Believe it or not, there has never been a player I've been so violently adamant about the TCU coaches putting in other than Trevorris Johnson. You probably know what specific instance I'm talking about: Baylor 2014. In what was more or less my last go-around with cigarettes--Parliaments to be exact--that game literally left a bad taste in my mouth. #BadDadJokes #ImNotAFatherIJustPlayOneOnTV
In the six-hour battle, I probably smoked about 40 cigarettes. Two packs. Though, not all to the butt. Otherwise I'd probably have a hole in my throat. In between wanting to throw up from a nicotine high and feeling like my stomach was being suffocated by former ulcers, all I wanted to see was Trevorris Johnson get the damn ball in the red zone and bleed out the Baylor defense in a pool of their own bear blood.
Johnson ended up getting to the end zone in the game, but the thwarted drive before that, where Oberkrom notched a field goal is the drive that continues to haunt my soul. Maybe that would've truly sealed the game, maybe TCU would've finished out undefeated and had a chance to play in the playoff. Life is full of maybes, but giving Trevorris Johnson the ball more doesn't have to be one of those maybes.
Despite the rise in the TCU offense, an offense that's been so dynamic and exciting it forced what TCU's been known for during this millennia, its DEFENSE, to take a backseat. The one thing, however, that the Meacham and Cumbie's offense hasn't been able to quite figure out is how it plays in the red zone.
The Pirate Influence
Since the introduction of the Meacham-Cumbie offense, the Horned Frogs have finished each of those seasons ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense; if you take out non-Power 5 teams, they've finished in the top 5. Yet, they've finished below the top 40 in red zone offense: 45th in 2014 and 92nd in 2015.
Mike Leach, The Pirate Lord that would give Euron Greyjoy a run for his money, is the godfather of guys like Meacham and Larry Fedora's (UNC) offense, and really, most modern college offenses you salivate over. He's like a beautiful lemon tree on a desert island: brilliant, unapologetically rare, and serves as a natural diuretic that rids us of our waste.
Leach's Cougars had a very improved 9-4 season in 2015, but they were a far cry from the playoff. Still, even though they were less efficient than UNC or TCU overall; they scored nearly 95% of the time they were in the red zone.
Make it Count
The Frogs don't have to be a top 10 red zone team, but merely breaking into the top 30--or God forbid the top 25--could have exciting consequences. Now, is a top 25 red zone offense alone sufficient for an 11-win season? No. There were only two playoff teams in the past two years, one for each year, to rank in the top 15 in red zone offense: Florida State in 2014 (8) and Clemson in 2015 (14).
Great spread teams are simply going to make the red zone more. The magical number of attempts for these, more often than not, spread teams in the red zone is 60≥.
I'm not Fibonacci, but I'm pretty sure the more attempts you make at something over time, the more chances you'll have to miss as well. However, having an improved and coherent red zone offense, could, at the very least, make this offense more threatening than it already could be. So if you're Baylor, UNC, Houston, California, and so on, how do you become more advantageous in your attempts?
I said before the 2014 season, if TCU can just score between 30 and 35 points a game, a 10-win season--regardless of how good certain teams are when they face them--is completely within grasp.
Give it to Trevorris
Trevorris Johnson could make this a reality in 2016. Reading his tweets the past two years, Johnson doesn't like to admit he's a power back. But power backs can pay mortgages just by doing one thing well. The man can literally buy a house in the Hamptons, pay off two or three other mortgages, and send his kids to college just by doing this one thing well. Greatness is built on finding your purpose. I think Albert Einstein said that. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg. Possibly Kim Kardashian on snapchat.
Trevorris Johnson's purpose is to bust mouths and score red zones touchdowns.
Meacham's offense is less complicated than you think. And while Sonny Cumbie once joked that it's not going to be one that "lines up two tight ends and pounds the ball," there's plenty of precedent that Meacham could learn from the Pirate Lord, and run wishbone-like plays in the red zone. What I'm getting at, is that while teams like Arkansas or Stanford that are almost anti-spread offenses, are extremely efficient overall, spread teams like Texas Tech, Clemson, and North Carolina are right there with them.
Meacham and Cumbie come from the spread and summon the Pirate Lord Mike Leach, so the idea that TCU can be extremely efficient in the red zone isn't out of the question. They'll need it when they play a team like Arkansas, who dominate possession and force you to make the most out your possessions.
Kyle Hicks will more than likely be the first and second down back. But the beauty of Johnson, whether he realizes it or not, is that he's not the back that Kyle Hicks is and that's what makes so potentially dangerous. It was a mystery as to what role Shaun Nixon was going to hold exactly in 2016. Was he going to maintain the slotback roll--his receiving yards outweighed his rushing yards by nearly 8x in 2015--or was he going to be a true No. 2 running back? Now, with Nixon out for the season, the answer is this: Johnson will essentially be the No. 2 to Hicks next year and that's exciting.
Again: is an elite red zone offense mutually exclusive for a team to win a national championship? No. But the last time TCU had an elite red zone offense was in 2010, when they went undefeated. Over 60 attempts? Check. Top 25 (14) national ranking for red zone conversion percentage? And the cherry on top? Fifty-one red zone touchdowns to rank second nationally only behind Wisconsin, whom they beat in the Rose Bowl.
In a weird way, Trevorris Johnson helped me quit smoking cigarettes like I was trying to solve a crime in Rust Cohle's storage unit. So I kind of owe it to him to be his disciple.
So in 2016, here's what I want: stop putting him in on some pseudo-wildcat play. Just line these guys up and pound the ball. If it doesn't work, fine. Line him up as a fullback. Line him as a running back. Line him up as a slotback. I don't care. Just give Trevorris Johnson the damn ball.