This is our SEC 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.
Stats will be provided for the last three FBS seasons for each play-caller.
New OC: Bobby Petrino
Previous OC: Darrell Dickey
Influenced by: Mike Price; Chris Ault (Nevada)
Coaching Tree: Jeff Brohm
2020-22 Missouri State; 2014-18 Louisville; 2013 Western Kentucky; 2008-11 Arkansas
Hopefully, Petrino drove carefully as he made his way through the Ozarks to College Station. Jimbo hands over the keys to the Aggie offense in an effort to get A&M performing at a level that justifies his monster contract. Petrino brought us Lamar Jackson during his time at Louisville, but it has been a mixed bag outside of that run. Clearly, he is an upgrade over Darrell Dickey, but to what degree?
There is no denying the magic Petrino created with Jackson. It was incredible. However, Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson averaged between 19 and 21 PPG. Brandon Doughty and Malik Cunningham were incredibly more productive after Petrino left, and Jawon Pass was a massive disappointment. Missouri State averaged 248 passing yards/game under Petrino with a former Utah QB, Jason Shelley, under center. Conner Weigman is a talent on par with what Petrino had at Arkansas while being slightly more athletic than Mallett/Wilson.
Running Back: Push
Michael Smith, Knile Davis, and Antonio Andrews were all 1K backs, but Petrino didn’t have any at Louisville or Missouri State, his most recent stops. Jimbo will always prioritize establishing the run, and that will likely continue under Petrino. However, Petrino has historically used an RBBC more frequently than Jimbo. In fact, Petrino has only had five RBs with over 200 carries in his twelve seasons as an FBS play-caller. Despite the infrequent bell cows, he’s still had 13 RB seasons with double-digit TDs, including three seasons where his RB had 20+ TDs!
Wide Receiver/TE: Push
The Aggies haven’t really been a CFF hotbed when it comes to WR production. Jimbo has certainly warranted criticism for his WR development (or lack thereof). However, Petrino hasn’t exactly lit it up here, either. His WR1 during his five seasons at Louisville had a meager average stat line of 46/739/5 that generally came from the boundary WR spots. He’s had just three 1000-yard receivers over his twelve seasons as an FBS play-caller. Only one of them had more than eight TDs. Also similar to Jimbo, TEs are a focus of the Petrino offense. He’s had numerous productive TEs, including Cole Hikutini as TE4 in 2016.
Takeaways: QB production has been nothing more than decent when the QB lacks elite athleticism. RB production has been very solid but dependent on TDs. WR has been spotty at best, and TE is consistently very strong. Does that remind you of anyone? It reminds me a lot of Jimbo’s offense! Data shows us that, outside of the two big seasons with Jackson, Petrino’s system actually resembles a lot of what Jimbo prefers to do with his offense over the years.
New OC: Mike Bobo
Previous OC: Todd Monken
Influenced by: Todd Monken; Mark Richt; Bryan Harsin
2022 Georgia analyst; 2021 Auburn OC; 2020 South Carolina OC; 2015-19 Colorado State head coach; 2007-14 Georgia OC
With Todd Monken moving on to the NFL, Mike Bobo returns to his previous position as the Bulldogs OC. Here is what we know- Kirby has been very open about this hire as one that’s aimed to keep the status quo. The scheme and verbiage are to remain the same. Bobo was on staff in 2022, so he is also familiar with the personnel. Here is what we also know- Monken was arguably the best play-caller in the country in terms of understanding pace, roster strengths, situation, and when to be aggressive.
Again, don’t expect much to change, but this isn’t a position of strength for Bobo. Moken historically has produced elite QBs but produced mostly average CFF QBs at UGA. The game script dictated running the ball and playing backups for many second halves of games throughout his Georgia tenure. This will continue for Bobo, who historically hasn’t been a great CFF QB producer. Outside of Aaron Murray’s QB22 season in 2013, there really isn’t much to chew on. Even Matthew Stafford’s best season under Bobo was just 17 PPG. There simply isn’t enough pass volume or involvement of the QB in the run game for this to be a fruitful investment in standard leagues.
