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What the new OSU offense will look like

How well can JW Walsh play the Colin Kaepernick role?



Photo Attribution: USATSI

Photo Attribution: USATSI

I think we all know Oklahoma State’s offense isn’t going to look anything like that oily machine Brandon Weeden turned the dials on back in 2011. It’s not going to look like Wes Lunt firing his pistols (for both teams) in the desert against Arizona last September either.

And I don’t even think it’s going to look like the Zac Robinson offense from 2009 as I noted on Saturday.[1. Zac ran his zone reads with a one-back set, the diamond (which Walsh ran primarily out of against Mississippi St. on Saturday) wasn’t even around.]

It’s not going to look like much of anything we’ve seen lately and I think that might be a good thing.


In December Chris Brown (not that one) wrote a really insightful article about how maybe we were living at the end of the golden age of the air raid, specifically in the Big 12.

The point of the air raid — the offense Dana Holgorsen brought to town in 2010 (presumably storing it in the Hampton Inn vault while he was here) — is to be different than everybody else.

Mike Gundy referenced that at his press conference on Monday when he insinuated that OSU had invented the diamond formation with Dana. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t, but the point is that OSU has always been on the cutting edge of offensive schemes (this article being Exhibit A).

And the misperception all along — since Dana started emptying his bag of tricks on Boones’s field — is that OSU hasn’t been interested in running the ball. That ain’t true, as one OSU coach would say — the Cowboys have simply used the pass first to set up the run, which is what it has wanted to do all along.

David Ubben wrote this last July:

Oklahoma State has a clear vision for their offense, a pass first to set up the run style, and I think there was some reservation among the coaches in changing what had worked so well the past two years. If Walsh took over, you’d have to change it to some degree to fit his strengths. 

And now, with Walsh at the helm and Yurcich looking to the 49ers for inspiration,[1. From ESPN today: We installed (the three-back pistol set) last spring, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. It was effective back then, so we continued to work at it. We studied tape of the San Francisco 49ers, who ran it well with Colin Kaepernick. We tried to grab some film from that. They ran some of those exact plays out of that formation, so we just looked at a lot of their tape.] I think we’re on the precipice of something else. This post in the Sacramento Bee talks about how the 49ers do the opposite of what OSU has been doing.

They use the run to set up the pass.

And at 1:20 here the Ravens DC (the Ravens!) talks about how difficult what the 49ers do is to defend.

Which brings us back to what the new OSU offense will look like.

The diamond formation OSU ran on Saturday is really the pistol formation with a couple of extra backs. It’s different from the air raid altogether, according to Brown:

The first time I ever remember seeing the pistol (and it’s probably not the first time it was ever used) was with Kaepernick in some of those 1 AM Nevada games back when he was in college. It was electrifying under his guidance.

But can it be electrifying under No. 4?

The thing about JW Walsh is that he can throw the ball (he threw for 300+ in three of his four starts last season), it’s just not his strength. I really think Yurcich is going to try and do everything he can to do the opposite of what Monk and Dana did (and namely what the 49ers do) — use the run to set up the pass.

It’s something he’s going to have to do — and I think will do — to win the Big 12 Championship.

The encouraging part if you’ve watched the 49ers is that Kaepernick isn’t the most traditional thrower of the pigskin and, uh, that offense seems to be doing just fine.

So while it might look totally different than what we’ve seen in the past the general concept remains the same — keep defenses off balance and then hit them where (and when) they least expect it.

I just hope Walsh is accurate enough to make it happen.

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