This is our PAC12 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: Jake Spavital
Previous OC: Bill Musgrave
Influenced by: Sonny Dykes, Dana Holgorsen, Kevin Sumlin
2019-22 Texas State; 2017-18 West Virginia OC; 2016 Cal OC; 2013-15 Texas A&M OC
Justin Wilcox is now on his third OC after firing the previous two during his Cal head coaching tenure. He is starting to give off Mario Cristobal vibes where his offenses will underperform, no matter his OC choice. Spavital was recently fired as the Texas State head coach after his offense finished 13th out of 14 teams in the Sun Belt conference.
Quarterbacks: Slight Downgrade
What Musgrave did with Garbers (19.9 ppg) and Plummer (15.5 ppg) is slightly better than what Spavital has gotten out of his QBs recently. Spav has been a part of some very successful QBs when Dykes and Holgorsen were calling the plays. His track record at Texas State and A&M when it was HIS offense was pretty abysmal. Never forget that he somehow coached Kyler Murray to a 5/7 TD/INT, 3.9 yards/pass attempt season.
2022: Layne Hatcher: QB84; 12.6 ppg
2021: Brady McBride: QB113; 14.9 ppg
2020: Brady McBride: QB80; 15.2 ppg
Running Backs: Downgrade
I’ll use brevity here, as there is no need to dig too deep at RB. Cal hasn’t been a pillar of RB production but was trending in the right direction in 2022. Spavital orchestrated some incredibly unproductive rush offenses. Here is his RB1’s average stat line in his four-year tenure as head coach at Texas State:
130 carries/ 626 yards/ 4 TD Rushing with 21 rec/ 142 yards/ 0.5 TD Receiving
Wide Receiver: Slight Upgrade
Cal has consistently underperformed at WR under Wilcox. Beau Baldwin was a big WR producer until he became Cal’s OC, and Musgrave could barely make anyone fantasy relevant with a very talented WR room in 2022. The four-year Texas State tenure was pretty dry for WRs, with Spavital’s WR carrying an average stat line of 50/584/6. He has claimed some solid producers in his previous stops with Chad Hansen, Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, David Sills, and Gary Jennings.
2022: Ashtyn Hawkins: WR119; 14.3 ppg
2021: Javen Banks: NR; 10.3 ppg
2020: Marcell Barbee WR32; 12.6 ppg
Takeaways: The majority of Savital’s offensive success came when he was second in command under some great offensive minds. His offenses were mostly irrelevant from a fantasy standpoint when he was the lead play-caller. Combine that with Wilcox’s pedestrian track record with his OCs, and it’s hard to find a path to success here, especially at QB and RB. Sam Jackson is a talented runner, but questions remain about his ability to pass the ball. Will he vulture rush production from the RBs? Can he support a fantasy-relevant WR in Jeremiah Hunter?
New OC: Ben Arbuckle
Previous OC: Eric Morris
Influenced by: Zach Kittley; Tyson Helton
2022 Western Kentucky OC; 2021 WKU Quality Control; 2020 Seminole High School OC; 2018-19 Houston Baptist Quality Control
Many assumed Eric Morris would be the next Zach Kittley going into 2022 as he ascended from the FCS ranks with his QB, Cam Ward, in tow. Despite underperforming those expectations, Morris was able to get a head coaching job at North Texas. Ironically, Jake Dickert decided to hire Kittley’s protégé in Ben Arbuckle. A rising star in the coaching ranks, Arbuckle is just 27 years old and was an assistant coach at the high school level as recently as 2020. Last season is his only season as a play-caller at the college level.
Cam Ward was fine in 2022 as the QB49 but certainly didn’t play to his ADP. Both Eric Morris and Arbuckle come from the Mike Leach air-raid coaching tree. Like Leach, Morris called a significant amount of underneath passes that led to Ward having an average depth of target (ADOT) of seven yards. However, Austin Reed had an ADOT of 8.6 under Arbuckle. It isn’t a drastically new system that Ward would be learning, but it would require him to throw downfield with accuracy, something he failed to do in 2022.
2022: Austin Reed: QB4; 28.1 ppg
Running Backs: Downgrade
Morris ran the ball more than expected during his one season in Pullman. Maybe that happens with Arbuckle as well, based on personnel, but his track record as an RB producer isn’t pretty. Neither of his seasons at WKU resulted in an RB with over 120 carries or 700 yards, or 5 TDs. Much was the same during his time at Houston Baptist.