Running Back: Push
Even with the UGA game script dictating they run the ball, the talent and blowouts have resulted in a committee effort under Monken. The RB1 has averaged 12.9, 11.2, and 15 touches/game under Monken at Georgia. Meanwhile, the RB1 under Bobo has averaged 20.6, 18.8, and 19.6 touches/game over his last three seasons as a play-caller at Auburn, SC, and CSU. However, the UGA RB room continues to be absolutely loaded with Daijun Edwards, Kendall Milton, Branson Robinson, Andrew Paul, and Roderick Robinson. It is highly likely we continue to see an RBBC to keep bodies fresh and out of the portal as they attempt to feed all the talented, hungry mouths in that room.
Wide Receiver/TE: Slight Upgrade
It will be a cold day in hell before I advocate for drafting a Georgia WR in a standard league. Bobo’s track record with WR1s during his time at Colorado State is actually quite impressive. The passing stats were fairly pedestrian, but the WR1 commanded a large market share each season.
2015: Rashard Higgins 74-1061-8
2016: Michael Gallup 76-1272-14
2017: Michael Gallup: 100-1418-7
2018: Preston Williams 96-1345-14 (WR4)
2019: Warren Jackson 77-1119-8
Is there a trend here? Yep. Every single one of them are large, boundary WRs. It would seem like we have found a pattern until you realize that Bobo’s WR1 for SC and Auburn the next two seasons both played in the slot. So, who really knows? But the TE is consistently in the mix each of the last few seasons under Bobo.
Takeaways: Maybe, just maybe, Bobo has a clear RB1 and WR1 to separate from the pack, unlike what we have seen under Kirby and the Dawgs recently with all their success. But the more likely scenario is that things remain status quo. UGA simply has too much talent depth at all skill positions. The defense is a juggernaut limiting shootouts, and the non-con schedule is a cakewalk.
New HC: Hugh Freeze
Previous HC/OC: Bryan Harsin/Eric Kiesau
Influenced by: Slippery Pete; Saul Goodman; Lord Voldemort
2019-22 Liberty; 2012-16 Ole Miss; 2011 Arkansas State; 2010 Arkansas State OC
Research for this article took me down a dark, dark rabbit hole that is the Hugh Freeze saga (OMG…he was such a great fit for Liberty). But, say what you will about Freeze; he consistently produces strong offenses. He worked his way up to the college ranks after a decorated career as a high school coach. He takes over for Bryan Harsin, who really let recruiting slip over the last couple of seasons.
Quarterbacks: Huge Upgrade
If there is one position Freeze produces premier CFF assets, it’s at QB. Malik Willis (QB2) was elite, and Chad Kelly (QB8) and Ryan Aplin were high-end fantasy producers. Kaidon Salter was on his way to a solid season until a groin injury derailed the second half of 2022.
2022: Kaidon Salter: NR; 12.2 ppg
2021: Malik Willis: QB6; 28 ppg
2020: Malik Willis: QB2; 32.8 ppg
Running Back: Downgrade
Dae Dae Hunter actually outscored Tank Bigsby on a per-game basis in 2022. But historically speaking, Freeze has been better at providing escorts than providing fantasy-relevant RBs. In fact, Freeze has never had a 1,000-yard rusher or a double-digit TD running back. Not only does Freeze often use a committee in the RB room, but the RBs also have to compete with the QB for carries and goal-line work. Freeze loves to use the QB in the run game.
2022: Dae Dae Hunter: RB32; 17.8 ppg
2021: Shedro Louis: NR; 8.3 ppg
2020: Joshua Mack: NR; 10.7 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Push
Freeze has been fairly inconsistent with WR production. Laquon Treadwell averaged 17.8 ppg in 2015 but Freeze didn’t have another real fantasy-relevant WR until last season with Douglas. His last three seasons have seen a slot WR lead the way, but Freeze’s WR1 during his time at Ole Miss was routinely a boundary guy. Outside of a monster season from Evan Engram in 2016, TEs haven’t been much of a factor.
