Offensive Breakdowns: Baylor

Note: this post of mine originally appeared on r/footballstrategy

Baylor has one of the most explosive offenses in college football. The Bears, under coach Art Briles, have become one of the power programs in college football over the last five years, and the most noticeable culprit for this rise to power has been Art Briles’ offense.

Briles’ offense is a bit of a homemade creation, first honed during his high school days at Stephenville HS in Texas. He then went to Houston and further honed this attack during his 5 years there, before finally coming to Baylor in 2008.

Splits and Spacing

Baylor’s offense depends upon it’s wide splits, which can throw you off when you first start watching them. They take the idea of a “spread” offense to it’s logical extreme, with the flankers (or outside receivers) often below the numbers, and the slot guys also being very detached from the offensive line. The Bears use this spacing to open up the defense with their athletes — most spread teams do this, but with the way Baylor splits their receivers, the defense essentially has to put everyone on an island in quasi-man-to-man coverage; it’s really tough for opposing defenses to get safety help on at least one or two of their receivers, which means things like this happen all the time when playing the Bears.


Tempo is also central to Baylor’s scheme. The Bears were second nationally this year in play, and first nationally in plays per game. In this era, buzzwords like “up-tempo” and “playing fast” have become almost cliched, but Baylor remains dedicated to this philosophy in a program-wide sense — the whole entire football program there is dedicated to playing up-tempo and trying to scorch the opposing defense.

Running and Passing

Most people think of Baylor as a passing team, and certainly, they do like to throw the rock. However, most of their offense is built off of their running game, or at least the threat of it. During one game I charted of them in 2013 (Oklahoma), they either handed the ball off or faked a hand off about 75% of the time. They only throw off of a dropback about 25% of the time.

In short, they don’t want to dropback and throw a lot, because they think that in order to get the matchups and the looks they want in the passing game, they have to present the threat of the run, primarily to hold the safeties and linebackers from committing one way or the other. Baylor wants those guys to have to think about what they’re playing, and a defensive player that has to actively think and question his assignments is an ineffective defender.

What Playbook?

Art Briles doesn’t actually have a playbook. While it might strike you as odd that a Power 5 program doesn’t have a playbook, it’s actually by design. Briles believes that once you start needing a playbook to go over, you’ve probably got too much for your kids to remember. This bogs them down in terms of just going out there and playing football, so Briles has chosen just to install his offense without issuing his kids one.


Briles played for Bill Yeoman at Houston. Yeoman was the “inventor” of the veer offense — basically a triple option out of a split-back look (if you’re a Houston Veer guy, I’m sorry for being a heretic, but fuck you). Briles, in an interview with SB Nation, has even made mention of the fact that his offense still uses a lot of Yeoman terminology, so we have something to go on when trying to piece together what he might use to communicate with his players (see Yeoman’s 1975 Houston playbook for further detail on the veer).

Note: this is obviously not exact and is pieced together using Yeoman’s terminology and knowledge of Briles’ offense. We will use this terminology when discussing Baylor’s offense.

Note 2: Lower numbers are to the right, higher numbers are to the left. When you see 2/8 Zone in this section, it’s the same play, but it’s how it would be called to the right/left.

Numbers Series
Single Numbers Pre-determined give to RB, no read
10’s Read option play with WR screen on backside
20’s Gap scheme runs (power, counter, sweep, etc.)
30’s Man scheme run plays (isos, QB sneaks — this isn’t going to be used a lot)
40’s Flipped versions of the Single, 10’s, 20’s, and 30’s series
50’s 51/59 are screens to the receivers, 55 is a draw play, and 52-54 and 56-58 are the basic dropback passing game
60’s Open/Possibly not used
70’s Lead option series in Yeoman’s playbook/possibly not used any more
300’s Play action passes — attached to the Singles, 10’s, 20’s, 30’s and 40’s scheme.
400’s Same as 300’s, but with counter action

Base Plays

13 Bubble, or a simple inside zone with a receiver screen on the backside, is Baylor’s base play. This is a called run play, but if the numbers in the box are not favorable — i.e. the defense has 6 in the box versus only 5 run blockers — they’ll tell their QB to throw the quick screen. This keeps the defense from committing too many resources to stopping one thing. Additionally, even though this is diagrammed as 13 Bubble, there can be a number of tags added to this play to make it look like a good number of plays. For example, you could call it as 13 Now to get a screen to the outside receiver.

