Coming up tomorrow morning on Tom Osborne Field at Memorial Stadium, the Arkansas St. Red Wolves shall be strolling into the stadium to take on YOUR Nebraska Cornhuskers in a organized intercollegiate football game with the full backing of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Since we're waxing poetic today about Arkansas St, most people are wondering about the offense of Gus Malzhan, we talked to a man who saw the full potential of this offense, "Year2" of Team Speed Kills, the SEC specific blog of SBNation.
While most are not fretting about the defense, many people in Big Red land are wondering about the offense of Malzhan and the potential of the Red Wolves to score a gazillion points against a
Blackshirts defense that was mauled by UCLA last Saturday, if you may have heard. So we asked a few questions of "Year2" and he gave us some good, detailed answers.
CN: Gus Malzahn is best known for his up tempo no huddle offensive philosophy, correct? This seems to imply that he favors passing over running. Is that correct, incorrect or too simplified?
Y2: Malzahn literally wrote the book on the hurry-up, no huddle offense. His roots are in a wide open passing game, but he learned a physical, downhill running game from RichRod disciple Herb Hand when they were co-offensive coordinators at Tulsa.
In Arkansas State’s win over Memphis, which was close throughout, the Red Wolves actually rushed the ball 11 more times than they threw it. You’ll see a good mix while the game is close.
In general, you won’t see him speed things up until after his offense gets a first down. A fast paced three-and-out does no good and gets the defense worn out. His quarterback Ryan Aplin is a scrambler and an improvisor, so a noticeable number of passing plays will end up runs. The passing game is generally built around quick strikes and screens, though slower developing plays are in there, almost always off of play action.
CN: What sorts of defenses have been effective at containing Malzahn's offense? Are aggressive defenses prone to being burned?
Y2: You have to be careful because misdirection is at the heart of the offense. One of the reasons Malzahn likes to move quickly is that it makes his shifts and jet sweeps and fakes and so forth more effective at confusing the defense. He’s also a fan of the bubble screen as a way to punish defenses that load the box too much. Malzahn counter punches with the best of them.
With that said, Arkansas State just doesn’t have the players to cause too many problems. Aplin, Tennessee transfer RB David Oku, and Oklahoma transfer WR Josh Jarboe are really the only ones who would play much on better teams. If Nebraska’s defense avoids being dumb, it should be fine.
CN: Is Malzhan distracted from the possibility of going to Arkansas to become the head coach there? Or is he in it for the long haul at Arkansas State?
Y2: It’s hard to say. His year at Arkansas in 2006 was a bad one for a number of reasons, but since Houston Nutt is long gone, that may not be an issue. He probably doesn’t have the resumé yet to get that job; Arkansas is a step up from Ole Miss, who hired ASU’s last head coach Hugh Freeze. I’m sure he’d be interested, but I don’t know if the school wants to go in that direction.
As for the long haul at Arkansas State, I don’t know if that’s a program where you can keep a coach for the long haul if he’s good. Malzahn made more money as Auburn’s OC than he’s making now. He made the switch because he regretted not taking an earlier head coaching opportunity and things were souring in Auburn, but it will be difficult for him not to go for a bigger job if one is offered.
Y2: Malzahn’s favorite play to run with Newton was the QB Power, but Aplin simply isn’t built for that. You won’t see anything that reminds you of Cam. Aplin’s job is to make good decisions on options, be accurate on the quick passing game, and sometimes make something from nothing when plays break down. He’s pretty good in that role.
They’ll run some zone read option, often times with a bubble screen built in somewhere. Oku will be used similarly to Dyer was as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, but he’s not as physical as Dyer was. I watched a portion of the ASU game against Oregon, and nothing I saw gave me flashbacks to the 2010 Auburn team. It had a completely different feel beyond just the talent difference.