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OFD Round Table: Brian Kelly's Offense, 2014 Edition‏

We recently began a discussion on what the offensive identity will be this fall. Not surprisingly, there were a couple of different opinions.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We offer our readers another look behind the scenes this week with a recent discussion on what we think the 2014 offense might look like.  The discussion started after reading different opinions on the role that Corey Robinson would take this fall-starter or back-up, featured receiver or specialist?


Consensus appears to be that this year's offense will look more like the 2012 offense with more shots down-field.  Does this sound right?

Personally, I think Kelly has been recruiting and building to something like that--but not exactly.  Maybe it is too much wishful thinking, but the amount of cross-training the backs and slot receivers get leads me to the following hypothesis:  I think BK wants to get to the point where he can run the whole play book with a single group of guys (thus not needing substitutions during a series).

It is more of a take-what-the-defense-gives you approach that couldn't fully be implemented with a RS Freshman QB (2012) or a "limited" QB (2013).  Defense goes heavy--spread everyone out with 4 or 5 receivers.  Defense goes to a nickel package--go to a power offense.  It requires RBs who can double as receiving threats in the slot, TEs who can block and catch, and receivers who are good-to-great blockers.  No more telegraphing plays based on package.

Does this make sense?  Is this what others are thinking?  Just curious...


I saw at least one screen run in the practice recaps so far.  While I'm sure there will be some deep shots, it seemed that one of the few routes the staff trusted Tommy Rees to throw was the deep fade on the sideline.  To me, the question is whether or not the offense will finally be allowed to work the center of the field in the screen/crossing game with the occasional deep post worked in.  They seem to have a fabulous mix of the tight quarters guys like Amir, CBreezy, and Folston to compliment the "just throw it up there" skills of Catch Radius and Daniels.  Throw in Fuller and CBreezy's ability to occasionally blow the top off the offense, and you seem to have all the elements of a potent passing game.  The big question is how do we see the deep/short/screen mix playing out.


Agreed Jim, that would be the perfect world and I think it's what BK is working towards. The running backs are such X factors right now. I really think their development and versatility are key to what happens on offense this year.

Could be very exciting!


After re-watching the USC highlights from 2012, the majority of the passes were working the middle of the field.  I think ignoring that area was a Tommy Rees-specific thing due to his inability to put any velocity on the ball.  I think we see more passes over the middle with Golson.  This still may not be as many as some (or most) would like--but that might be due to Golson's height and ability to read over the middle with the OL in front of him.

I think identity is important, but look at what Floyd did in 2010 and 2011.  He was the best player on the offense and he was showcased as such.  It also helps that he was a complete receiver--something that still doesn't exist in this team (although Jones was pretty good last year).

Someone posted recently (can't remember who) about BK having his kind of QB only twice in the last five seasons, and those teams went 24-1.  This is his third season with his kind of QB.  I agree it will be interesting to watch and will be disappointed if they don't approach 35 ppg on the offense.  That seems like a lofty goal, but the talent is there.  The one thing keeping them back will be the schedule and opposing defenses.


Just to put some topspin on that last point.  This is the first camp where the only difference between the QB's getting reps is right-hand/left-hand, the overall physical profile is similar enough not to create the "2 play books" situation - as BK pointed out in an FIDM video.


RE: staying away in the middle. As a former high school coach we had many QBs with limited arm strength. In those cases the fade or 8 pattern were our go to deep pass. You can throw those effectively with limited arm strength.


Me, Jim! It was me! And it's not even just having his guy, it was Collaros, Pike and Golson, who are all different but share the quality of not being Rees of Crist.

I'm all in at this point, I can't wait to throw Larz's well-reasoned post from this week back in his face when we are 14-0.


14-0! 14-0!