Additionally, they could call “15 Read Bubble” (we’re putting the back to the right this time so the QB can see if he needs to throw the bubble) to make it a sort of triple option; an inside zone read with a receiver running a bubble screen — if the QB sees the DE crashing, he pulls the ball out and takes off. If the defense overplays the QB when he takes off, he can quickly throw the bubble. This adds another layer of complexity without dedicating too much more teaching time with their scheme.

Really, this play can become about 7-8 with all the different tags that you can attach to it and all the different ways to call it. Baylor will even attach dropback passing concepts to it (primarily stick or slot slants) Guess what; you’ve just learned about 25-30% of their offense right there. They really do run a variant of that play that much.

2 Zone is simply an outside zone play with no backside call. To be honest, I haven’t seen Baylor run it that much, but considering their zone scheme, it has to be included as a base play. Baylor will generally run this with a TE or H-Back in the backfield so that they can get an extra blocker at the point of attack. The backs are reading the helmet of the TE on this play; if the helmets are facing in, they break out. If the helmets are facing out, they’ll go back inside.

20’s – Power play and it’s variants – Baylor also runs the power play as well. The only real difference is that they’ve got two or three different ways of running the power series (in which case, it’d simply be called 23). The first one is just a straight up power play with no read. This is how most pro-style teams do it.

The second way is the “power read” concept, which has become en vogue over the last 5 or so years in high school and college football. The rules are the same as the regular power, except that the frontside tackle (the side that they play is going to) is down blocking the first down lineman to his left. The QB reads the unblocked man on the line of scrimmage; if he goes to the QB, the QB will hand off to the RB. If the unblocked man flies up to stop the RB going to the outside, the QB will pull it down and get up the field.

The third way, and probably the least talked about way, is simply treating it like a zone read, with the backside tackle (the side that the play is not going to) going to block the first second level defender he finds. The QB will read the backside DE like it’s a zone read play; if the DE hesitates or slow plays the read, the QB will hand it off. If the DE crashes on the back, the QB will simply take himself and replace the DE.

Also, the power play series is much like the zone series when it comes to all the options on the backside when it comes to quick throws (ignore the “power read” text, it’s not power read play I just talked about). We’ve only really talked about 3 plays thus far, but with all the adjustments and tags they can add with this offense, you’ve really got about 30 plays here.

Play action concepts/300’s and 400’s Series – This is where Baylor does the most damage in the passing game. Baylor loves to fake the run and drop back and pass. Mostly, this is done with quick passes to the slot, like either a short post, slant, or shallow crossing route to a slot receiver. The reason they do this is to fuck with outside linebackers trying to fill to quickly on the run, thus leaving their area open in the passing game.

On the outside, it’s rare that Baylor doesn’t run either a fade/go route or a comeback route. They will usually have one-on-one coverage to the outside on the defense’s corner, so they will try and take advantage of that with one of their speedy receivers going deep. On occasion though, they’ll take their outside receiver and run a post route with him.

Dropback concepts/50’s Series – Baylor doesn’t dropback a lot, but when they do, they usually make use of one of the following concepts.

A common play they use is one where the slot receiver runs a slightly angled go route, while the flanker, or outside receiver, runs a quick slant in. This is basically a pick play, as the corner usually runs into the slot receiver when the outside receiver is running a slant route.

Another play Baylor likes to use is the old “switch” concept from the run ‘n shoot offense. The inside receiver gets an outside release, and runs a wheel route. The outside receiver gets an inside release, and runs a post route. I don’t know for sure whether they are actually reading the defense like the run-and-shoot guys did, but I do know that they do have at least the post/wheel version of this play.

