Sonny Dykes and the spread offense are in town, but what does that mean. Half the offenses in college football are described as the spread, but they all look and run different. Some emphasize five receiver sets, while others have an option base. By all accounts the Wildcats offense will take a lot from the Texas Tech "Air Raid" offense, but Dykes will put his own spin on things.
From all accounts there are indeed five receiver, pass happy sets, but there are also schemes that employ a tight end, while others feature two running backs. We won't get a full glimpse of the offense until the team takes the field against BYU in the fall, but we should get a sneak peak in the spring and it sounds like there will be elements of Tech's, BYU's and Hawaii's offense, with possibly a touch of the power running game that Mike Stoops puts a premium on.
How will Willie Tuitama look?
After a ton of success his freshman year, Tuitama faced adversity for the first time last season. He suffered the two concussions and was knicked out of two games. He also dealt with family issues over the summer, saw his position coach leave the program and recently had the minor in possession citation.
Add to that the fact that he now has to learn a new offense, adjust to new coaches and personel. He will have a lot of extra work to do in addition to the normal spring work of fine tuning the offense and getting into a natural rhythm.
The good news is that he has a clean bill of health and looks a tad leaner than he did last year. The quarterback has also mentioned that he is getting a hang of the offense and feels good about its possibilities.
Who will grab the No. 2 spot?
While many assume that redshirt freshman Tyler Lyon is the clear No. 2 quarterback, he may be in a bit of a battle. Kris Heavner us a fifth-year senior and fared well in his two appearances last season. Heavner did not set the world on fire, but with limited reps he maintained the lead at Stanford and gave the Wildcats a chance to tie Oregon State on the final drive.
Lyon comes in with a great pedigree and a load of natural ability. Last year he knew he was going to redshirt, but this year the pressure is on to earn some playing time and position himself as the quarterback of the future.
Who is going to run the ball?
Chris Henry is gone and that leaves a void in the backfield. Chris Jennings showed flashes last season, but is far from a proven commodity. He and sophomore Xavier Smith should get the bulk of the snaps, but all indications are that Terry Longbons and Glyndon Bolasky will get serious auditions as well.
This one may not be settled until fall. If no back grabs the reigns this spring, then incoming freshmen Joseph Reese and Nic Grigsby may get a serious run in the fall.
What role will Earl Mitchell have?
Part fullback, part H-back and part tight end, Mitchell had a solid rookie campaign for the Cats, but where does he fit in the new offense? Hawaii and BYU both use big backs in their versions of the spread and Mitchells ability to block and catcch will certainly help him see the field. The only question is how will they use him. Can he be a single back? Part of a two back set? Or will he play more of a tight end role?
Who are these guys?
Other than Mike Thomas and Anthony Johnson, no receiver is a proven comodity. B.J. Dennard has shown flashes, but has hardly put together any consistency. Terrell Reese and Terrell Turner saw very limited action a year ago, but are basically rookies. The rest of the unit is even more unproven. It would not be a shock to see some of the true freshmen coming in this fall and making a push.
Can last year's freshmen make an impact?
Reese, Turner and Delashaun Dean came in with a lot of hype and promise.They were seen as the three tall, athletic receivers that the Wildcats lacked but teams like USC had in abundance. When it was all said and done the three players combined for nine games, one catch and two redshirts. Now the three have to learn their second system in as many seasons and figure out how they can do in the spread. Add to that Dean's knee issues and the group's talent may be overshadowed by their question marks.
Can they protect the quarterback?
The first two years of the Stoops era saw the offensive line do a good job pass blocking. They gave up 22 sacks in 2004 and just 21 in 2005. Last year they allowed their quarterback to be sacked 31 times and that does not include the other hard hits to the Wildcat passers. Sure the group was young, as were the running backs, but they have to do a better job protecting the quarterback. The good news is that the spread is designed to protect the quarterback. Last year Texas Tech, where new offensive line coach Bill Bendebaugh coached last year, threw the ball 656 times and were sacked just 19 times.
The splits will be wider, the passes will be quicker and the overall design is to have keep the quarterback throwing.
Can they establish the run?
The team has struggled to establish the run for three years. This group of linemen is athletic, but they need to be tougher. They need to develop that nasty streak that they have lacked for the past few seasons. The good news is that by the end of the year they were much better at establishing the run. Now the scheme is different, the techniques altered and there is a new position coach. It is up to the players to respond.