the game as Stein does, but it is hard to imagine we see much drop-off here. This offense is LOADED
New OC: Mike Miller
Previous OC: Mark Carney
2022: Maryland Co-OC; 2019-21 Maryland TEs; 2017-18 Alabama GA
Influenced by: Dan Enos (Arkansas OC)
First-year head coach Biff Poggi has hired a first-year play-caller in Mike Miller. We don’t have a lot of data on Miller outside of his potential influence on the Terp’s offense this past season with his recent promotion to co-OC. Miller was listed on 247’s “Under 30 Rising Stars” list in 2019. While we don’t have much info on him, he is well-received within the coaching community. He likely would have been the Terps’ primary OC once Dan Enos left for Arkansas had Miller stayed.
Maryland was, unsurprisingly, inconsistent at QB in 2022. That probably has more to do with Taulia Tagovailoa than a product of the coaching. He was QB51 and QB33 the past two seasons and averaged between 17 and 19.5 points all three seasons Miller coached him with the Terps.
Running Backs: TBD
Charlotte hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire with RB production the last couple of years. No RB has gone for more than 150 carries, 700 yards, or 5 TDs. Maryland has actually been fairly productive at RB with a different leader each of the last three years, but it is impossible to say how much of a hand Miller played in that.
2022: Roman Hemby: RB32; 16.2 ppg
2021: Tayon Fleet-Davis: RB57; 13.3 ppg
2020: Jake Funk: 17.4 ppg over 5 games
Wide Receivers: TBD
Again, we see the inconsistency. Dontay Demus was averaging 16 PPG and was on pace to finish as a top 40 WR in 2021 before his injury. Outside of that performance, it has been a fairly mixed bag with the Terps WR room. The talent was never in question, but the targets were often spread around too much to ever feel confident in starting one of their receivers on a weekly basis.
Takeaways: There really isn’t much to take. It is a very inexperienced staff with a very inexperienced roster. There could be some nuggets we discover early in the season, but a wait-and-see approach is warranted here.
New OC: Slade Nagle
Previous OC: Jim Svoboda
2016-22 Tulane TEs coach
Technically Nagle is the new OC, and technically, Michael Pratt has his fourth OC in as many seasons. It appears there were some changes that transpired behind the scenes in NOLA during the 2022 season. Svoboda resigned, with no other job lined up, after winning the Cotton Bowl in his first season with Tulane. On the surface, this sounds very strange, but we have come to find out that Willie Fritz stripped Svoboda of his play-calling duties and gave them to Nagle early in the season. So, it turns out there really isn’t a new play-caller here, and we can assume all is well for Pratt and the rest of the Green Wave in terms of play-calling consistency heading into 2023.