Baylor also has the old reliable Four Verticals play as well (shown with the #1 to the top curling up against man). It fits in quite well with their overall scheme.

On the goalline/redzone, Baylor has a little pass play that only has one read — the TE. This is typically something they’ll do as they hurry up to the line. I suspect this is something that’s an automatic call when they hurry up near the goalline.


Really, that’s about it in terms of the base offense. It doesn’t seem like much for a FBS program, much less a top 10 program to have, but this is about 80-90% of what they run. Remember though, that Baylor is not a team that sacrifices a complete scheme for simplicity; their scheme is quite complete when it comes to options for attacking a defense and having multiple ways to do it.

Further Reading On This Offense (not already included in the write-up)

WATCH THIS OR DIE (no, not really)

Art Briles at a coaching clinic giving a general overview of his offense

Art Briles’ Stephenville HS highlight film

Baylor’s Veer Drill coaching clinic tape

Baylor’s shallow cross overview

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The Very Early 2014 SEC standings projection

Using a simple math model (last 3 years of pythagorean WP + 2014 incoming recruits), I’ve come up with a very early look at the 2014 SEC standings. Records only indicate conference record, not overall record.


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TKQ is back, and we have a computer rating system. YAY!

The title pretty much says it all. The TKQ Tri-Ratings are based on three components.

– Winning Percentage

– Margin of Victory (using Pythagorean winning percentage for this component)

– Strength of Schedule (using opponents winning percentage)

The results are then multiplied by 100 to make them go on a 1-100 point scale. An elite team will have a rating above 80, a good team will have a rating above 70, an average team will be in the 50-70 range, and a bad team will be below 50, with the worst teams in FBS in the 10-20 range.

So, without further adieu, here are the Week 9 – October 20, 2013 TKQ team tri-ratings

1. Florida State – 89.66102053
2. Alabama – 82.32437782
3. Ohio State – 81.95652323
4. Baylor – 81.46267956
5. Missouri – 80.62700613
6. Miami (FL) – 78.52960907
7. Oregon – 77.55462723
8. Louisville – 76.80448985
9. Virginia Tech – 76.64809037
10. Clemson – 75.05581246
11. Texas Tech – 74.57378388
12. Auburn – 74.28711786
13. Stanford – 73.74887866
14. Arizona State – 72.10062225
15. Oklahoma – 71.0688944
16. UCLA – 71.03897619
17. UCF – 70.54906161
18. Wisconsin – 69.66622045
19. Houston – 69.28133124
20. Michigan – 68.81719513
21. Michigan State – 68.62108293
22. Texas A&M – 68.31233445
23. Oklahoma State – 67.85680601
24. Nebraska – 67.64790477
25. Fresno State – 67.50658903

And, as a bonus TKQ’s conference Tri-Ratings.

1. SEC – 62.75260671
2. Big Ten – 61.35957397
3. ACC – 61.01389765
4. Big XII – 59.26079273
5. Pac-12 – 57.63732825
6. American – 49.79570342
7. Sun Belt – 47.01644924
8. Mountain West – 45.66594199
9. FBS Independents – 43.12391989
10. C-USA – 41.27613695
11. MAC – 37.21609554

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The “Fire Derek Dooley” Copendium

Tennessee is my favorite college football team. Thus, I feel as if I must post something that relates to Derek Dooley’s failure as head coach of my favorite team.
What the numbers say about Derek Dooley.

They say pretty much what we’ve already known about the guy for a while. His 4-18 SEC mark is the worst in the history of Tennessee football. That mark equates to an 18.2% winning percentage. His overall winning percentage, even when one takes into account his historically weak non-conference schedules, is still the worst for a coach since S.D. Crawford’s single year in 1904, and the worst for a coach who has coached multiple years at Tennessee since J.D. DePree’s 4-11-3 mark during his tenure from the years of 1905-1906.

Defensively, the 2012 team is absolutely, and historically abysmal. A stat that I have come up with called defensive rating bears this out. Defensive rating is simple; you take a team’s yards per play average and compare that to the conference’s average. 100 is the league average, the lower the number is better.

