This is our Mountain West 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.
New OC: Bush Hamdan
Previous OC: Dirk Koetter/Tim Plough
Influenced by: Chris Petersen; Bryan Harsin; Eli Drinkwitz
2020-22 Missouri QB coach; 2018-19 Washington OC; 2016 Washington WR coach; 2015 UW analyst; 2014 Davidson OC; 2013 Arkansas State QB coach;
Tim Plough was quite a disaster of a hire for head coach Andy Avalos and was fired four games into the 2022 season. Luckily for Avalos, he was able to call upon a big-time, veteran play-caller, Dirk Koetter, to come out of retirement and save the season. Koetter quickly transitioned the offense from a poor example of the air raid to a more run-based attack that fits the Bronco personnel better and saw the offense take off. Due to Boise having multiple OCs last season, we won’t compare Hamdan to the previous staff but rather just discuss what we can expect from Hamdan’s offensive philosophy.
Hamdan bleeds orange and blue. He was a Boise QB and has coached under multiple former Boise head coaches. Avalos said he chose Hamdan, with QB Taylen Green’s development as a primary factor in that decision. He most recently tutored Jake Browning, Jacob Eason, Connor Bazelak, and Brady Cook. They are not exactly game-changing QBs in terms of CFF production. Green has the rushing upside to warrant a high ceiling, so it will be interesting to see how Hamdan utilizes him. He certainly didn’t use the QBs much in the run game at UW, but did a fair amount at Missouri, Davidson, and Arkansas State. The receiving production has been pretty bland but did produce a WR1 at Davidson with a stat line of 98-1,224-7. Hunter Bryant was TE8 in 2019, and TE is generally a top-four receiver in his offense.
Running back is an interesting spot here. Myles Gaskin got 280 touches in 2018 (280-1345-14), a season in which Salvon Ahmed also had nearly 800 yards and seven TDs. Ahmed went 204-1,104-11 the following year, with Richard Newton also going for 500 and 11 TDs. I think it is reasonable to expect this kind of production from the duo of Ashton Jeanty and George Holani. The two of them combined for 415-2,284-20 in 2022. Now, how that volume is divvied up is certainly up for debate as to if it will be 50/50 or if someone takes the lion’s share of the workload. Either way, it is possible they can coexist here based on what we saw last year and Hamdan’s track record with RBs.
New OC: Pat McCann
Previous OC: Kirby Moore
Influenced by: Aaron Best (EWU); Kirby Moore
2022 Fresno WR coach and Pass Game Coordinator; 2021 Eastern Washington OC; 2020 Eastern Washington WR coach and Pass Game Coordinator
Jeff Tedford elected to promote Pat McCann to OC after Kirby Moore left for Missouri. McCann has never been a play-caller at the FBS level but was a part of Eastern Washington’s dynamic offenses on the red turf for a couple of years. They ran air raid concepts there and averaged 350 and 400 passing yards per game in 2020 as the pass game coordinator and in 2021 as the OC.
McCann has roots in the air raid system as well as a more balanced attack that stems from the Chris Petersen and Kalen DeBoer tree. He has also shown a willingness to use his QB in the run game when the athleticism presents itself, but it doesn’t appear to be a core component of his system. Expect the QB to retain some of the value we had with Jake Haener over the last few seasons.
This position is a mixed bag from what we have seen from previous stops for McCann. At times, we have seen a full-on committee approach. However, his most recent season as OC at EMU resulted in a 234-1,300-18 rush/receiving combined stat line for his RB1. We consistently see the RB involved in the passing game, which is something we generally see with Tedford RBs. Expect more of that moving forwards. The Tedford influence on the run game and his history as a high-end RB producer for CFF should provide stability here.
Again, McCann was part of an EWU program recently that averaged 400 yards passing. It is possible that is a product of a system that has had a prolific passing system for years, but it still bodes well for McCann’s WRs. He generally has one or two WRs consume the bulk of the targets and has four 1K receivers under his belt, and another than was on pace during the shortened covid season. Look for someone like spring game standout Jordan Brown or Josiah Freeman to eat in this offense.
Takeaways: Tedford and McCann should keep RB fantasy relevant to potentially elite here. The QB and WR1 should also continue to be valuable in this offense as McCann has proven to adapt to the hand he is dealt. We potentially see a mesh of Tedford and Chris Petersen here, which certainly plays for CFF.
San Diego State
New OC: Ryan Lindley
Previous OC: Jeff Horton
Influenced by: Andy Ludwig
2022 SDSU QB coach; 2021 Mississippi State Defensive Analyst; 2020 Utah Offensive Analyst; 2018-19 Cleveland Browns Assistant
Brady Hoke hired SDSU’s all-time leading passer, Ryan Lindley, as his new OC when Jeff Horton retired at the end of 2022. Hoke didn’t have to go far to find Lindley, as he was already coaching the Aztec QBs. This will be Lindley’s first opportunity to call plays, so what this offense looks like exactly remains a mystery. When asked what his philosophy and identity on offense would be, he responded with, “We’re going to do what our players do well”. Good. Great. Grand. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Lindley said they will be “multiple Pro Style” when addressing what the offense will look like in the passing game. He says they could vary from run focused, to RPO, to air raid. If he is going to base his system simply on his personnel, then it is likely they will be more run-based in 2023. He’s stated the WR room is very inexperienced and would need to show him some things before they are ready to spread things out and go empty backfield. However, he did state he is very confident in the RB room and highlighted Lucky Sutton and Sheldon Canley as “two really, really talented guys” when asked about the backfield.
