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The List: Interesting Candidates to Help TCU’s Offense

TCU’s offense needs some work. Here’s a partial list of some suggestions for who might be up to the task.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATED: January 3, 2020

I’ve been teasing The List for the better part of the college football season, ever since we first realized that the TCU offense had some problems deeper than a freshman QB and WR drops. Those are both problems that should be addressed, yes, but neither of those problems address the deeper, systematic issues with the TCU offense.

Before I introduce a couple of candidates and make my case for why they’d be good hires, or at least interesting hires, I need to lay down some ground rules. I’ll start with what The List is not: it is not a call for anyone’s job, it is not an attack on any individual. The List is a response to a couple of things:

  • TCU had a disappointing offensive year (62nd overall, 115th in Passing SP+, 81st in offensive FEI, with passing efficiency declining every year under Sonny Cumbie).
  • TCU might have a spot available to hire an offensive staffer.
  • There are more than a few interesting candidates available to fill such a role.
  • TCU has a young, dynamic quarterback with the potential to be an all-timer at TCU (Max Duggan), and needs to support his development with a robust offensive scheme.

Here are a few names I’ve heard mentioned and some quick explanations why we don’t want them: Derek Dooley (he’s bad), Todd Fitch (he’s old), Kendall Briles (gross).

So, what qualifies someone to be on The List? I’ve come up with a few criteria I’ll apply generally. First, they need to be someone who is willing to take a job at the level of co-OC/Passing Game Coordinator or lower. That’s going to rule some candidates out. I’d love for Eli Drinkawitz or Billy Napier to come as a coach-in-waiting, but that’s not happening. Second, they need to make sense. Area ties, a unique skill set, age, and experience will all factor into this. TCU needs to modernize their offense, and despite the fact there are some established G5 coaches who could run competent offenses, TCU shouldn’t bring in a retread. Third, they need to have demonstrable success. I’ll make my arguments using a little bit of film and a little bit of stats. Success is more than just winning games at the G5 level.

I’ve divided my list into two categories. The Slam Dunk Hires are three guys that would absolutely change the face of TCU football for the better, and be involved in the passing of the guard. Patterson is nowhere close to retirement, but that’s on the horizon, and locking down a solid offensive mind with some coaching experience would be the right step towards the future. The Weird-but-Interesting category are more short term solutions, akin more to a lottery ticket for Max Duggan’s career than a program-changing leader. They’re still good options!

A quick note about analysts: there are plenty of great options to hire for analyst positions at TCU, but we need to be realistic. People who take analyst jobs are two types: fired head coaches looking for a spot to land and network for a year or two, and fringe guys who do the brunt of the tracking/scouting work. A coach with a current FBS coordinator position will not leave his job and take an analyst position. That being said, TCU should collect fired coaches as analysts like they’re Pokemon.

The List

****NOTE: The List is a living document, and I’ll update it periodically.****

The Slam Dunk Hires

Any one of these three coaches could come in as a Co-OC and radically improve the Frogs in terms of scheme and execution. They all tend towards an offensive line focus and each come with their unique flavor of pass-to-run styles, which would mesh well with Coach Patterson’s stated aims about controlling the ball while still incorporating sensible downfield threats. What TCU’s offense has lacked this season have been intermediate route trees to guide a freshman QB into success and any sophistication in the run game. All three of these candidates excel in run innovation and have demonstrated robust passing concepts they can scale to a QB’s strengths.

Will Hall, Tulane Offensive Coordinator

This whole post could be a love letter to Will Hall. Tulane’s offense ranked 106th in SP+ in 2018. Hall took over, and the Green Wave are currently 35th in offensive SP+ with a robust option-rushing attack. Hall came into a very fun Willy Fritz offense and built on those shotgun-triple-option concepts and created a sustainable circus offense. He rushes a ton, which would make Coach Patterson happy, but he does it in a way that makes sense: instead of putting the onus on the running back to find an open hole in the inside zone, Hall forces a defender to make a decision (usually two defenders) and then has his players respond, punishing the defenders for those decisions. He incorporates robust RPO concepts, and instead of establishing the run to open up the pass, Hall emphasizes the run as a punishment for defenses committing to the pass. Check out some highlights here against Army - nice variety of play calls, and some familiar concepts we’ve seen from TCU, with some interesting wrinkles.

As for his experience, Hall has coached under Mike Norvell and Chip Lindsay at Memphis (14th in offensive SP+ in 2018) and helped design the 34th most efficient attack at UL in 2017.

Hall has found offensive success at both Memphis and Louisiana, and he has succeeded without a talent advantage. The talent upgrade that a TCU could offer Hall, plus his insights about scheme and leverage on offense, make him the preeminent candidate to come in and help TCU’s offense. His Louisiana ties don’t hurt with recruiting, either.

Joe Moorhead, Recently Unemployed

Go get him. He’s an offensive innovator. It would probably just be an analyst job for this year, but go get him. Roll out the red carpet.