For example, if Team A has allowed an average of 5.5 yards per play, and the conference average is 5.5 yards per play, then they would have a defensive rating of 100.

(Note; there is a basketball stat that is called “defensive rating” that has a very similar look to this one)

Here are the defensive rating stats for this year. Remember, lower is a better defensive rating.

1 – Alabama – 76
2 – Florida – 78
3 – LSU – 82
4 – South Carolina – 85
5 – Georgia – 94
6 – Vanderbilt – 100
7 – Texas A&M – 101
8 – Missouri – 104
9 – Mississippi State – 105
10 – Mississippi – 106
11 – Kentucky – 108
12 – Arkansas – 113
13 – Auburn – 120
14 – Tennessee – 131

Dead last in the league, but most of you already know this. (note: this only takes into account games versus conference opponents) So, what exactly is the reason for this very bad defense? Most people will name Sal Sunseri and his much panned 3-4 defensive scheme, and I think that’s very much to blame. However, lest we not forget, the defense last year was ranked 9th in the 12 team league, and there was much talk about how badly Justin Wilcox’s defenses were on here last year at this time.

However, the view could also be argued that Dooley has quite simply failed to progress many of his defensive prospects, with some notable exceptions. This team, contrary to popular belief, is not filled with 1* and 2* guys who can’t play. Rather, they are 3* and 4* with impressive offer sheets who quite simply have not succeeded in this defensive scheme. It is quite confounding, because this unit should not be at the bottom or hovering around it in every major statistical category.

Now, if there is one thing that Dooley’s teams have been able to do, at least this year, it has been to sling it around and to have an explosive offense. To Jay Graham and to Sam Pittman, there is much credit to be due. The line and the running game has gone from having a dismal 2.76 YPC average last year (dead last in the league), to a very healthy 4.63 YPC average, which is good enough for 4th in the 14 team league. The offense, which had lagged behind the league average for two years, with offensive ratings (same as defensive ratings, except a higher number is better with OR) below 100, has jumped up to 109 this year, and the passing offense is 1st in an SEC that includes Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin’s powerful offense. That is one of the few areas I do give Dooley a fair amount of credit.

Can Dooley recruit? And can Tennessee recruit at an elite level?

Yes and no. Yes, his recruiting classes have been fair, but all of them have been below the long term (2002-2012) average in terms of star rating.

This table shows who has the highest average star rating of schools’ recruits from the years 2002 to 2012 (I did not factor in 2013 in this, due to the fact that 2013’s class is still yet to be determined).

1 – Florida – 3.68
2 – LSU – 3.59
3 – Georgia – 3.57
4 – Alabama – 3.44
5 – Tennessee – 3.43
6 – Auburn – 3.27
7 – South Carolina – 3.14
8 – Texas A&M – 3.13
9t – Mississippi – 2.97
9t – Arkansas – 2.97
11 – Missouri – 2.92
12 – Mississippi State – 2.80
13 – Kentucky – 2.53
14 – Vanderbilt – 2.24

Now, there was another poster here who posted a thread very similar to this section of my post (I cannot figure out whether he took a long term average or not). Anyways, his theory that talent is the number one thing is certainly based in fact (surprise, surprise). After I gathered these numbers, I gathered the record of all SEC schools that were in the league from 2002-2011. Here are the records for that time period.

1 – LSU – 59-21 (0.738)
2t – Florida – 55-25 (0.688)
2t – Georgia – 55-25 (0.688)
4 – Auburn – 53-27 (0.663)
5 – Alabama – 51-29 (0.638)
6 – Tennessee – 43-37 (0.538)
7 – Arkansas – 42-38 (0.525)
8 – South Carolina – 38-42 (0.475)
9 – Mississippi – 26-54 (0.325)
10 – Kentucky – 23-57 (0.288)
11 – Mississippi State – 20-60 (0.250)
12 – Vanderbilt – 15-65 (0.188)

I then took the winning percentages and lined them up with the average star ratings to see just how strong of a correlation there was between Rivals star ratings and records.