Takeaways: it sounds like Lindley wants the offense to be more explosive and more efficient, but he notes that the lack of experience in the receivers, along with his confidence in the backs, could lead to leaning on the run game in year one. He did mention TE Mark Redman as someone that needs more opportunity, so we could see a resurgence of the TE position here.
New OC: Blake Anderson
Previous OC: Anthony Tucker
Influenced by: Larry Fedora
Scarface said it best- “Who do I trust? I trust me! That’s who!” After losing his OC in the offseason, Blake Anderson will now hold the job titles of Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Play-Caller, and QB Coach for Utah State. I hope Blake has a cloning machine there in Logan, otherwise, he’s going to be busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.
Anderson is no stranger to pulling double duty as HC and OC, as he did it in 2017 and 2018 for Arkansas State. Those two seasons were the peak production years for QB Justice Hanson, who was CFF QB7 and QB14. A big factor in Hanson’s rise to fantasy dominance was his involvement in the run game. Here is his very consistent run production in those two seasons:
133-411-6 and 132-415-7
We also saw this QB rushing trend in Anderson’s previous stops at Southern Miss, with Austin Davis producing 145-452-10 on the ground and Marquise Williams with 111-536-6 as a part-time starter at UNC. Look for this trend to continue with either Cooper Legas or Levi Williams. Both are very capable with their legs.
Another trend worth noting is the RB1 production uptick in Anderson’s teams when he is the play-caller. Marcell Murray had his best season with 1K and 10, and Gio Bernard went bananas with a 231-1718-17 stat line (in just 10 games!!!) with Anderson as OC. He still has an RBBC about half the time, but his RBs have demonstrated a higher ceiling with him calling the plays as compared to being nonexistent when he is not.
His WR production has been solid during his play-calling/OC seasons, but not quite the elite production profile we have seen in seasons where he did not hold that role. He has proven to be capable of producing a quality WR1 with a 1K receiver at both UNC and Arky State but with less consistency, likely due to an increased emphasis on the run game.
New HC/OC: Barry Odom/Brennan Marion
Previous HC: Marcus Arroyo
Influenced by: Steve Sarkisian; Mark Whipple; Todd Graham
2022 Texas Pass Game Coordinator/WR coach; 2021 Pitt WR coach; 2020 Hawaii WR coach; 2019 William and Mary OC; 2017-18 Howard OC
Bobby Petrino in Sin City seemed too good to be true. And after 21 days on the job, it turns out it was too good to be true. Marion was a finalist for the Tulsa head coach opening, and he didn’t get it. Petrino left yet another program in the lurch, and Marion left Austin City Limits for the Vegas strip. Marion was a stud WR at Tulsa, where he averaged an outlandish 29 YPC over two seasons with 82 catches. He has also been a very successful WR coach of guys like Jordan Addison in his Biletnikoff season and, most recently, with Xavier Worthy.
Marion will be a first-time play-caller at the FBS level but was the OC at Howard and William & Mary prior to moving up to the FBS as an assistant. He was very successful in turning around the abysmal offenses at Howard and W&M in year one, and there were some clear trends he established. His QBs were very heavy contributors in the run game, and one to two WRs generally monopolized the target share. We like this for CFF purposes. It could bode well for QB Doug Brumfield and WR Ricky White or spring game standout, WR Jacob De Jesus. Running backs, during Marion’s previous stops as OC, was a mixed bag, with Dedric Parson having a strong season in his last season at Howard.
There is certainly some optimism for Marion at UNLV for dynasty investments, but don’t overlook the fact that he has accepted 12 different coaching jobs in the last 13 years. He is a motivated guy with aspirations to move up the coaching ladder, so don’t expect him to stay long if it does go well in Vegas.
New OC: Bryant Vincent
Previous OC: Derek Warehime
Influenced by: Bill Clark
2018-22 UAB OC and interim Head Coach
Let’s be real here. The Lobos were dead last in the entire FBS in points per drive and averaged just 228 total yards per game. We can’t really expect much. Billy Gonzalez is still the head coach. While Vincent has a solid track record as OC at UAB, it is going to be a serious undertaking to make any piece of this offense fantasy relevant in 2023. Vincent has a strong profile of producing CFF backs with Spencer Brown and DeWayne McBride. Unfortunately, the game script is very unlikely to be conducive for a New Mexico RB to get the volume needed to have any consistency on a weekly basis. Sorry for the lack of info here, but this offense is going to have to prove it to us first. Monitor the RBs on the waiver wire early in the season.