Evolution of an Offense - and Coach, Part III

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders sat down with new Tar Heel offensive coordinator John Shoop to talk about Shoop's past and his future plans for the UNC offense. Check back each week for the next segment of this multi-part feature.

(Read: Part I, Part II )


The past experiences of John Shoop, the schemes he's coached in before and his mentors in those schemes, all will have an impact on the type of offense that Shoop favors at North Carolina. However, the type of offense favored by Butch Davis and the input of the other members of the offensive staff will also impact the final product.

As noted in Part II of this series, what the UNC quarterback does well will influence the offense, but the type of offense favored by Butch Davis during the time he was at Miami is a point of reference for Shoop, guided by his own experience as well as Davis' influence. "We see the game very similarly, Coach Davis and I, and I think that's one of the reasons I'm here," Shoop says.

Davis was the defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys, and later the defensive coordinator, during the time Norv Turner directed the Dallas offense. "That's the offense that Coach Davis was working with (in Miami)," Shoop says. "They worked together in Dallas, and that was kind of a connection to Coach Davis - through Norv."

Davis has stated the principles he favors on offense:

  • "We want to be able to throw the football and get big-time plays down the field and make good plays in the passing game."
  • "By the same token we want to be able to run the football. I think you have to be able to run the football to win and run it successfully. Not only when you want to run, but when to have to run it, and when you need to run it."
  • "We want to have an identity offensively."

    These concepts – stated in their most basic form - are the staples of a Norv Turner-directed offense. Turner's offenses are offshoots of the offenses of Don Coryell at San Diego State and at the San Diego Chargers, which were themselves an adaptation of the type of offenses run by Sid Gillman in the 1960s. Ernie Zampese was Coryell's offensive coordinator in both places, and Turner was a receiver's coach for the Los Angeles Rams while Zampese was the offensive coordinator there under John Robinson. When Jimmy Johnson was hired as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he tabbed Turner as his offensive coordinator.

    What are the specifics of a Coryell/Turner offense?

  • It is a "stretch-the-field vertically" offense; the idea here is to conflict the assignments of the defense in terms of choosing deep coverage or close run support.
  • The receivers often run intermediate-to-long routes, to augment the deep passing strategy.
  • The QB takes more five- and seven-step drops, because three-step drops doesn't allow the receivers enough time to get deep.
  • It emphasizes maximum pass protection, to protect the QB until the receivers get open downfield.
  • It is committed to the power running game. The idea being that the running game opens up opportunities for big downfield completions, and vice versa.

    Much of what Shoop says about offense echoes these concepts. "We want to be able to run it when we want to and we want to be able to run the ball when we have to," Shoop says. "We're going be an explosive offense in that we are going to create a conflict of assignment (for the defense) off those runs. We're going to get the ball down field."

    There is no question that Shoop and Davis envision the final product on offense similarly, as they talk about the importance of the exact same concepts. "At the end of spring ball, the most important thing is for us to come out of the deal feeling like we know what we're going do well as a team and develop our identity over these fifteen practices in the spring," Shoop says.

    The other coaches on the offensive side of the ball will also be involved in the process, according to Shoop, "All of us are going to be involved. Certainly, it's not just one person's offense – it's all of ours. When I was searching for a job, those guys were already hired. That was one of the attractions."

    "I coached against Charlie (Williams) and Steve (Hagen) for some time – they've both been in the NFL," Shoop continued, "I knew Sam (Pittman) by reputation, he was just outside of Chicago while I was up there. And, in fact, he went up and visited us some in Chicago. I never worked with him or played against him, but I knew who he was.

    "I welcome their knowledge and need it. It's going to take all of us to get this thing right. And, I think there's pretty good chemistry among us as well. We all have a deep respect for one another and we all genuinely seem to like one another, which [you can] never underestimate that in this profession."

    To this point, we've seen the influences that have shaped Shoop as a coordinator, those that will impact him at UNC, and learned about the type of offense he's most likely to favor. In Part IV of this series, we'll take a look at how Shoop views the personnel on the UNC roster and how they might fit into the plans for the UNC offense.

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