As it turns out, yes, there is a very, very strong correlation.

(The actual number that I got was 0.9239893852124414, with 1 being a perfect positive correlation, and -1 being a perfect negative correlation)

Now, firstly, I took a look at Derek Dooley’s three classes that he himself has been able to recruit — 2011, 2012, and 2013. (I did not count 2010 as one of his classes, as both he and Lane Kiffin had recruits for that class)

2011 – 3.41
2012 – 3.38
2013 – 3.24

These three classes have been pretty good, but still below the average that Tennessee has been able to accomplish over the long term. Thus, Dooley, if you believe this method of looking at things, is a very, very average recruiter.

Furthermore, I also took a look at the 4 year average (2009-2012), to get a rough idea of what kind of talent level that Tennessee is working with right now.

1t – Alabama – 3.78
1t – Florida – 3.78
3 – LSU – 3.60
4 – Georgia – 3.58
5 – Auburn – 3.49
6 – Tennessee – 3.46
7 – South Carolina – 3.22
8 – Texas A&M – 3.20
9 – Mississippi – 3.15
10 – Arkansas – 3.08
11 – Missouri – 3.07
12 – Mississippi State – 3.04
13 – Vanderbilt – 2.84
14 – Kentucky – 2.83

Now, you could easily argue that one of those classes essentially left (and that is certainly a plausible point). However, even taking that into account, Tennessee should not have a winless record in conference play in mid-November (and the same would probably go for Auburn as well).

Has Dooley ever done a good job as a head coach?

Yes, but not here. All three of his teams here have statistically performed below expectations.

So how exactly does one define expectations in a strictly statistical term? Well, for those of you who are familiar with Sabermetrics, you might have heard of a stat called Pythagorean win expectation, which takes the amount of runs a team has scored and given up, and uses that to compute an expected record to see whether a team over or underperformed that year.

The same can be done in football. I took all the teams that Derek Dooley has coached, both at Tennessee and at LaTech, and computed their Pythagorean win expectation. I also use a stat called Team Performance Index (TPI) which takes the winning percentage and divides it by the Pythagorean winning percentage. 1 is average, higher means that the team performed above expectations, lower means that the team performed below expectations.

2012 – Tennessee – 4-6 (0.400)
– Pythag Expectation – 5.14-4.86 (0.514)
– Team Performance Index – 0.78

2011 – Tennessee – 5-7 (0.417)
– Pythag Expectation – 5.26-6.74 (0.438)
– Team Performance Index – 0.95

2010 – Tennessee – 6-7 (0.462)
– Pythag Expectation – 7.07-5.93 (0.543)
– Team Performance Index – 0.85

2009 – Lousiana Tech – 4-8 (0.333)
– Pythag Expectation – 6.88-5.12 (0.573)
– Team Performance Index – 0.58

2008 – Louisiana Tech – 8-5 (0.615)
– Pythag Expectation – 6.79-6.21 (0.523)
– Team Performance Index – 1.18

2007 – Louisiana Tech – 5-7 (0.417)
– Pythag Expectation – 3.41-8.59 (0.284)
– Team Performance Index – 1.47

Lifetime TPI – 0.97
Tennessee TPI – 0.86
Louisiana Tech TPI – 1.08

According to this, Dooley’s job at Tennessee has been abysmal. His best job came with his first team in 2007, and coaching a team that should have won 3-4 games to win 5 games. He coached his 2008 squad to 8 wins, when they really should have won about 7. Aside from that, it really doesn’t get much better. The team this year is underperforming by about a win, the 2011 team performed to about average, and had he remembered how to count in Baton Rouge, he could have performed to expectation in his first year.

Is it worth it to fire Dooley right now?