2022: Demario Douglas: WR21; 14.7 ppg
2021: Demario Douglas: WR101; 10.7 ppg
2020: DJ Stubbs: WR110; 9.8 ppg
Takeaways: QB will be a factor most seasons under Freeze, given the pace he likes to play at and the use of the QB in the run game. Whoever wins the QB competition between TJ Finley and Robby Ashford (or a post-spring transfer) is worth a late-round flyer. RBs tend to be marginalized by Freeze, and his WRs and TEs are difficult to project.
New OC: Tommy Rees
Previous OC: Bill O’Brien
Influenced by: Brian Kelly
2020-22 Notre Dame OC; 2017-19 Notre Dame QB coach
The Bill O’Brien OC tenure comes to an end in T-Town and not a moment too soon. The rigidity in his play-calling and scheme tendencies were fine when the personnel was a perfect fit. But it often capped the ceiling of the offense when it didn’t have the right pieces. Rees has proven to be a much more flexible play-caller that often highlights the strengths while hiding the flaws of his roster. While he may not have been Saban’s first choice, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a bad choice.
Drew Pyne, Jack Coan, and Ian Book aren’t exactly being dealt a great hand, but Rees was able to make them fantasy relevant to varying degrees. Rees is flexible in the QB position in terms of play style. He’s shown the ability to work with both dual-threat QBs and pocket passers. O’Brien was fine but far less flexible with his system. He often failed to adapt to his QB’s strengths.
2022: Drew Pyne: QB68; 15.6 ppg
2021: Jack Coan: QB56; 16.3 ppg
2020: Ian Book: QB14; 22.2 ppg
Running Backs: Push
After consecutive seasons of workhorse Kyren Williams getting 246 touches, the Irish backfield saw a near 50/50 split in 2022. Both Audric Estime and Logan Diggs were productive, but the split prevented a consistent CFF starting option. The good news is that Rees has shown a willingness to feature one guy if there is a clear frontrunner. That is basically the Saban plan too, so don’t expect much change here.
2022: Audric Estime: RB56; 13.5 ppg
2022: Logan Diggs: RB90; 12 ppg
2021: Kyren Williams: RB18; 21.4 ppg
2020: Kyren Williams: RB5; 19.9 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Push
All three seasons under Rees have actually seen a TE be the leading receiver…and by a lot over the last two seasons. Part of that is the talent of Mayer, part of that is the lack of talented WRs, and another part of that may be the scheme. The leading WR in 2022 for Rees was Jayden Thomas 25-363-3. It is challenging to decipher how WRs will be featured under Rees at Alabama. We have to assume it is more than what we saw at Notre Dame based on Saban’s recent history and the talent upgrade Rees inherited.
2022: Michael Mayer: TE2; 14 ppg
2021: Michael Mayer: TE5; 13.5 ppg
2021 Kevin Austin: WR62; 13 ppg
2020: Ben Skowronek: NR; 10.5 ppg
Takeaways: Rees has some play-calling creativity and system flexibility that O’Brien lacked. It will be interesting to see how it translates to Alabama, where Saban has a particular foundation built. Rees can likely tailor a plan for either Milroe or Simpson. The pass catchers probably benefit if the more refined passer, Simpson, were to win the job. The run game will be good, and there is potential for a workhorse should someone like McClellan separate. TE could be featured more under Rees than what we saw under BOB.
New OC: Liam Coen
Previous OC: Rick Scangarello
Influenced by: Mark Whipple; Sean McVay
2021 Kentucky OC; 2022 LA Rams OC
Coen is back for his second stint as the OC for Mark Stoops. The Wildcats saw a 6 PPG increase once he arrived in 2021 and then saw a 12 PPG decline after he left. So, it is clear why Stoops went back to drink from the Coen faucet. It isn’t exactly a high-tempo offense that Coen runs, but it does have more pace than what you generally see from Kentucky. It is a good blend of Sean McVay and Mark Whipple with passing concepts where the ball comes out quickly, and the top players are generally featured with an abundance of volume.
Levis was a top 25 QB in 2021 under Coen and then saw a significant drop-off in production once Coen left. Injury is partially to blame, but the loss of Coen was also a factor. We don’t have a ton to go by in one season as an FBS OC, but he also helped UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel average 335 ypg in 2014.