#HeismanWinnerEverrettGolson #Whoooooo

Punter Bro:

If it was me, it would've said #Brindza4Heisman

Paul Rigney:

It's easy to look at the arsenal of weapons on this season's squad and figure that our offensive output is going to boost, but where is the conundrum.  Looking at the offensive yardage output under CBK yields the following data:


Pass: 3290

Run: 1646


Pass: 3284

Run: 2085


Pass: 2896

Run: 2462


Pass: 3313

Run: 1963

Logic would indicate a hypothesis based on the idea that a balanced offense would result in more wins would seem to hold true. Under the Rees Regime, we threw a lot more than we ran, likely due to the lack of Tommy's scrambling ability as well as the lack of an established runner in 2013 and a QB rotation in 2010.  That said, it's pretty obvious that the offense was much more balanced under Golson and I'd expect to see that again.

One stat that completely blew my mind--did you know that the yards per play by our offense has improved every year? Yes, even under Tommy and all the craziness.  In 2010, we averaged 5.5 YPP, 2011 was 5.9, 2012 was 6.0 and last season was 6.1.  I'd like to see us continue this trend and fully expect to do so, though not in the ways we are accustomed to seeing.

If Golson can stay upright and has matured enough in his decision-making, we will see a pretty dynamic offense this fall that is going to air it out.  As a result, I'm expecting our YPP to get upwards of 6.5 yards per play.

With the loss of Niklas, I expect the slot #3 receiver to pick up more touches ahead of Koyack.  Like Jim, I think we will see a larger focus on TEs that are able to block as well as catch. While Niklas and Eifert were strong blockers, their forte was catching the ball. I think our TEs will be more balanced. We've seen glimpses from Koyack, but I think the real dark horse is going to be Smythe. Will he be able to get up to speed though?

I'm not as sold on our running game as some may be. While I ranked Bryant and Folston high in our player rankings, I think our WRs are going to be the playmakers this year. I think we will see career numbers out of Daniels, Brown and Robinson. The slot WR (Prosise, Fuller, ?) will also see a good share of opportunities. TJ Jones was far and away the leading receiver on the team last year, which means that the WR tandem we have while experienced, are pretty untested in the "old reliable" role. Which WR will be Golson's go-to?

Coming back to my original point, our RBs are simply too green. Bryant was a nonfactor and Folston had only 88(!) carries on the season. As much as fans like his beautiful face, McDaniel is not the answer. Heck, he isn't even a Theo-lite to me. His 4.6 yards per carry actually brought the overall offensive yardage averages down.

That said, I'm excited about how the dynamics of the offense will change this year. We might have the same frustrations this year that we had last year with Tommy, but the sheer amount of playmakers in skill positions give us all a little hope that those frustrations will be at a minimum.


Just to take it back to the central thesis - I disagree that Brian Kelly's offensive philosophy has been inconsistent.

He runs a vertical passing game combined with a power-style running game from the spread formation. I personally don't put much stock into what % of the time he runs vs. passes the ball - that is going to (and should) change against every opponent. The biggest difference we will see with EG vs Rees from last year will be working the deep middle third of the field, a throw that Rees had to be perfect to make. EG has the little bit extra arm strength to have a bigger window on those throws since they get there quicker.

Add in the zone read stuff which BK has always wanted to run, and we finally have the full picture of what CBK has always wanted to run here at ND since day 1.

Personally, I would take the efficiency we had last season and simply increase our red zone efficiency as a great success.

Long story short, don't change anything about your core offensive philosophy, CBK. You've finally got the horses to run exactly what you want.

On the running game, I don't care who you have back there carrying the ball, you put them behind an offensive line like ND's should be this season, and they should be able to get the tough yards. ESPECIALLY with the threat of zone read back in the mix.

Paul Rigney:

Part of the success of Zone Read though is the offensive awareness of the quarterback.

If Golson is able to discern on a consistent basis when to keep the ball and when to give, you'll see it work (2012 Oklahoma) If he struggles, you'll see something that resembles the Andrew Hendrix Experience from last season against USC.