5 Offenses College Football Fans Won't Recognize in 2014
Unless you're a fan of Florida State, there are probably some changes you'd like to see occur on your favorite team. Heck, even if you do support the 'Noles, there are always ways to get better in the offseason.
If you had the unfortunate displeasure of rooting for Cal in 2013, you probably want to see the defense not allow more than 45 points per game. But as important as that side of the ball is even in today's high-scoring game, the offense is always going to dominate the headlines.
A change in offensive philosophy is much more likely to stir up discussion than a switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 on defense. So today we're taking a look at offenses that are going to look different when the 2014 season begins.
Sometimes this means the aforementioned change in philosophy, be it a move toward a pro-style, spread or West Coast attack. In other cases, a change in personnel will force the offense to move in a different direction. And finally, some offenses are going to look much different not because they'll be attacking in a new way, but because they'll simply be a heck of a lot better than they were in 2013.
Here now are five such offensive units that fans may not recognize in 2014.
All stats via cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is a 4,000-yard passer, and his arm was pretty much the only thing keeping the Beavers offense alive in 2013. So with his return, why would the offense look different?
There are several reasons, but chief among them is the loss of wide receiver Brandin Cooks, the Biletnikoff award winner who had over 1,700 yards receiving. Without Cooks, the Beavers will lack a player who can stretch the field and make plays with the ball in his hands.
The team's second-leading receiver was Richard Mullaney, who's about as sure-handed as they come. But he won't provide Mannion the opportunity to chuck it deep nearly as often as he did when Cooks was around, so it stands to reason the senior signal-caller won't be airing it out as much.
Another reason the offense will look much different in 2014 is a run game that should be vastly improved. In the Beavers' first 11 games of 2013, they failed to eclipse 120 yards rushing even once. But in the final two contests against Oregon and Boise State, the offense ran for 231 yards and 195 yards, respectively.
It's no coincidence that the former effort nearly helped defeat the Ducks in Autzen and the latter led to a dominant bowl win over the Broncos. In short, despite how flashy Mannion's numbers were during the first half of the season, the offense is at its best when it can be balanced.
With the way the season ended, you can be sure that coach Mike Riley will do his best to keep that balance when the Beavers open things up again next fall.
When you flip on an Oklahoma game next season, you'll obviously recognize the face of Bob Stoops on the sideline, which is usually one of extreme intensity. But if for some reason you missed the Sugar Bowl, you probably won't believe what you're seeing out of the offense.
That's because in one game, freshman quarterback Trevor Knight changed the entire outlook on the Sooners moving forward. Sound a bit sensational? Consider where we'd be if Knight hadn't thrown for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns in a BCS victory over Alabama. What if he'd struggled in a blowout loss, as many predicted?
Well, the Sooners would probably be entering the spring with an open quarterback competition and there would be questions about whether this was a top-15 squad. Now, with Knight proving his ability against one of the best defenses in the country, the offense is set to rock and roll in 2014.
Gone are Brennan Clay and Damien Williams (who was dismissed from the team in November) from the backfield but back is Knight along with promising wideouts Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal. With Knight's ability to escape the pocket and make plays on the run, you likely won't see many condensed running plays.
Of course, a strong start by promising youngster Keith Ford could force Stoops to keep the power run game as an option at all times. Either way, Ford will certainly be a big part of the offense. But the Sooners haven't had someone with as much potential as Knight in a long time, and you can bet the offense will use his strengths and put up more than the 32.8 points per game it did in 2013.
We're admittedly guilty of adding Vanderbilt to the list simply because of its coaching changes, but with a completely revamped staff, it's hard to believe this offense won't look different in 2014.
And really, when you dig a little deeper, there ends up being more to the thought than simply a coaching change. Start by looking at new head coach Derek Mason's background. He most recently served as the defensive coordinator at Stanford, where his units were regularly the best in the Pac-12. He helped slow down Oregon in consecutive years, and the Cardinal gained the reputation of playing with an SEC level of physicality.
Both returning running backs for the Commodores are small, but Jerron Seymour at 200 pounds has the power that will allow him to flourish even against big fronts. After all, he did rush for 14 touchdowns this past season.
Mason has also implied that he's not afraid to do things his own way and move in the direction he sees fit without any regard to the previous regime led by James Franklin. According to Jeff Lockridge of USA Today, Mason said, "I'm never going to try and be James Franklin. I'm Derek Mason, your new head coach."
So while the personnel on offense won't be undergoing a complete overhaul, you can expect a physical rushing attack in addition to dual-threat quarterback Patton Robinette, who carried the ball just four fewer times than starter Austyn Carta-Samuels despite being the backup. There's also the issue of wide receiver Jordan Matthews opting to enter the NFL draft.
It's hard to say at this point whether Mason and his staff will up the points-per-game average, which came in at just over 30 in 2013, but the way the offense goes about its business will look much different in 2014.
In 2014, Texas will feature a powerful running game and what fans hope will be consistent quarterback play from either David Ash or Tyrone Swoopes.
But the reason the offense will look different than it has in previous years is because there should finally be a specific plan for moving the football. In recent years, the Longhorns went through offensive coordinators like crazy in an attempt to find something that worked in the post-Colt McCoy era.
Now, with Charlie Strong at the helm, the team should have a pretty clear identity about what it wants to be on offense. Start with Strong bringing in Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson, two of the premier offensive minds in the country with different backgrounds that should mesh well together.
Wickline is one of the masterminds behind the vaunted Oklahoma State attack in recent years, which, despite a number of strong passers, has also featured a strong running game led by backs like Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle. Watson, meanwhile, was the offensive coordinator under Strong at Louisville. His offenses led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater were prolific, but more importantly, they maintained their identities and didn't overthink themselves.
The two can now put their heads together and come up with a plan that should look an awful lot like what the Cardinals were doing as opposed to the Cowboys. With the three-headed monster in the backfield of Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray, the straight-ahead rushing attack will continue to be a staple of what the Longhorns like to do.
Add in the mobility of Swoopes, or to a lesser extent, Ash, and suddenly there are a lot of options. Whether those manifest themselves into a completely different animal than we've previously seen is still a question, but at the very least, this offense is going to look different because it will score a lot more points than fans are used to seeing.
The Florida Gators offense is going to look different in 2014 because, well, it really can't get much worse than it was in 2013. We poked a little fun at the Longhorns unit that scored less than 30 a game. Florida couldn't even average 19 a game.
Step one to a revamped offense will be figuring out the quarterback situation. The likely starter appears to be Jeff Driskel, a mobile quarterback with a strong arm who was hurt early in the 2013 season. But there's also the intriguing freshman Will Grier, a member of the 2014 recruiting class who has already enrolled.
The biggest reason the offense will look different in 2014 is the addition of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who previously served in the same capacity at Duke under David Cutcliffe. Fifteen years ago that wouldn't be something you'd highlight on your resume, but the Blue Devils offense was solid this season in averaging nearly 33 points per game.
At Florida, Roper will have a lot more talent to work with on offense, and his tutelage should result in a more wide-open passing game. That in turn should lead to bigger plays and obviously, more points.
We're not going to predict that Florida jumps from four wins up to eight or nine, but the offense will almost certainly be unrecognizable from its 2013 self.