The pro-style offense is as misunderstood as the spread. The former is typically believed to be very run-oriented while the latter primarily attacks defenses via the pass. But as Brian Kelly and Butch Jones showed us, the spread is merely a formation not a system. Both coaches lined up three receivers wide, operated out of the shotgun most of the time, and placed the runningback next to the quarterback. In addition they had wildly successful campaigns at Cincinnati.
But that’s where the similarities end. At their core, Kelly ran a more pass-centric system while Jones a run-centric offense. In 2012 the Bearcats ran the ball 55% of the time, a mark only bested the year prior when Cincinnati ran it 56% of the time. Both represent the most run skewed offense since Mark Dantonio’s 2006 squad had a run-pass ratio of almost 60%. Yet while Jones and Kelly both used the spread formation, it was Jones and Dantonio who did most of their damage on the ground despite one using the spread and the other the I-formation.
So don’t get scared off by terms like pro-style offense. Remember it’s just a formation, not a system by which coaches try to move their team downfield. The Bearcats will be running the ball in 2013 but that’s not to say they won’t line up three or four receivers wide and pass it quite a bit as well.
Before we dive into the details of Cincinnati’s likely new offense there are a couple of words you’re going to want to get familiar with:
1) Under Center
Again, don’t worry. I’ll explain in further detail after the jump.
What We Know
Tommy Tuberville has always been a defensive minded coach. Don’t let his tenure with Texas Tech fool you. Like I mentioned in the linked piece, Tuberville was forced to focus on a fast scoring offense with the Red Raiders while neglecting the defense because the guy before him (Mike Leach) compiled the personnel to run that system. Making such a radical transition would have been disastrous for Texas Tech. However thanks to Butch Jones the Cincinnati Bearcats are fully capable of adjusting to these changes.
Therefore Tuberville will want to protect his defense with a more balanced, ball-control offense. UC displayed this system under Jones so it’s no wonder his defenses were so remarkable the past two seasons. Contrast that with Mike Leach’s or Brian Kelly’s for that matter whose high flying offenses often wore out their own defense as much as the other team. Thus by the 2nd half they were so gassed that they gave up points in a hurry, if not earlier in the game.
Furthermore, we’ve already been privy to some information about the Bearcats’ newish offense that Tommy Tuberville’s offensive coordinator Eddie Gran will orchestrate. New commitment Darius Tice called out the pro-style offense by name when asked about why he chose Cincinnati:
“They run a pro-style with a fullback in front of the running back,” Tice said. “Its a hard-nosed running style. That fits me [well].”
And Tuberville himself mentioned in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tom Groeschen* that the offense will be run first system, used about a quarter of the time under center, but will still spread the field horizontally with multiple receivers:
“We’ll be 50-50, runpass. It will all start with the run. We want to be a basically tailback running team. We’ll be under center 25 to 30 percent.
“The fullback will be in the backfield a lot at first, a big tight-end type. We’ll have some quarterback running plays.
“We’ll play a lot of wide receivers at times, without a tight end. We’ll go very fast.”
*This is a link to a message board post as I was unable to find a link to the actual page. The content is unchanged, though.
So let’s sum up the evidence before us:
1) Tommy Tuberville is a defensive-minded coach who values protecting that unit with a ball control offense.
2) A recruit was flat out told UC will run pro-style formations.
3) Tuberville is quoted as preferring a balanced offensive attack ran under center at times as well as spread across the field.
What We Can Assume
The Bearcats on offense will mimic Florida State and Auburn of the early to mid 2000′s.
Before we dive in let me clarify that I can’t say for sure if Eddie Gran will run the exact system he witnessed with the Seminoles and Tigers but I fully believe he will take much of what they did and bring it to Cincinnati. Let’s start with Florida State.
They operated a pro-style offense that focused on maintaining the balancing act between run and passes with a slight skew towards the former. In 2012 they ran the ball 55% of the time but varied between putting quarterback EJ Manuel under center and out of the shotgun. In the Orange Bowl the Seminoles ran 76 offensive plays. 68% of the time FSU operated out of the shotgun, 28% of the time they went under center, and thrice they went with the pistol formation. Huh, 28%. Exactly within that “25 – 30% range” Tuberville mentioned in the interview above.
And almost every time Florida State used the I-formation in which the the runningback lined up behind a fullback who was placed behind Manuel:
I fully believe we’ll see this once again when UC’s offense takes the field like when Mark Dantonio was head coach. But it won’t be the focal point of this team as it was during that era. The Bearcats will still operate out of the shotgun much of the time which is fully within the definition of a “pro-style offense”. In that sense this will be the easiest transition from Butch Jones/Mike Bajakian to Tommy Tuberville/Eddie Gran as Cincinnati will still run the ball out of the shotgun but the new staff won’t be using zone blocking schemes as often. They’ll still have a place on this team but it won’t be the primary technique taught to the offensive line.
While I think the offense will mirror Florida State’s, I also believe we’ll see spatterings of the Auburn offense when Tuberville was the head coach there. The Tigers went under center even more than Florida State does but didn’t utilize the fullback as a lead blocker as much as the Seminoles. It was Ace, Offset-I’s, and Split-back formations that Auburn seemed to prefer while allowing the quarterback to pass off of play action.
The most encouraging thing to Cincinnati fans is that despite emphasizing the run before the pass, both teams boasted extremely dangerous scoring attacks. Florida State this past season was 2nd in the ACC in rushing offense scoring 40 touchdowns on the ground and was 3rd in the conference in scoring in general. The 2004 Auburn Tigers running attack reeled off almost 2,400 yards rushing while scoring 27 touchdowns. Again, despite pro-style formations look for the Bearcats to again possess a potent offense under Tuberville and Gran.
So to make a long post short, the Bearcats are going to look a little different next year utilizing a fullback for the first time since joining the Big East conference. The quarterback will also play under center much like he did during that time. We’ll likely see them operate in the I-formation, Ace formation, Offset-I formation, and Split-back formation in 2013 which is fairly unfamiliar territory for UC fans. But that will not take away from Cincinnati’s reputation of possession a dangerous scoring offense. The Bearcats will still utilize the shotgun most of the time and attempt to score points in bunches as they have in the last 6 years. They will just be doing it slightly differently than under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.