Art Briles/Baylor Notes and Podcast News

First, a quick write up regarding my trip to Baylor last week, which I’ll get into more on the podcast that will be coming this weekend. 


My apologies for those waiting on #MooresLaw2, but I spent much of my time in Texas taking notes and actually preparing the format that I’m going to use for the podcast. I needed the bit of a brain break that I got over the last two weeks in Texas. With all the stuff I have going on right now trying to finish Caponomics and launch a podcast at the same time, while still trying to create some articles for Over The Cap, I needed to get out of Jersey, get off the computer and experience somewhere else. 

I’ve finally created a bit of a format for myself on the podcast and you can expect a lot more Caponomics on this podcast as I’ve started to use my personal notes for the podcast as a place where I gather the notes for each team that I will use throughout the year to project things and then look back after the season. Andrew Wright, my awesome Aussie apprentice, is in the process of putting together the 2015 Excel sheets for every team, which will help me get deeper into the Caponomics conversations.

This podcast should take off with all the Caponomics stuff we can discuss, so I really look forward to sharing this with you. There are many other issues we’ll get into, but I’m excited to start at Caponomics.

If you want to be a part of the Caponomics and #MooresLaw podcast e-mail list, e-mail Caponomics at Gmail(dot)com.

If you work for an NFL, college team (or even another sport), please feel free to contact me regarding meeting if you’re coming to the NYC area to play the Jets, Giants, Patriots, Eagles, etc. I’ve been having wonderful conversations with various teams the last few months and it’s been great to exchange ideas with some NFL minds that I really, really admire. So if you’d be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee, I’m usually available to meet.
As I told someone recently, in the process of writing this Caponomics book and developing these ideas, I want to talk to people in NFL front offices, so that I can figure out if some ideas that I have line up with what real decision makers are thinking.
Of course, I won’t write about what we discuss on here, I’m just looking to take advantage of the opportunity to meet people who are going to make me smarter.

Art Briles and Baylor’s Offense…

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Baylor’s McLane Stadium is a beautiful setting and has just the most picturesque view from the upper deck. Was a wonderful day for a game last Saturday.

Man, that was a lot of fun to watch on Saturday as Baylor gave West Virginia a real beat down in the third quarter that reminded me of the offense that Tweeder or whoever drew up in Varsity Blues. They even use a big guy like they used Billy Bob. Seriously…is Varsity Blues about Art Briles?

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So this was the basic formation that Baylor used to pull away in the third quarter, the one that reminds me of Varsity Blues and that spread formation they used with four on one side and Tweeder on the other, taking advantage of a one-on-one match-up as the team’s best receiver.

This created “constraint” plays of a bubble or smoke screen to the three receiver side, a read option by the quarterback and running back with a guy like Corey Coleman facing someone one-on-one on the outside. So in this formation, Seth Russell has three or four options of what to do with the football. He can throw to the three receiver side, he can hand it off, keep it or throw to Coleman, or someone else, one-on-one.

Russell even became the only Baylor QB other than RG3 to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 on the day as spread formations like this one allow him to take off for huge runs. This is the future of the spread offense, formations that S P R E A D the defense and allow you to gash them in the holes that are created with the athletes you have on the field.

What I love to do with coaches now after this offseason of Caponomics study is study their history, so I looked at Art Briles, someone I didn’t know much about and found a gold mine of information that allows me to start to put myself in his shoes and try to imagine how he developed his offensive system and philosophies. Most of this comes from his Wikipedia

  • Started at Stephenville High School in 1988 in Texas and the school used to never make the playoffs because they were in the same area as Brownwood who was a powerhouse at the time. Stephenville has made the playoffs ever since 1990.
  • He won four state titles at Stephenville in 1993, 94, 98 and 99 with a 135-29-2 record there.
  • His teams set offensive records…
    • His 1993 team had 89 rushing touchdowns, while his ’94 team had 96, which was second and third all-time in American high school football, but they were still far behind the 1975 team from Big Sandy High School in Upshur County, Texas who had 114 rushing touchdowns. (Fun fact: Lovie Smith is a Big Sandy alumni)
    • His 1998 team posted 8,664 yards of total offense, which broke a 73-year old national record of 8,588 yards set by Pine Bluff High School (Pine Bluff, Arkansas) in 1925.
  • According to Wikipedia and the sources they used, Briles adapted to the spread offense in the late 1990s and is credited as one of the coaches who introduced the spread to Texas. One of his longtime assistants, Larry Moorehead is quoted as saying, “I saw how [Briles] went from running a wishbone offense to a multiple offense that used the shotgun and different kinds of snaps. When he began running the spread in Stephenville, he really put defenses in a bind.”
  • After his fourth state championship, Briles joined Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech and, as the running backs coach, Tech’s rushing average increased every year he was there from 66.4 yards per game in his first year to 99.6 per game in 2002. The very first player he recruited to Tech was Wes Welker.
  • In 2003, he took the head coaching gig at the University of Houston for a program that had an 8-26 record under the previous coach and had gone 0-11 just two seasons before Briles arrived. He helped develop Houston into a respectable program and was hired by Baylor in late November 2007 to rebuild a program that had not had a winning season since 1995, and had won a total of 11 games in 12 years of Big 12 play. He led Baylor to their first bowl game in 15 years by his third season.

