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Potential ‘Canes Offensive Coordinator: Kenny Dillingham

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The millennial at Memphis could thrive in Coral Gables

Miami v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

Kenny Dillingham is a name that I’ve seen floated as a possible offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the University of Miami. Kenny hasn’t yet reached his “dirty 30,” as Dillingham is twenty-eight or twenty-nine years old at press time. He’s not the Kenny D that many ‘Canes fans were hoping for, but hiring one of the masterminds behind the Memphis Tigers explosive offense should suffice.

Dillingham is a former linebacker who cut his teeth at Arizona State working for Mike Norvell. When Norvell took the head football job at Memphis, Dillingham came with him. Eventually, so too did Tigers quarterback Brady White, formerly a Sun Devil. Dillingham has pushed his way up the ranks from a graduate assistant, to a position coach and now an offensive coordinator.


Success

Dillingham took over the Tigers offensive coordinator position when Darrell Dickey left Memphis for Texas A&M. Dickey was granted a massive pay increase and a chance to work with Jimbo Fisher in College Station. The Norvell system of play calling is that Norvell makes a decision between two or three plays suggested by his offensive coordinator.

This sounds like the perfect fit for Mark Richt who wants to still ‘call plays’ while not having the time to prepare the game plan and put together the teaching tape. Dillingham can offer Richt a menu of options and install RPO concepts to the Miami scheme.

Memphis quarterback Brady White has thrown for over 2900 yards so far this season (regular season is completed) with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But beyond that, the Tigers also have a backfield that’s combined for almost 3,000 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns between three players who carry the football.

As a whole, the Tigers are scoring 43 points per game in 2018, they’re the S&P+’s 10th ranked offensive unit in efficiency, and Memphis is 8th in the nation in points per play. That’s a spark the ‘Canes could desperately use to pair with Manny Diaz’s defense.


Personnel

Memphis is a hurry-up tempo team that uses tight ends and multiple receivers, just like the Hurricanes have for most of Richt’s tenure. Dillingham himself has coached tight ends at Memphis as well as quarterbacks which is how he made the strong connection to White while at Arizona State and that relationships has continued to blossom at Memphis. The Tigers are predominantly an 11 personnel team that bounces between side car and pistol running back alignments.

The quarterback needs to be mobile but doesn’t have to be a pure dual threat passer. Think N’Kosi Perry and not Tim Tebow or Kelly Bryant. The backs have to be multifaceted players so the current crop at Miami will be primed for a big season under Dillingham as he likes backs that can line up in the slot and not only run sweeps but catch the ball as well.


21 Personnel Zone Read with lead blockers

The Tigers like to keep the defense guessing and on their heels. The play in questions is a zone read play but with two lead blockers and using a stretch blocking concept. The QB is reading the backside down lineman and as that lineman sits he gives to the back. The back has two lead blockers in the fullback and h-back player who set the edge for him. It’s a big touchdown run using simple schemes from a new personnel package and formation that’s outside of the Tigers normal call.

Split Zone from 21 personnel

If you read my film preview and review pieces you know how much I love split zone. Memphis has used split zone as a staple in Mike Norvell and Kenny Dillingham’s offense. I’m not going to go into depth on split zone since I’ve explained it so many times here but the fullback kicks the defensive end and gives the running back a cutback lane.


RB Screen game

When Mark Richt took this job I expected running back screens to be a huge part of the Miami offense. It has come and gone in waves as a key concept for Richt. With efficient pass catchers like Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer in the backfield I think Dillingham’s love of the running back screen will be a shared menu option of Mark Richt.

Screen Pass Option

Over the summer doldrums I wrote about Screen Pass Options here. The Tigers used one against ECU this season for great success. This fits into Richt’s love of running back screens while using the talent Miami has at running back as well as the athleticism of Will Mallory and Brevin Jordan at tight end (when healthy). White looks to read a “6” route or an option route that’s either a vertical or a hitch. When the tight end was covered the QB flips and throws the screen hence the screen of the screen pass option.


Run Pass Options

The RPO haters will say “...But, but, this one didn’t work!” Yes, it did by scheme- the QB just screwed it up. The quarterback is reading the linebacker I’ve put the red circle around. When that guy plays the run, the QB is supposed to pull and throw the out route. The Cornerback bails, the safety stays deep, the linebacker plays run and the slot is open on the out route. It’s the perfect look that the quarterback just doesn’t throw.

With Miami having good skill talent, but not the best offensive line both in recruiting or coaching, RPO’s will help alleviate some of those issues. The Tigers use them often in their run scheme as well as pull reads in order to slow down the defense.

3rd level RPO

Above- the Tigers read the safety on this 3rd level RPO. If the safety plays the run (which he does) the QB will throw the post. If the safety sits or bails the QB will handoff to the running back. The outside zone with post 3rd level RPO was made famous by Art Briles at Baylor and is used by Memphis here to perfection.


Summary

Kenny is quite young and hasn’t been an actual play caller in his career. He can coach two positions of need in quarterback and tight end which means Jon Richt may not have to leave Coral Gables, after all. The issue is whether or not he will really part from his mentor Mike Norvell.

Norvell has to be due a bigger position at a Power 5 school soon and it may hurt Dillingham to leave his mentor right before they’re all going to get paid. Then again, with Texas Tech and Colorado filled and all but filled, it looks like Norvell is back at Memphis after choking away another AAC Championship Game to UCF.