2022: Devion Ervin-Poindexter: NR; 6.5 ppg
Wide Receivers/TE: Upgrade
Similar to QB, Arbuckle’s system appears to scheme open WRs in space and in the intermediate/downfield pass game more than we saw with Morris. Wazzu’s 2022 leader in targets had 79, which would have ranked fourth at WKU, which had three WRs with over 95 targets. Arbuckle has been a part of a WKU offense that has produced the clear WR1 and then the WR3 (both slot WRs) over the last two seasons. It’s worth keeping an eye on the spring/fall camp reports to get some insight into who is standing out in the WR room, especially at the slot position.
2022: Malachi Corely: WR3; 18.3 ppg
Takeaways: It is certainly a step up in the level of competition, so don’t expect WKU’s gaudy stats. But Arbuckle would have to see a sharp decline in efficiency to not improve upon the production the Cougars saw under Morris as a play-caller. If his system translates to the PAC12 and Ward is able to improve as a downfield passer, then this can be a solid hire for the QBs and WRs. On the flip side, maybe having a defensive-minded head coach handcuffed Morris some, and the same happens for Arbuckle.
New HC/OC: Kenny Dillingham/Beau Baldwin
Previous HC/OC: Herm Edwards/Glenn Thomas
Influenced by: Gus Malzhan; Mike Norvell
2022 Oregon OC; 2020-21 Florida State OC; 2019 Auburn OC; 2018 Memphis OC
A major overhaul is happening in Tempe. Gone is the NFL influence of the old staff, and not a moment too soon, either. Dillingham proved himself as an OC and QB developer over the last two seasons with Bo Nix and Jordan Travis. He was given his first opportunity to be a head coach at his alma mater, and one of his first hires was Beau Baldwin to be his OC. This will be a look at Dillingham’s historical data since he has been at the FBS level longer. Just know that Baldwin runs an air-raid type system that leans heavily on the pass.
Dillingham now has the reputation of a “QB Guru” based on his recent success. He prefers a dual-threat QB but still had some success with a virtual statue, Brady White (QB49). There is nowhere to go but up here at QB, but Dilly won’t have the perfect situation he had in Eugene with a fourth-year starter that was familiar with his system.
2022: Bo Nix: QB2; 30.1 ppg
2021: Jordan Travis: QB36; 20.3 ppg
2020: Jordan Travis: QB51; 19.2 ppg
Running Back: Slight Downgrade
Say what you will about Herm and his staff, but they were certainly a source for CFF RB producers, with Eno Benjamin, Rashaad White, and Xavian Valladay all going for nearly 1,500 yards and 15 TDs from scrimmage. Dillingham was part of the Memphis staff that gave us Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor as RB1 and RB12 in the same season but has been fairly inconsistent since. In fact, the last three seasons have seen his QBs be the most productive players on the ground leading his teams in TDs in each of them.
2022: Bucky Irving: RB36; 15.7 ppg
2021: Jashaun Corbin: RB68; 13.3 ppg
2020: Jashaun Corbin: RB102; 9.8 ppg
Wide Receivers/TE: Slight Upgrade
It isn’t as much of an upgrade as one might think, despite ASU struggling to find consistent WR production under Herm. Dillingham’s WRs have been below average for the most part during his time as the play caller. This may be due to the run-first QBs he’s had and how he often features the RBs in the passing game. Franklin was great but had an efficiency level that just isn’t sustainable on just 83 targets. It’s possible we see more volume in the passing game, with OC Baldwin having an influence and his air-raid system.
2022: Troy Franklin: WR34; 13.4 ppg
2021: Andrew Parchment: NR; 6.2 ppg
2020: Ontaria Wilson: NR; 7.8 ppg
Takeaways: Clearly, this is wheels up for the Sun Devil’s CFF potential at QB, especially by year two under Dillingham. But RB will be a challenge to duplicate what we have seen under Herm, and WR/TE is a bit of a wildcard. This is a major rebuilding project from a roster and culture standpoint, so caution may be needed in year one.