Yes. A UT football game is estimated to be worth a few million dollars, and if Dooley has not been announced to be fired or resign, the Kentucky game could see as low as around a 50,000 person attendance. Using the listed ticket price of $50, that means that Tennessee will have lost $2,500,000+ in revenue from that game. No bowl game that Tennessee would get an invite to would have a purse or a payout that could satisfy that. Thus, it would be most expedient to get this whole circus over with and announce that he is no longer coming back.

This assumes though, that Dave Hart has made a final decision, of which we do not know.

Where does Tennessee stand in the new look SEC, and will Tennessee be competitive again?

Tennessee can still recruit at a level high enough to compete and win in the SEC. The stats bear that out over the long term. The right coach and the right management however, has to be there, and so far, it hasn’t been. That will change.

This era in Tennessee football has been especially bad. I mean really, really bad. Tennessee has not had an era like this in at least 30-35 years, and probably will not have one this bad for a long, long time to come.

The prospects for the future look bright, as long as the vision for what Tennessee football can be is brought to light and is implemented by whoever the new coach is.

Hopefully you have made it through this page of text and numbers without sleeping. Heck, I’m tired, and I wrote all of this stuff.

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Dolphins release Chad Ochocincojohnson

If there’s one thing the Miami Dolphins don’t like, it’s a guy hitting his wife. And to think, he was finally going to get some this season after being cut off last year.

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The Tyrann Mathieu sweepstakes, and other opinions.

When the news broke that Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU football team on Friday because of a third failed drug test, I sat there, lurking over Twitter, looking for any morsel of news that hadn’t been reported yet. While doing this menial task, I thought about how exciting he was to watch. Sure, he was probably the second best defensive back on his team, and he was a bit arrogant, but damn he was fun to watch.

Little did we know that the 2012 BCS National Championship Game would be the last time we’d see Tyrann Mathieu in an LSU uniform.

Then I laughed at some of the immediate aftermath of the whole thing. Look, this is going to be a bigger loss than some are thinking. Mathieu was the leading tackler on his team, was second on his team in interceptions, and was second on his team in passes defensed. However, what this loss isn’t going to do is knock LSU out of the national championship game picture. While Mathieu was a very talented player, at a school like LSU, they’ve already got the next in line. That next in line is 6’2″ Jalen Collins, a redshirt freshman who his LSU teammates describe as already being the most athletic player on LSU’s team, which really does say something.

Now, Mathieu is obviously limited as to where he can transfer. Despite early chatter that he may be ruled ineligible by the NCAA if he failed his third drug test, LSU has released him as eligible, so he may transfer to any FCS, D2, or D3 school without having to sit out a year. The early favorite was McNeese State, whom Mathieu met with on Friday. Mathieu’s friends also say that HBCU schools Jackson State and Prairie View A&M are also in competition for the Honey Badger’s services.

So, with that done, here’s some other opinions I have.

– Penn State fans have to be in denial. Look, I know message boards are not a true representation of a fanbase, but man, after browsing Blue-White Illustrated’s boards for a few days, I’m honestly a little scared about the state of mind that so permeates the fanbase these days. While it isn’t what I’d call evil in any sense, it reeks of serious denial. Look, I love college football, but if my favorite school was found covering up the rape of children, I don’t think I could ever root for it ever again.

– The Auburn situation is going to turn into nothing. For those who aren’t in the loop, a guidance counselor admitted to creating a fake transcript for Jovon Robinson, a 6’1″, 227 pound running back from Memphis, Tennessee. While you could say that, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and that might hold true, I don’t see it turning into anything. Maybe Auburn will be tagged with a secondary and move on.

– And finally, Virginia Tech’s new lids look like something Foghorn Leghorn would design.

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The King’s Quarters…back? Maybe? Sort of? We shall see.

So I’m looking at my blog again, and I realized something.

I haven’t made a post in over a year. Part of it is because I haven’t actually had time to, going to school and all that other stuff. But part of it is because I haven’t had the fire for advanced stats like I have had for the past year. Whether school influenced that is something that’s debatable, but I feel like hopping back up on the saddle and writing something.

And damn, my Jacory Harris projection was off. By a lot. We’ll see what we can do about that. Until then, adios.

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