2021: Will Levis: QB22; 21 ppg
Running Back: Slight Upgrade
Chris Rodriguez had a strong season under Coen but put up similar numbers (when healthy/eligible) without Coen too. Stoops is always going to want to run downhill with a lead. Over the last four seasons without Coen as OC, Kentucky’s average neutral game script rush rate has been 68.3%. In the one season under Coen, it was 56.1%. So Coen tends to lean on the run game less than other UK OCs but is more efficient when he does run. However, RB Josh Mack (who later transferred to Liberty) averaged 153 YPG at Maine when Coen was OC there.
2021: Chris Rodriguez Jr: RB30; 16.9 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Upgrade
Tajae Sharpe had over 300 targets in two years with Coen as pass game coordinator at UMass. It is hard to determine how much this was Coen vs. Mark Whipple, but still a significant consideration. Wandale Robinson was a monster when Coen was OC. At the least, maybe we see that Whipple and McVay’s tendencies to drown the studs in targets have rubbed off on Coen.
2021: Wandale Robinson: WR10; 18.3 ppg
Takeaways: Coen’s first run as UK’s OC was very profitable for CFF owners. Maybe it was lightning in a bottle, but maybe it could pay off again for them in 2023. Many of the Wildcat assets are fairly cheap, heading into drafts. If 2021 and the tutelage of Whipple/McVay are any indicators of what to expect, then production could be limited to a select few on offense. Thus making QB Devin Leary, RB Ray Davis, and the WRs Tayvion Robinson, Barion Brown, and Dane Key, solid values for 2023.
New OC: Joey Halzle
Previous OC: Alex Golesh
Influenced by: Josh Heupel; Alex Golesh
2021-22 Tennessee QB coach; 2020 UCF QB coach
With Alex Golesh moving on to be the head coach at USF, Josh Heupel turned to his most trusted confidant in long-time assistant Halzle. The new Vols OC was a QB at Oklahoma under Heupel’s tenure as an assistant at OU. Halzle has quite literally been with Heupel every step of the way in his coaching career, from Oklahoma to Utah State to Missouri to UCF and now Tennessee. This 10+ year Heupel assistant has paid his dues and now gets to be the play-caller for one of the most prolific offenses in CFB.
I’ll be quick as there isn’t much to say here. It would be foolish to think anything will change schematically. It will be interesting to see if there are any growing pains from a play-calling perspective with a first-year OC and all the new pieces on offense. The Vols have Virginia, Florida, and UTSA in the first four weeks. But, this will remain a Baylor-style veer-n-shoot system that will run at a rapid tempo. It is a system that CFF owners have caught onto enough to force you to “spend up” to obtain its assets, but one that is justified in doing so. Halzle is a sharp mind and wouldn’t shock me if he’s running his own program in the next few years.
New OC: Kirby Moore
Previous OC: Eli Drinkwitz (play-caller/head coach)
Influenced by: Christ Petersen; Kalen Deboer; Jeff Tedford
2022 Fresno State OC; 2020-21 Fresno State Pass Game Coordinator; 2017-19 Fresno State WR coach
Coach Drink felt the heat after averaging less than 25 PPG in 2022 and decided it was in the Tigers’ best interest to outsource the play-calling duties. He turned to Fresno State’s OC, Moore. After six years of being an assistant under Jeff Tedford and Kalen Deboer, the former Boise State WR ventures into the SEC with a strong coaching pedigree. Like his brother Kellen (NFL OC), Kirby has risen up the coaching ranks at a young age
Quarterbacks: Slight Upgrade
Despite Jake Haener not having the season many expected after some injury issues, he remained relevant under Moore after Deboer moved on. He was off to a solid start before an ankle sprain vs. USC. Some added creativity in the passing game should be an improvement from what we have seen under Drink. However, Moore doesn’t run the air raid or use the QB much in the run game, so don’t expect a major upgrade here.
