The Baylor Bears will be transitioning to a new offensive style in 2017, starting the process fully this Saturday as spring camp begins. The Bears, long-tied to former head coach Art Briles and his veer-and-shoot style, have been one of the most powerful and potent offenses in the nation over the past 5-seasons. Only one other program is as well thought of when it comes to an offensive system that they have created, and have seen imitators attempt; Oregon.
The Bears will now be one of those imitators as they transition to more of an Oregon style attack. With offensive coordinator Jeff Nixon leading the charge, and newly hired wide receiver coach Bob Bicknell, the Bears new coaching staff is experienced in this system.
While it will be unique to Baylor, the foundation appears to be that of Chip Kelly's with some more pro-style or NFL concepts thrown in. To get the scoop on what Baylor fans should expect, we spoke with the publisher of our sister Scout site, eDuck, Stephen Summers to get more information on what Baylor fans could be seeing this fall.
1. Outside of the up-tempo aspect of the Oregon offense, what word would use to describe the overall theme of the system?
Steve Summers: The word I would use is repetitious. Chip Kelly centered his offensive and defensive game on preparation. What he most talked about is that his team would be the best prepared team and he took great pride on how practices were ran. I believe that is what most coaches take away from the Chip Kelly-offense. When one would observe a Kelly practice, what the team did was continual drills and the pace that the team would operate at. For example, players always ran from one session to the next. If they were practicing the mesh when a quarterback handed off to a running back, that particular task in many programs might be practiced 10 times for the starter; with Chip Kelly, each quarterback would practice it 50 times a practice, and they continued to do the same drills every day.
It became mechanical.
2. Oregon uses primarily a zone-blocking scheme, correct? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this scheme?
SS: Once the linemen have their basic footwork established, it would allow smaller (weight-wise) and quicker linemen to have an advantage over bigger, stronger but slower defenders because it would tend to keep the defense off balance. Better football minds than mine can give more technical details but essentially the offensive lineman has to determine if he is on the playside or backside of the snap; if the OL covered or uncovered; and finally if the OL’s inside teammate is covered or uncovered.
So once those things are ingrained by repetition in practice, the tempo and pace of play calling can be reduced. That is of course all dependent upon how good of physical conditioned the athletes are and how motivated and disciplined they are. If they are out of shape, then they have no advantage. If they are unmotivated and undisciplined in performing their assignments, then the zone blocking scheme backfires.
3. What are some of the most common run plays or designs that Baylor fans should be watching for?
SS: Oregon used what they referred to as veer backs, and would require the quarterback to make the determination whether to hand the ball off based on the where the defenders lined up, or whether the QB would keep the ball or pass.
That takes a very good, athletic and smart quarterback. That’s why Marcus Mariota was so successful because there is one other essential element and that is that there aren’t too many formations or plays out of those formations to run.
The Ducks didn’t have a lot of plays; they just ran the plays they had very well.
4. What type of running back fits best in this offense?
SS: I don’t know if there is a prototype back that Kelly used; he had Jonathan Stewart, then LaGarrette Blunt followed by LaMichael James and Kenyon Barner to De’Athony Thomas. Stewart and Blunt are prototypal NFL-type big backs, while James, Barner and Thomas are little guys (compared to Stewart and Blunt.)
The key ingredient seemed to be speed, toughness and durability. Plus they had to be disciplined in running between the tackles and break the habits of running to the outside like they may have been able to do in high school.
5. What type of quarterback fits best in this offense? Do you have to have a running threat?
SS: Kelly told me once that if he had Tom Brady, he’d run an offense that best utilized Brady’s skills (meaning Kelly wasn’t married to the idea that quarterback had to be a great runner).
But if recruiting Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel (and getting verbals from both in the same class, although Manzeil de-committed and obviously ended up at Texas A&M) is any indication, the player has to have a great command and field presence and be able to make quick decisions.
6. Oregon has in the past used multi-position threats at WR/RB. What kind of players fit best in that role?
SS; A playmaker that has speed and is able to catch the ball is best fit. Easy to say, hard to find but looking at who Chip Kelly went after, guys like De’Anthony Thomas and Braylon Addison we see very versatile athletes, capable of playing many positions including on defense.
The key to everything Chip Kelly did at Oregon was on the practice field more than in a game. The first thing Kelly did was to recruit players willing to buy into what he was selling, then were willing to practice in the uptempo, fast paced environment of repetition.
Kelly practiced everything, including how the team would run out of the tunnel at before the game. The coaching staff paid attention to every detail from making sure the jersey was tucked in to the helmet being strapped.
In recruiting Kelly said he got the best players; he never said he got the best available players or the best players that fitted his scheme – but the best players and that was the key to his success.