Here’s a great Sporting News article on the Baylor offense by Matt Hayes, with some great takeaways below:

  • “For decades the thought process of winning football revolved around imposing your defensive will on the opponent while dictating tempo and style of the game. You know, grind it out, I’m tougher than you He-Man stuff.”
  • “It’s how much can you score?” says West Virginia coach Dan Holgorsen, whose team gave up 62 points to Baylor last weekend. “You’re going to have to outscore them because eventually they’re going to get some stops defensively. I don’t know how you defend them.”…The very thought of it makes old school football minds want to puke, when in reality, it should make everyone rejoice. The game is now more than banging heads and trading blows; it’s about skill and scheme and coaching and exposing weaknesses more than ever…It’s about this fantastic offense that Art Briles has built in his eight years in Waco, an idea that has grown each season while he recruits and develops specific pieces for a system that, finally, has no flaw.
  • A few years ago, it was all about just giving RG3 the ball and having him make a play, then Hayes points out how under Nick Florence and Bryce Petty, the passing game became more dangerous within the pocket and the offensive line grew with it. Hayes writes that Briles now has his best pure thrower in Seth Russell, throwing to his most talented group of receivers he’s had there with his best running back yet in Shock Linwood behind the best offensive line they have ever had. Hayes writes that one AFC scout told him this week, “Everyone on that offense will get drafted — three or four in the first round, almost all in the first two days.”
    • Along with teams like Ohio State with Urban Meyer among others, the best players coming out of college football right now are spread prepared! Eventually, ALL of the best quarterbacks coming out every year are going to be quarterbacks who are more comfortable in the spread offense or some variation of it. An example of some offenses that have that spread feel to it are those Saints, Patriots, and Packers types of offenses that aren’t spread offenses, but use some of the foundational philosophies. So with the Patriots and Packers especially, while they don’t run the spread, they’re great organizations that knew that, while they weren’t going to run the spread because they already had a pretty good system in place, they did incorporate it.
    • This is why I’m so high on Chip Kelly and the Eagles. In Caponomics, you’ll see why I’m such a big supporter of the head coach also being the general manager, or at least the player personnel guy, because the head coach should know better than anyone else what he needs for his system. With that said, Kelly is one of about five or six teams running the spread in 2015 and he’s been developing it for basically his entire career. No one knows their system, and in turn what their system needs, more than Kelly does. This puts him at a massive advantage to start and then, when you add in the fact that there is an excess supply of spread ready offensive talent entering the NFL every year, his advantage gets even larger.
  • Hayes writes how the Baylor “wideouts line up at the numbers to create a natural separation of the defense,” which is another solid point. He writes how the QB can make every throw and the offensive line has so much experience and power that they excel in both pass and run, which leaves the defense with the “pick your poison” option.
  • “WVU opted to stop Linwood and the run game. Baylor countered by spreading receivers to the numbers and getting individual matchups — where Coleman, KD Cannon and Jay Lee will consistently win those battles. Russell throws with so much velocity and on time, the WVU secondary had no chance.
    So WVU dropped more in coverage, and Baylor responded by running Linwood and Russell. It’s a vicious cycle with no real end game.
    Or as Briles says about defense — including his — in the Big 12: “You can bob and weave, but eventually, you’re going to get hit.””
  • “They have done a nice job of amassing talent to compete for a national title. I’ve played in both (SEC and Big 12), and both are very talented — and (Baylor) is as good as any team I’ve played in any of those conferences.” – David Beaty, Kansas HC

So taking in the ideas from both the Wikipedia on his background and then that second article, it leads me into the conversation about how a coach creates his system and why I find that to be so important to know their back story, so you can understand what they’re trying to build. With all that information, we know that Briles started as a more run oriented offensive guy, but was able to see the potential in the spread all the way back in the 1990s. While he surely became more of a passing coach when he moved to the spread, that emphasis on running proves to be really the key to all of the successful spreads of 2015. As I’ve said many times before, the West Coast spreads defenses horizontally, the Air Coryell spreads them vertically and the spread spreads them in every direction. To take advantage of a defense that is spread in every direction, you have to be able to run the football and having a mobile quarterback only adds to the craziness and the stress that’s on a defense.

Another interesting aspect of Texas college football? Considering the competition within the state for recruits, every college team has their own thing, their own thing that entices recruits. It’s a very interesting example of competition.

There is much more to discuss regarding Baylor’s offense and what Art Briles has built there, so I hope you’ll tune in and listen to #MooresLaw2! I’ll be digging into what this all means for Briles, Baylor, the Big 12, Texas football, and so much more. Really looking forward to diving into the audio format as I think it will give me a lot more freedom to explore various ideas and delve into more topics than I could ever get to here.

I look forward to sharing this with you over on SoundCloud.

Tweet me: @ZackMooreNFL