2022: Jake Haener: QB41; 21.4 ppg
Running Back: Push
Missouri, under Drinkwitz, has been a beacon in the CFF world when it comes to running backs. There was some disappointment in 2022, but even a very pedestrian Cody Schrader averaged 13.1 PPG on nearly 18 touches/game over his last eight games. Prior to last season, Drink had six different RBs in six straight seasons go for 1,000 and 10: Tyler Badie, Larry Rountree, Darrynton Evans, Reggie Gallaspy, Nyheim Hines, and Matt Daves. Kirby Moore had the same level of production with Jordan Mims in his lone season as the play caller. Expect minimal change here.
2022: Jordan Mims: RB12; 19.5 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Upgrade
Here is where we likely see some change. The WR1 at Mizzou under Drink had an average stat line of 44-587-3. Some of that is poor QB play, but Drink generally has an unimaginative passing scheme that fails to stretch the field. Moore is far more creative in his passing concepts and play-calling to get skilled WRs the ball. Something he likely picked up from Deboer and Petersen. Cropper and Remigio both had 80+ touches and nearly 900 yards despite a steep drop in QB play when Heaner was out. TE isn’t a priority in this system without a hybrid type player that Drink had in Jaylen Samuels at NC State.
2022: Jalen Cropper: WR37; 13.1 ppg
2022: Nikko Remigio: WR40; 12.5 ppg
Takeaways: Moore is similar to Drinkwitz in the offensive scheme but adds a layer of creativity that Drink lacks in the passing game. Expect a workhorse RB (if one can separate) that we have seen recently from Missouri while seeing a potential uptick in QB/WR1. Luther Burden now has a play-caller creative enough to find ways to get him the ball in space and downfield. It would not be surprising if Burden sees upwards of 120 targets.
New OC: Dan Enos
Previous OC: Kendal Briles
Influenced by: Mike Locksley; Josh Gattis; Mike Denbrock (LSU OC)
2021-22 Maryland OC; 2020 Cincinnati RB coach; 2019 Miami OC; 2018 Alabama QB coach; 2018 Michigan analyst; 2015-17 Arkansas OC; 2010-14 Central Michigan Head Coach
After a tumultuous offseason that included the loss of his OC, Sam Pittman turned to Maryland OC, Enos, to fill the role. This will be the sixth job since 2017 for Enos and his second go around in the “Natural State” (NW Arkansas is beautiful. If you haven’t been, you should go). Enos isn’t a historically creative play-caller. His offenses tend to peak in year one, so we may be seeing the peak of tenure in 2023.
Enos had all the makings for a really strong Maryland pass attack last season. There was a third-year starting QB and impressive talent and depth at WR, and yet the Maryland pass game remained pedestrian. He doesn’t use QBs much in the run game, and he doesn’t throw for significant volume. Jefferson is more athletic than what Enos usually has at QB, but KJJ was certainly a better fit for Briles and his veer-n-shoot.
2022: Taulia Tagovailoa: QB54; 17.1 ppg
2021: Taulia Tagovailoa: QB33; 19.4 ppg
2019: Jarren Williams: QB97; 11.4 ppg
Running Back: Push
Enos doesn’t have the ceiling that Briles carries with RB production, but he is consistent. Hemby became a viable starter last season, and his first run with the Hogs produced Alex Collins (RB13) and Rawleigh Williams III (RB24). Zurlon Tipton (RB10) was a monster under Enos at CMU
2022: Roman Hemby: RB32; 16.2 ppg
2021: Tayon Fleet-Davis: RB57; 13.1 ppg
2019: DeeJay Dallas: RB50; 15 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Downgrade
Unfortunately, Enos rarely has a target hog. Despite multiple productive seasons from Tagovailoa and Brandon Allen, Enos has never had a 900+ yard receiver at the P5 level. In fact, you have to go back ten years to his time at CMU with Titus Davis to find one. This is a far cry from the Briles system that consistently has someone monopolize the WR room. However, Enos has shown consistent 30-50 receptions from his TE, which is very solid.