New HC/OC: Troy Taylor
Previous HC/OC: David Shaw/Tavita Pritchard
Influenced by: Steve Mariucci
2019-22 Sacramento State; 2017-18 Utah OC; 2016 Eastern Washington
David Shaw moves on after 15 years of calling plays at Stanford. He had some great seasons with an offense that zigged when everyone else zagged. But his heavy personnel, power-run scheme had seemingly gone stale over the last few years. Troy Taylor is a former California high school coaching legend that set numerous state scoring records.
Taylor will certainly have a massive undertaking on his hands. Not only has Stanford fallen behind in talent depth, but Taylor will attempt to make a seismic shift in systems as he installs his spread-counter scheme. It has concepts of air raid, RPO, and QB speed-option. Expect the following changes that are significantly different from what we have seen at Stanford.
-Heavy influence of the QB Run game: Asher O’Hara (yes, that Asher O’Hara) averaged 190 rush attempts the last two seasons at SacState, and Tyler Huntley averaged 168 rush attempts in Taylor’s two seasons as play-caller for Utah.
-The emergence of the inside WR position: The traditional slot wasn’t really a thing under Shaw due to all the 12 personnel (multiple TE sets). Taylor has had big-time producers in Cooper Kupp (yes, that Cooper Kupp) at EWU and Britain Covey at Utah.
His system has been elite at the FCS and high school level but was nothing special in his time working under Whittingham at Utah. The Cardinal will continue to face challenges from a talent perspective in this transfer portal era. Taylor’s offense could play with enough pace and creativity to generate more than just an RB as the only fantasy-relevant option for Stanford.
New OC: Sean Lewis
Previous OC: Mike Sanford
Influenced by: Dino Babers
2018-22 Kent State; 2016-17 Syracuse OC; 2015 Bowling Green OC
Deion was able to convince the Kent State head coach, Sean Lewis, into leaving his post as the head man to lead the Colorado offense. He replaces Mike Sanford, who is quite possibly the worst OC in college football. Lewis is a Babers disciple, so he runs a version of the Baylor veer-n-shoot that moves with incredible pace and generally produces elite CFF production. Colorado was a bottom-ten program in terms of the pace of play (which makes zero sense when you play in altitude), so expect a major change there.
Quarterback: Huge Upgrade
Any coach with a pulse would provide an upgrade over Sanford when it comes to CFF QBs, but Lewis’s track record speaks for itself. He had multiple top-ten finishes with Crum, helped make Eric Dungey fantasy relevant, and was the OC for Matt Johnson’s QB2 finish in 2015 for Bowling Green. Schlee was disappointing in 2022, but he was also dealing with nagging injuries since Week 6.
2022: Collin Schlee: QB36; 17.7 ppg
2021: Dustin Crum: QB9; 24.1 ppg
2020: Dustin Crum: QB1; 38.1 ppg (4 games)
Running Back: Slight Upgrade
Sanford has produced some solid RB seasons but so has Lewis. The tempo should help RB scoring opportunities here. Lewis has done RBBC and has had multiple QBs lead his team in rushing attempts, but he will feature one guy if he finds a clear leader. Travis Greene was RB14, and Marquez Cooper has seen consecutive seasons of 250+ touches.
2022: Marquez Cooper: RB26; 18.6 ppg
2021: Marquez Cooper: RB36; 14.2 ppg
2020: Marquez Cooper: RB70; 14.6 ppg (4 games)
Wide Receiver/TE: Huge Upgrade
We love the veer-n-shoot system for WRs. Tempo and volume are major factors here, as Lewis generally only has a handful of WRs see the field. Steve Ishmael was WR13, and Amba Etta-Tawo was WR7, despite some limitations, for those passing offenses. He made Cephas and Walker CFF studs at Kent State. He historically hasn’t featured the TE.
2022: Devontez Walker: WR19; 16.3 ppg
2021: Dante Cephas: WR19; 15.5 ppg
2020: Isaiah Mckoy: WR13; 22 ppg (4 games)
Takeaways: Upgrade across the board for the Buffs with this hire. Colorado will hold a talent disadvantage, but the pace and garbage time scoring should make Shedeur Sanders a viable option at QB. A negative game script could limit RB in year one, but WR is certainly the position to pay attention to in the spring as the Buffs have seven newcomers to the room and return their top two WRs from 2022. TE will be fascinating with a talent in Seydou Traore but a poor TE track record in Lewis. Could they feature him as a WR?
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