Vikings turned to college coach for advice

Vikings QB coach Scott Turner talked about his visit with new Montana coach Bob Stitt, who is known for his offensive innovation (photo of Scott Turner by Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

The Minnesota Vikings’ offense is expected to take a big step forward this year.

There are several reasons for that thinking. They were 27th in overall offense in the NFL last year, proving there is plenty of room for improvement. They are getting Adrian Peterson back after a 15-game forced absence in 2014. They added deep threat Mike Wallace. And there is the belief that Teddy Bridgewater will improve from a roundly impressive rookie season at quarterback.

But there is an ace in the hole, one that the Vikings only want to talk about in general terms.

Quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, the son of long-time and well-respected offensive coordinator Norv Turner, took an offseason visit to Montana, of all the off-the-beaten-NFL-path places, to add some wrinkles to the Vikings offense.

Turner went to the University of Montana to visit Bob Stitt, their new head coach whose offensive innovation has been gaining credence over time.

“We study a lot of different guys. I went up to Montana just because he is someone I’ve read about doing some new things offensively, just stuff that kind of we’ve tinkered with,” Scott Turner said. “It’s just another voice, another idea, something that can help us gain some yards and score some points.

“We’re starting to incorporate some things we’ve learned from a bunch of people. We are doing some of that stuff and the hope for us is to gain an advantage.”

Stitt started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Northern Colorado in 1989 with stops at Doane College, Austin College and Harvard before getting his first chance as a head coach at the Colorado School of Mines in 2000, where he coached for 15 years before taking the job at Montana in December.

There, he amassed a 108-62 record with a fast-paced offense that produced nearly 90 plays, 520 yards and 40 points per game in 2014.

Stitt had been gaining recognition for his ability to create throwing lanes without elite athletes at receiver, giving his quarterback options to get rid of the ball quickly, and getting misdirection success in the running game with one-back sets (which might be one reason the Vikings were so willing to move on without fullback Jerome Felton).

“It puts your quarterback in a situation where he can make decisions based on what the defense is doing and gain an advantage,” Turner said. “I don’t want to go into too much detail just because I think it’s something that can help us. It’s just something new and different, really.”

Stitt has already influenced several major programs in college football – West Virginia and Texas A&M among them – with his advice and offensive philosophies, and now it appears his influence will be felt in Minnesota.

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