2022: Jeshaun Jones: NR; 8.6 ppg
2021: Rakim Jarrett: WR81; 11.1 ppg
2019: KJ Osborn: NR; 8.6 ppg
Takeaways: Based on trends, KJ Jefferson should remain a solid option for 2023, but QB is nothing more than an average long-term option under Enos. Running back, however, remains very viable under Enos. Expect Rocket Sanders to be a high-end producer in 2023 and monitor the room for dynasty. WR is an easy pass outside of deep leagues, but TE should have a consistent role in this offense with a slight uptick.
New OC: Dowell Loggains
Previous OC: Marcus Satterfield
Influenced by: Kendal Briles
2021-22 Arkansas TE coach; 2008-20 Various NFL assistant coaching positions
After being fortunate enough (in my opinion) to have his OC hired away by Matt Rhule, Shane Beamer took some heat over the offseason for his choice of Dowell Loggains as his new OC. Loggains has spent all but the last two years of his coaching career in the NFL. He had a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks and became the Titans’ OC at the age of 32. He’s had four stints as an NFL OC (Titans, Bears, Dolphins, Jets), but none of which were particularly successful.
It is challenging enough to try and translate NFL data to CFB when discussing coaching changes. It is even more challenging to find a trend in Loggains’ play-calling style and historical production. The only positive trend that stood out was RB production. Jordan Howard and Chris Johnson were both 1K yard rushers under Loggains, and he’s not afraid to use his RB as a receiving threat. Howard, Johnson, Kenyon Drake, and Le’Veon Bell all had strong receiving profiles. On the flip side, he never really had a fantasy-relevant QB and only one 1K-yard receiver. In his defense, he never really had a decent QB to work with throughout his time in the NFL.
Takeaways: Who the hell knows?
New HC/OC: Zach Arnett/Kevin Barbay
Previous HC/OC: Mike Leach (RIP)
Influenced by: Jim McElwain
2022 App State OC; 2021 Central Michigan OC; 2019-20 Central Michigan WR Coach; 2018 Stephen F Austin OC
After the passing of Mike Leach, defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was promoted to head coach. He clearly had something very different in mind for the offense than the air raid with the hire of his OC. Kevin Barbay comes from the Jim McElwain school of offense. The run game sets the tone, and the passing game picks its spots for explosive plays with play-action. Quite literally the exact opposite of the air raid.
Barbay has never had a top-40 CFF QB and throws for essentially half the volume we have seen from Leach. It is very likely we see an increase in efficiency from Will Rogers through explosive plays. It’s still a challenge to find a path to improved production with such a sharp decline in pass volume. Not to mention, Vandy QB transfer Mike Wright likely sees goal-line packages.
2022: Chase Brice: QB44; 20.4 ppg
2021: Daniel Richardson: QB67; 14.1 ppg
Running Backs: Upgrade
Barbay’s App State offense ranked 27th in neutral game script rush rate; a stat that Miss State was ranked 130th. His time at CMU produced Lew Nichols and his amazing 341/1,848/16 rush line in 2021. Fortunately for Marks and his receiving prowess that he established under Leach, Barbay isn’t afraid to utilize his RBs in the passing game too.
2022: Nate Noel: RB115; 13.4 ppg
2021: Lew Nichols: RB1; 26.6 ppg
Wide Receivers/TEs: Slight Downgrade
Half the pass volume but only a slight downgrade? Well, over the last few years, Leach has really spread the targets throughout the WR room and lacked explosive plays. Barbay finds creative ways to get the ball to his play-makers that should lead to more downfield opportunities. It is unlikely we see a PPR monster, but a WR or two with 800 and eight is reasonable. Also, the TE is back in play at MSU with the coaching change.
2022: Christian Horn: NR; 8.6 ppg
2021: Kalil Pimpleton: WR50; 13.2 ppg
2021: Jacory Sullivan: WR66; 15.3 (10 games)
Takeaways: Few programs are doing a 180 in scheme like the Bulldogs. Historically, there isn’t much of a comparison between Leach and Barbay when it comes to QB. Rogers will need to be very efficient to match his previous output. The ceiling is the roof now for the RB1 in StarkVegas, and the top WR could remain relevant despite the slower tempo OC and defensively biased head coach.
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Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC)
American Athletic Conference (AAC)