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Greg Davis, Todd Dodge And The Question Of Collegiate Play Calling

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As you probably know by now, Southlake Carroll head coach Todd Dodge has been hired to take over the top spot at North Texas. This is interesting on several levels - most notably because of the extraordinarily rare jump from high school head coach to Division 1 college head coach. You may recall that Gerry Faust made a similar jump to Notre Dame in the 1980s after winning five Ohio state high school titles.

As interesting as that is on a historical level, what I'm most interested in involves a pretty philosophical question. I'm going to lay out the talking points before jumping back in with commentary and questions.

? High school offenses are, in many cases, more innovative/creative than collegiate offenses.
? Collegiate offenses are, on the whole, more innovative than NFL offenses.
? The theoretical explanation for this is a simple one: as the speed and skill of the defenses increases, the offense must simplify. As the level of play on defense rises, the success of the offense is derived from execution more than scheme.

That's a rather parsed down and abbreviated version of the actual explanation of why offenses simplify as the level of the defense increases, but it'll do.

What I want to ask, though, is whether collegiate coaches aren't selling themselves short with their adjustments to speed of defense. In other words, are collegiate defenses good enough that collegiate offenses should be as limited as they are (relative to high school offenses)? It's a question worth asking - especially to a fan base like Texas', where so many questions swirl about Greg Davis' abilities.

I'm not positing an answer to this question just yet, but the timing of all this is so interesting. I'm brought back over and over to the case of Arkansas, who this year, as you may recall, hired high school coach Gus Malzahn as their offensive coordinator in order to secure the commitment of prized quarterback recruit Mitch Mustain. Many of us were skeptical of his qualifications - I know I certainly was. Watching Arkansas this season, though, many observers were quite impressed with the creativity and innovation that Malzahn brought to the table. An offense that had no viable quarterback wound up being a pretty explosive one - in part thanks to their talent at the skill positions, but in large part, too, because of the creativity that Malzahn employed.

The most interesting hire of this crazy offseason?
The Razorbacks used funky formations, unconventional schemes, and generally less predictable play calling to put together one of the nation's more surprisingly effective offenses.

Should other collegiate offensive coordinators be following suit? The answer's not obvious, but Dodge's hiring probably means we'll get an interesting test case to observe. (This assumes, of course, that he doesn't - upon arriving in college - decide he must tighten up the playbook.)

The more and more I think about this, the more I think this is one of the more interesting philosophical questions in college football today, and one that deserves some more critical thought. What, for example, is happening at Texas Tech with Mike Leach? Is Michael Lewis right that Mike Leach would rock the nation if he were coaching at a program with more elite talent?

On the flipside, virtually every offensive coordinator in the country believes in the status quo: namely, that the speed and talent of the defenses at the collegiate and, then, professional levels requires a progressively toned down play calling. Is this a case of massive, behind-the-times group think? Or is their collective wisdom validation that the answer to this question is, in fact, what they collectively seem to believe? (It all seems so circular when you think about it this way, doesn't it?)

This may seem entirely too abstract a concept, but it behooves Texas fans in particular to think long and hard about this question. Especially, of course, if you aren't satisifed with Greg Davis. The answer to the question, it may well turn out, could either validate or completely nullify many (perhaps all) of the complaints that are so commonplace.

I can't say that I've got an easy answer to this question, and I'm not entirely sure that it's something that we can just debate and settle outside the lab. Todd Dodge, then, might just be one of the most interesting coaching hires of this already interesting offseason.

--PB--