Shawn Clark, App State Offensive Coordinator and OL Coach

As of the writing of this post, Shawn Clark at App State has been the players’ candidate to take over for Eli Drinkawitz, and has been hitting the recruiting trail vigorously. Nothing is official yet, so I’m going to still write about him as if he’s a candidate. Clark is an App State guy through and through, having played there and only coached there, but he is a solid offensive mind. He’s had the benefit of coaching under Scott Satterfield (now at Lousiville), and took over as the play-caller at App this season, leading the Mountaineers to the 28th most-efficient offense according to SP+. Clark is an offensive-line-minded coach, and much like Hall, his running game is sophisticated. If you watched the Sun Belt Championship, you saw a power run game average 5.2 yards per carry and absolutely carve up a defense who was so afraid of the pass they sat back and watched the run game. No offense to the Sun Belt, but if Clark can do this without a talent advantage, imagine where TCU’s offense (and Max) could go with Clark calling the shots.

Clark doesn’t have professional Texas ties, but he coached and recruited successfully at Purdue, Louisville, and App State, and seems like he’d have no problem learning the area and attracting talent, especially with the numbers his offenses would put up.

Author’s note: Shawn Clark accepted the App State head coaching job just hours after the publication of this article.

Rob Sale, Louisiana Offensive Coordinator

Sale took over the Ragin’ Cajuns’ offense in 2018, and the unit ranked 53rd in SP+, 5th in explosiveness. The Cajuns scored early and often, and were a whole lot of fun. They rank 56.7% of the time, 27th in the nation, and while that number doesn’t account for garbage time or context, it does indicate that Sale isn’t afraid to run option concepts. UL’s 2019 offense ranks 16th overall, which is insane for a Sun Belt team, and honestly, it’s a shock that Billy Napier hasn’t gotten a job.

Watch the highlights of the Coastal Carolina game. The Cajuns scored on 7/8 drives in that game, and only stopped scoring as to not twist the knife in the game. They passed, they ran, and they downright confused their opponents. You see them throwing screens, yes, but they’re not only throwing screens. They’re varying their formations, they’re adding tags, play-action, pre-snap motion. All of those are upgrades to TCU’s current system of “throw the ball to a guy and hope he gets past a defender.” Modern offenses, like UL’s under Sale, are focused on numbers advantages, not just speed advantages. Again, Sale has done this without an obvious talent advantage, and TCU would represent a substantial upgrade in talent for him. Sale would be an absolute coup at co-OC, even as play-caller for TCU.

Another strength of Sale? He spent 2007-2011 at Alabama, on the front lines as Saban built his dynasty. Can’t hurt.

The “Weird-but-Interesting” Hires

The following are a couple names I believe could come in and take a lower level staff position and still have a huge impact. Malcom Kelly was hired last offseason, and it’ll be interesting to see how he impacts the offense given an entire recruiting cycle and offseason practice with a developing QB, but in terms of scheme, all of the following guys have been around quality offenses or done a surprising job of turning a bad offense around. Admittedly, these are weird!

Brennan Marion, William and Mary Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach

This is a weird hire! Marion, you’ll remember, coached Cam Newton’s brother at Howard University and lead the MEAC in offense during his tenure there. I’m less interested in his stats, though. Look at this absolutely bizarre run game!

These are insane, and super fun! They’re like nothing anyone is doing in the Big 12, and they’d give TCU an arsenal of confusing option looks which could highlight TCU’s talents and strengths to give them a more coherent offensive identity. Marion could come in and be a dynamic, player-first recruiter and play designer (if not play-caller).

Kevin McGivin, San Jose State Offensive Coordinator

Hear me out. Before McGivin got to SJSU, the Spartans were 125th in offense, 121st in passing SP+. In his first year, SJSU improved to 105th in passing SP+. This year? SJSU is SIXTY-THIRD in offensive SP+. SJSU is as bottom-tier of a job as it comes; they ranked 111th in recruiting last year. McGivin is doing this with scheme alone; and yes, maybe he doesn’t have the talent to design and operate an effective college football operation, but he does have enough schematic knowledge to come in and help Cumbie iron out some particulars.

Matt Kubick, UL-Monroe Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator

UL-Monroe has the 44th best offense this season, according to SP+, and Kubick has successfully spent time at Stephen F Austin. His offense isn’t as dynamic as I’d like, but he has plenty of QB experience, Texas ties, and a long track record of offensive success.

Cornelius Williams, Troy Passing Game Coordinator

Williams coached most of his career under current WVU and offensive guru Neal Brown, in addition to playing for Troy. He has 9 All-Conference WR selections during his tenure, and he is well-versed in a modernized Air Raid scheme. Even with Brown leaving, Troy still ranked 43rd in offense, and Williams played a big part of that. He’d be a great hire to come in and develop the passing game.

Brad Glenn, Georgia State Offensive Coordinator

Glenn wouldn’t be a great geographic fit, but his offense ranks 55th in SP+ this season, which is way out-kicking what you’d expect at Georgia State. Glenn specializes in empty set looks, and runs a more traditional hurry-up offense. I’ve said it before, but having a top half FBS offense with bottom half FBS talent is pretty impressive. Glenn would mesh well with Cumbie’s ideology and perhaps provide a spark and some innovation for the stagnant Frog offense.

Craig Stutzmann, Hawaii Passing Game Coordinator

This is a long shot, as Stutzman played at Hawaii, is from Hawaii, and has coached in Hawaii for a long time, but the Warriors’ offense is 30th this year, and they made their conference championship game because of it. Stutzmann coached Marcus Mariota, and Hawaii has a fun, up-tempo offense. Stutzmann was a GA at Houston to start his career, so there are some Texas ties.