Football

The Kevin Johns Offense: The Wilson Influence

An initial look at the Kevin Johns offense by initially examining the Kevin Wilson offense.

Texas Tech hired Kevin Johns as the new offensive coordinator and after doing some research, I think it’s safe to say that the Kevin Johns offense is very much influenced by the Kevin Wilson offense. Wilson was the head coach at Indiana while Johns was the offensive coordinator there and appear to be some tenants that you need to understand and how things operate because I believe those things will apply at Texas Tech as well.

  1. Texas Tech will run a lot out of 11 personnel (1 running back and 1 tight end). This tight end will either be on the line or as an h-back
  2. Texas Tech will utilize the run-pass option, known mostly as the RPO nowadays and this is a concept that Texas Tech utilized, but I believe they’ll utilize it even more now.
  3. The offense will likely be a spread offense predicated on running the ball, rather than passing to open up the run, it will likely utilize quite a bit of zone read options; however, this does not mean that the quarterback will carry the ball more. The quarterback is a threat more than an actual option.
  4. Wilson originally was a proponent of the no huddle and up tempto offense that Texas Tech utilized quite a bit more with Patrick Mahomes.
  5. The offense is relatively simple in that it is concepts wrapped up in one play and you need a quarterback that makes good decisions (sound familiar?).
  6. Misdirection and creativity. Not that this wasn’t present before, but I think we’ll be looking at more mid-range passes that turn into big plays as a result of some very creative pass routes. In other words, the quarterback shouldn’t need a huge arm to make things happen offensively (sound familiar?).

What to Read:

The most definitive piece that I’ve found is from Eleven Warriors’ Jonathan Stephanson and this is where you should really start and finish in regards to Johns’ offensive historical offensive philosophy:

Indiana runs a spread-based offense that takes snaps almost exclusively from the shotgun or pistol with the goal of getting the ball to their athletes in space. They operate a “check with me” play-calling system in which in lieu of huddling, meaning the team immediately lines up on the LOS and looks to the sideline for the play call after the offensive coaches have scanned the defensive alignment.

The Hoosiers run a majority of their snaps out of “11” personal (1 RB and 1 TE). Much like Ohio State, the Indiana offense will use the TE in both a “traditional” three-point stance on the LOS (line of scrimmage), as well as in the backfield as an H-Back. IU’s tight ends will utilize a variety of blocks off their base inside zone runs, including “arc” and “wham” blocks.

The Hoosier offense looks to stress a defense’s interior and perimeter through the use of their base Inside Zone, Buck Sweep, RPO’s/Bubble screens, and a variety of play-action concepts that attack the short, intermediate, and vertical areas of the field.

There’s so much there in that post that you should read and if this sort of creativity continues with Johns, then I think the offense is going to be something that you’ll really enjoy. These are all things that I have wanted to see in this offense: more balance, more creativity, more RPO, more 11 personnel, etc. I know that this gets away from the traditional Air Raid offense, but sticking to an offensive philosophy out of nostalgia does not seem beneficial. This isn’t to say that the pure Air Raid is broken, but maybe that’s something that you leave to the master. Kingsbury has wanted to move towards some pro-style concepts along with more RPO’s in his offense and I thought this past year that some of that patented Kingsbury creativity just wasn’t there. Maybe that had more to do with Morris being in charge of the week-to-week preparation and Kingsbury being more hands-off. I don’t know because I wasn’t in the room.

The next thing you should read is SB Nation’s Ian Boyd who wrote about the marriage of Urban Myer and Wilson as the new offensive coordinator at Ohio State:

Whereas the Buckeyes tended to change formations and personnel groupings to suit the play in 2016, Wilson’s offenses usually line up in standard sets and then run or pass based on how the defense responds to the formation.

The Buckeyes would pack things in and run option tactics for multiple plays in a row, then spread out into an empty set to throw. They’ve defined balance as the ability to do either with excellence.

Wilson’s offenses usually stay in 11 personnel sets (three WRs and a tight end) in either a single-back set with a TE or a two-back set with an H-back. They will use multiple formations, but the offense is designed around balance in every formation.

Boyd notes on one of the first plays reviewed that Wilson utilized an ineligible receiver, essentially knowing that Ohio State was going to run the ball (the receiver is ineligible, but said receiver can stiill block). The look was a trips left with an H-back and in the pistol formation.

From a historical perspective, check out Eleven Warriors’ Kyle Jones who notes that Wilson’s offensive influence started at Northwetern with then offensive coordinator Randy Walker and Wilson was Walker’s main assistant where the offense came alive:

There were a number of teams running shotgun formations with many receivers at the time, like Hal Mumme and Mike Leach’s ‘Air Raid’ system, and a few collegiate programs were still running variations of the run-n-shoot, even though its popularity was fading. Those pass-happy systems were often capable of producing big points but lacked the balance needed to win on a consistent basis.

Instead, Walker and his right-hand man, Kevin Wilson, built an offense that still included all the same concepts as a ‘traditional’ offense, yet often adapted them to three and four receiver sets and an uptempo, no-huddle pace.

If the Wildcats saw their opponent give up a big gain on a zone-blocked running play from a back in the I-formation, they didn’t have to come up with the spread equivalent when creating a game plan, they could simply line up and run the same play. Theirs just looked a little different.

Walker and Wilson had been teaching the same concepts for years, but their ability to adapt those plays to a new philosophy changed the game entirely. No single moment was more emblematic of what they had developed than their 54-51 upset win over Michigan in the fall of 2000.

Take the time to read these articles. I think it’s going to set the basis of what we’ll eventually see to be the Kevin Johns offense. Plus, you’ve got nothing else to do, it’s the offseason.

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