On Campus: Big 12 Taking Flight

"Three yards and a cloud of dust" has officially been placed on the endangered species list. Troy Davis, Ricky Williams, Darren Sproles, Cedric Benson, and even Byron Hanspard dominated the Big 12 conference on the ground. But that was sooooo five years ago.

It is evident the Big 12 has now entered the era of aerial attacks. Counters have been replaced with corner routes, dives with digs and student body right with spread em' out and screen.

         

Mike Leach's once gimmicky spread and score offense, has ravaged through the conference like the virus in the movie "Outbreak."

 

In the past two seasons Bill Callahan implemented the much ballyhooed West Coast offense; Texas, with help from Vince Young, used more of a spread attack, and Iowa State ended the year almost exclusively in the shotgun. By the end of the year, very few of the old, "punch them in the mouth" guard remained.

 

And in the dawn of a new football year, the virus is spreading.

 

Victim #1: Baylor. 

 

After struggling to find wins in their first 10 years in the conference (8 total) with a traditional look, Guy Morriss has called in the circus clowns. In the off-season he hired offensive coordinator Lee Hays and quarterback coach Wes Phillips, both from West Texas A&M of Division II. Hays spent copious amounts of his time at West Texas taking road trips to Lubbock to talk tricks with Mike Leach. The WTAM Buffaloes averaged over 350 yards a game through the air, most in D-II.

 

"I think it's something that we're going to have to do for the next couple of years to level the field," Baylor coach Guy Morriss said. "It's a system you can operate and be successful with, without having the ready-made player coming out of high school like the Texas' and Oklahomas are getting," Morriss said.

 

If you can't beat them you might as well trick them. It's a wonder why Baylor didn't implement this system a little earlier.

 

"You know it's pretty easy, really. It's about like falling off a log. The quarterback finds you and you get the football. You just have to be willing to chuck the ball 50 and 60 times a game," Morriss said.

 

Easy enough.

 

But Baylor isn't the only team bit by the "chuck the football" bug. Kansas State and Colorado both have new coaches with philosophies centered on the leather taking flight.

 

"It's becoming a much wider game, teams recommend embracing three and four wide receiver formations, and what they're accomplishing now by having a terrific play-making dual-threat quarterback, is you are essentially playing with 12 people on the field," Kansas State head coach Ron Prince said.   

 

The Wildcats plan to use more of an NFL type offense, rather than the quarterback-run heavy offense utilized under Bill Snyder. Poor Bill can join the list of former coaches who saw their traditional system blown to pieces. So can Gary Barnett. 

 

Dan Hawkins' Boise State teams averaged over 280 yards a game passing the past five years and well over 40 points a game. His goal is to get that same high-powered attack up and running in the Rockies.

 

"We're a long ways away," Hawkins said. "We're in a place where you develop a space shuttle where there's a lot of buttons and knobs you can to fly your ship. And we've got to continue to work to add those buttons and knobs and features to our ship."

 

Fly away, Dan. Fly away.

 

With the added emphasis on the pass, teams are forced to adjust. Texas A&M went as far to switch their base defense from a traditional three linebacker set to only two at linebacker and five in the secondary.

 

"By the end of last season, we were playing in nickel coverage on most snaps anyway, so we decided to make it permanent," Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione said

 

Beware scoreboard operators, more points are on the way. With young, hyped quarterback arms emerging like Kerry Meier at Kansas, Chase Daniel at Missouri, Bobby Reid at Oklahoma State, and Stephen McGee at Texas A&M the passing yards are sure to follow.

 

That is until Mike Leach sets a new trend.

 

"I'm kind of looking forward to the wishbone showing up. It's a pretty good offense," Leach said.

 

And he was dead serious. Leave it to Mike Leach to bring back the wishbone.

 

Where are Jim Walden and Bob Utter when you need them?              


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