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Reader Rewind: Thoughts On USF's Offense


I like the conversations our readers have with us on the posts we write. We're fortunate to get a lot of thought-out opinions and questions in the comments here. Sometimes I see one that I want to respond to in depth, but I don't have time to drop everything and answer it with the amount of care it deserves.

So that's the point of Reader Rewind. This will be an occasional series where I riff on comments in our posts, or tweets that people send me (that's @usfvoodoo5, if you're not following yet). In fact, Twitter is the source of our first Reader Rewind.

OK, let's start with the first question. Offensive coordinators get so much scorn from college football fans, because no one ever wants to blame the players for anything. So the coaches have to take the heat by proxy. Some of that is deserved, because they helped recruit the players, so it's sort of their fault if this is the best those players can do. But what are they supposed to do when they call the right play at the right time, and then someone drops a pass or misses a block and the whole thing fails?

That has to be considered any time you talk about an ineffective offense. I wrote this with the Buffalo-Kent State game on ESPNU in the background. Buffalo looked absolutely horrible, but when your quarterback goes 4-for-22, there's only so much blame the offensive coordinator should take.

Structurally, Todd Fitch's offense is actually pretty good, for the most part. It's rare that they go more than a quarter or so without having any idea how to move the ball. The only three games where USF scored less than 10 points in Skip Holtz's tenure were Miami last year, when B.J. Daniels got hurt in the third quarter, and Syracuse and West Virginia in 2010, games where Daniels executed as badly as any USF quarterback ever has. Between the 20s, it's usually effective.

To me, Fitch's glaring weakness is at the goal line. If they can't run the ball into the end zone, they're probably going to have to kick a field goal. We all joke about fade routes to infinity, but it's totally true because they hardly ever throw the ball anywhere else near the end zone. Either they're trying very hard to avoid turnovers, or they don't trust Daniels to throw into tight passing lanes (which is a pretty heavy indictment since he's been starting since 2009). I thought the biggest disappointment of the Evan Landi bobble/INT last week was that they did something different at the goal line, and it should have worked but didn't. It was good process, bad outcome, and I worry that Fitch and Holtz will focus more on the bad outcome than the good process and go back to the fades that just don't work.

The rest of the questions after the jump.

The next question, about Matt Floyd. It's not necessarily a bad thing if you have a simplistic offense, or one that's easy to learn. Dana Holgorsen famously insists that he can install his entire Air Raid offense in three days, and no one's complained about the results he's gotten out of it. That scheme works because everyone is taught well and they repeat it constantly in practice. They know exactly what they're doing on every play. (Also, it's a really good scheme.)

You don't want to get too complicated with a college offense because it's not like the NFL. As coaches, you only get a certain number of hours with the players every week. And obviously, the whole roster turns over every four years. That's why the West Coast offense hasn't caught on at the college level -- it takes too long to install. I think you're better off teaching college players a less complicated scheme and drilling it to perfection. You can add some variations on the theme, but you don't want to go overboard.

For Floyd specifically saying that he picked up the offense quickly, there are a few possibilities. One is that they've limited the offensive sets they teach him to fit the things he can do well right now. Another is that he's just naturally smart and readily picked it up. I think we can eliminate the "offense is easy" possibility because the offense has changed significantly from 2010 to 2011 to 2012 -- there are a lot of formations and concepts in there, even if some of them go unused for long stretches of time. It's that reason that makes me hesitate to say the offense is predictable (other than at the goal line). When things aren't going right, it's usually bad execution, or Skip messing up the game management, or something just plain weird, like the whole "B.J.'s hands were too dry" fiasco in Connecticut last year.

Now then, the last comment. Coaches say their teams aren't ready to compete at a certain level every August when fall practice starts. Every coach says that. How often do you hear the words "we got a lot of things to work on" or "there's a long way to go" come out of a football coach's mouth, even after the season starts? Even Nick Saban says things like that, and he's got himself a fully operational football Death Star. Some of it is pure coachspeak, but I don't think any coach comes out for the first game feeling like they're ready to roll and everything their team does is going to be really crisp and clean.

The problem is if you get into November and your team still isn't ready to compete at whatever certain level you want to compete at. Especially if you've been there a few years and had time to bring in your own recruits and set up your own system, like Skip has. If that's the case with USF this season, and this team's still messing up all over the field at the end of the year, our tone is going to be a lot different in December than it is right now. But there are still nine games left this season. Let's see what happens first.