What's In Store Under Dana Holgorsen?

Okay, what does it mean now that Mike Gundy has hired Dana Holgorsen to guide the offense? Think Mike Leach, a heavy dose of Mike Leach as Holgorsen has deep roots with the former Texas Tech head coach. Holgorsen played wide receiver for Leach at Iowa Wesleyan and then cut his teeth coaching with him at Valdosta State and then rejoined his mentor and coached with him from 2000 to 2007 at Tech.

Holgorsen has kept the foundation of the Leach scheme as the offensive coordinator at Houston with a few tweaks here and there.

My guess is there will be a few more tweaks at Oklahoma State, the most influenced by head coach Mike Gundy, who will stay involved in the offense and wants to see a good dose of run offense with his spread. Co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer and running backs coach Robert Gillespie could bring some influence in run game phases to the table as well.

Holgorsen will find a pair of coaches at the offensive meeting table that are very familiar with his offense. Tight end coach Doug Meacham, who likely will move to coaching inside receivers, coordinated a near exact style of offense to records as a coordinator at several smaller schools including Samford, Henderson State, and Jacksonville State.

Offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline helped Larry Fedora develop his spread offense from the offensive line standpoint at three stops working together with Fedora at Middle Tennessee State, Florida, and then Oklahoma State.

While under Gundy, including the Fedora years, the OSU offense has strived for balance of running and passing production and achieved perfect balance in an explosive offensive season in 2007.

Under Holgorsen, the Cowboys will run the football but the shift will be to passing yardage. Our guess is anywhere from 60/40 pass to as high as 70/30 pass. That would be unless there was a lot of tweaking going on, but a coordinator steeped in a system like Holgorsen normally doesn't tweak it that much.

Let's start with personnel. That will change. We already mentioned Meacham is likely to change positions and that is because the tight end won't be there. Fullbacks are likely out as well. They could be kept for specific situations but likely not.

At tight end, Justin Horton fits the mold of an inside receiver. Wilson Youman and Cooper Bassett will likely have to shift. Both played defensive end in high school making that a possibility. At fullback, Bryant Ward has become an absolute star on special teams along with being part of a dying breed (for now) as an All-Big 12 fullback. Davis Paulsen is an athletic jumbo player and should make a transition to another position. He was a star defensive player in high school.

As for the other running backs, there is typically just one on the field (F is the designate). It can be a big back or smaller scat back as both Bryce Beall (5-11, 205) and Terrance Ganaway (6-1, 225) both excelled at Houston. You have seen similar type players at Texas Tech over the years.

Receivers, receivers and receivers should expect to see playing time, as there are four and sometimes five on the field at times. They are divided up into outside and inside receiver groups with outside being the speed merchants that can fly, while the inside guys are typically the bigger, more physical type of receivers. The offense helps with match ups. It is precise and receivers have to avoid being bumped off routes. We'll get into that more later.

The screams of joy heard Friday may have been coming from 26-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden, who fits this offense perfectly, if he learns it well. He has a big arm, quick release, and if you add good decision-maker you have a quarterback for this offense.

Mobile quarterbacks are not to be discouraged as Case Keenum ran at Houston and incoming quarterbacks Nate Sorenson and Johnny Deaton can fit, succeed, and have fun in this offense. It does adapt to different quarterbacks, but they do have to be able to throw and make good decisions.

The offensive line stays the same. In fact, the athletic, leaner type of linemen that Oklahoma State has been recruiting under Wickline are the preferred linemen for this offense. The ability to move forward and backward is imperative for the offensive line in this system. Now, think bigger splits at times.

Here's a look at what the offensive depth chart in spring and for next season would have looked like and how it will POSSIBLY change with Dana Holgorsen's arrival.

Previous Offensive Depth Chart
QB: Brandon Weeden, Johnny Deaton or Nate Sorenson (summer frosh)
RB: Kendall Hunter, Jeremy Smith
FB: Bryant Ward, David Paulsen
TE: Wilson Youman, Justin Horton or Cooper Bassett
WR: Michael Harrison, Chris Dinkins
WR: Tracy Moore, Josh Cooper
WR: Justin Blackmon, Dameron Fooks
LT: Nick Martinez, Parker Graham
LG: Jonathan Rush, Casey LaBrue or Patrick Hoog
C: Grant Garner, Brandon Webb
RG: Lane Taylor, Casey LaBrue or Patrick Hoog
RT: Levy Adcock, Parker Graham

Prospective New Offensive Depth Chart
QB: Brandon Weeden, Johnny Deaton or Nate Sorenson (summer frosh)
F back: Kendall Hunter, Jeremy Smith, Travis Miller, Dexter Pratt
Outside Receivers
X receiver: Hubert Anyiam, Michael Harrison, Kevin Johnson (summer frosh)
Z receiver: Isaiah Anderson, Justin Blackmon, Chris Dinkins (summer frosh)
Inside Receivers
H receiver: Tracy Moore, Dameron Fooks, Adrian Richards
Y receiver: Josh Cooper, Justin Horton
LT: Nick Martinez, Parker Graham
LG: Jonathan Rush, Casey LaBrue or Patrick Hoog
C: Grant Garner, Brandon Webb
RG: Lane Taylor, Casey LaBrue or Patrick Hoog
RT: Levy Adcock, Parker Graham

From a scheme standpoint, you know the drill with Texas Tech and it will be the same with this offense. There are not that many plays, but they are run out of different formations and looks. Many of the plays have options that are based on reads that the receivers and the quarterbacks have to make correctly together.

Remember some of those interceptions teams make against Texas Tech and you say to yourself, 'Nobody was out there, who was the quarterback throwing to?' That is a misread by somebody where the quarterback and receiver saw it different and the ball was thrown up for grabs.

Option routes are huge in this offense and the need for repetition in running the plays and running them against different looks from the defense is critical. Everybody has to be on the same page or mistakes happen, and you get beat. Not every route is an option route but many are.

The field gets used vertically and, most important, horizontally. There are all kinds of screens, to receivers and to backs. There are slants, inside and outside. Out routes, in routes, posts, corners, and a curl or two included as the defense gets stretched. This cuts down on a lot of coverage options. It can also help in keeping defensive backs honest, limit press coverage, although teams that can press will because bumping receivers off routes and upsetting timing can really be a problem.

As for the running game, draws, zones, zone read options, and pitch sweeps all fit easily. This is where I will be interested in watching as I could expect to see Holgorsen get some encouragement to fatten this portion of the playbook to include some two-back and some other run looks to the offense. Speed option is always a hit with a mobile quarterback.

There is a quick guess. It will be interesting to get a chance to speak with Holgorsen and see what his expectations are in the new relationship and the new Cowboys offense with him in Stillwater.

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