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The offense I would run with the Miami Hurricanes

An 11 personnel, up tempo, RPO-based, Air Raid influenced offense is what Coral Gables needs in 2020.

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes football program might be in the market for a Chief of Staff. That one no one is quite sure of what the deal is between Blake James and the BOT and president. However, one thing I do know is Manny Diaz fired Dan Enos and is in the market for an offensive coordinator. If I was hired tomorrow, this is the offense I would run.

It might seem familiar and it should. Someone I’ve studied since Sam Houston State is Phil Longo. Coach Longo is now the OC at UNC, a Coastal foe. Coach Longo is an Air Raid guy but he’s done the opposite of Mike Leach and has really adapted the scheme to fit his needs at different stops like Sam Houston, Ole Miss, and now in Chapel Hill.

Longo uses tempo, deep shots, Air Raid schemes, RPO’s and a run game that can use the QB or not. I love his offense and think with Sam Howell at QB and Mack Brown running the show the Tar Heels are going to be the team to beat in the Coastal until Miami figures it out.

Down in Coral Gables I would have a quarterback battle. Hopefully Tyler Van Dyke is up to the challenge and a graduate transfer like Jamie Newman is an option. It would be a real coup to bring in Newman for a season while Van Dyke gets playing time in almost every game at some point. Let’s keep TVD happy while safely grooming him behind a struggling offensive line.

I would personally love to have a tight end like Brevin Jordan and the other skill talent at the OC’s disposal down in Miami. I think a new, innovative OC could have fun with the ‘Canes roster and I personally don’t think it’s lacking in talent anywhere but at offensive tackle. Sit back and enjoy the offense that I would run at Miami.

Personnel and playmakers

I’m a firm believer in the 11 personnel offense as the base, and really 90% of my offense. The beauty is having a “tight end” that’s versatile enough to line up as a running back, inline tight end, wing, or wide receiver. Think: Brevin Jordan, Greg Olsen, or David Njoku. Whether I was coaching in a west coast scheme, 11 personnel, or mostly 10 personnel spread-spread I’ve always liked to be able to have a versatile athlete who could line up anywhere at any time.

This keeps the defense from being able to sub when the OC goes hurry up, but it also keeps defensive coordinators guessing. If you have that utility player who can line up anywhere, the DC doesn’t know what you’re running from what personnel or what formation you’ll line up in next. LSU, as you can see above, can line up in a variety of “pictures” from the same personnel.

I personally believe the hardest formation is an 11 personnel, 2x2 winged h-back formation (picture above). In this formation, the offense can force the defense to play 1-high if the run game gets going, or to stay 2 high and allow you to run at a 6-man box with the RPO looks to the slot and solo receiver.

People claim Miami has no playmakers but that’s not true. In 2019, the ‘Canes had Deejay Dallas, Cam’ron Harris, Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, Dee Wiggins, Mark Pope, KJ Osborn, Brevin Jordan, and Will Mallory. In 2020, Dallas, Thomas and Osborn are gone but the rest will return in addition to younger players like Jeremiah Payton and freshmen Don Chaney and Jaylan Knighton at running back and Michael Redding III and Dazalin Worsham at wide receiver. Don’t discount Xavier Restrepo, either.

An OC’s main job is spreading the ball, taking advantages of strengths and masking weaknesses. I would say that UNC’s Phil Longo, Wazzu’s Mike Leach, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo have done spectacular jobs of this over the last two or three seasons.

Run game, RPO’S and play-actions

The run game

I’m a firm believer in basing out of a zone run scheme. Base zone, inside zone read, split zone and stretch are a solid foundation of an offensive scheme. The QB doesn’t have to run much, but most QB’s today are just mobile enough to keep defensive ends or outside linebackers honest.

Look at Trevor Lawrence against Ohio State in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl. Lawrence ran for 107 yards and a 67 yard touchdown and no one is describing him as the next Lamar Jackson on the ground. The same goes for Justin Herbert. The Oregon Ducks quarterback struggled passing but ran three touchdowns including some that were power runs with stiff arms and shoulders that were unexpected but necessary in order to win the 2020 Rose Bowl. Running just enough to win.

A play that Alabama ran against Michigan with much success was duo. Duo is a Clemson staple that has been around the NFL for years and serves the purpose of getting combo blocks on defensive tackles while the running back hits the a-gap hard and cuts off of the linebackers.

Run-Pass Options aka RPO’s

Why run-pass options? Because you have to in 2020. Even Navy started to run alerts when cornerbacks were playing off of their wide receivers. An OC can’t allow a defense to stack the box and have no immediate answer for the look the defense is giving. I’ve covered RPO’s a ton on SOTU (read one good piece here).

A few I personally love are the bubble, smoke, pop, and post. Other guys run things like h-back slips and seams but I’m not that damn cool, yet. On the bubble, you’re reading the flat defender. If the flat defender sits, bails or runs the bubble the QB will handoff. If the flat defender plays the run the QB must throw the bubble. Smoke is an identical read.

On the pop RPO, you’re reading the inside linebacker away from the play. If that WLB runs up and plays the run, throw to the vacated spot. If that WLB sits or drops- the QB will handoff. This is a great way to get numbers in the run game, but also to combat linebackers who read pulling guards and blow plays up because of the easy “key” of the guard.

The post is a 3rd level read. I learned this from Baylor back in the Art Briles days. He loved it on outside zone. If the defense plays 2-high and the safety to the single WR side runs up in some kind of cloud flat coverage, or plays the run aggressively, he leaves a hole against a post.

Of course there are a handful of really key play-action passes that work off of each of these plays, too. Split zone has a naked boot that’s a flood concept as does inside zone read. Flood is typically when the outside wide receiver runs an outside release vertical, the #2 receiver runs a 10 yard out route and the #3 receiver, h-back, or running back runs a flat route or arrow directly into the flat around 0-3 yards.

Of course there’s the “stop” concept too. A quick play-action “flash” fake (Phil Longo likes these, too) can freeze the linebackers or give the QB enough time to see which reads declare. The outside receiver runs a slant to sit down where the flat defender vacates. If the flat defender runs the bubble, the QB hits the sit down route. If the flat defender drops to play the sit the bubble should be open.


Besides the typical bubble and smoke screens that are great for tagging onto RPO’s, I like to use two screens that involve the offensive line going out and lead blocking for the running back and or receiver.

I’ve talked a ton between the Marsh and I collaborated #SchemeOfTheU chat (see the blog post about it here) and other posts about double and middle screen. Above, you can see the tweet of middle screen from the chat. The interior linemen start to work downfield. The screen-side guard will work to the alley player, the center works to an inside linebacker as does the back side guard. The outside receiver can work back inside and typically this is a big play that works the middle of the defense after we spend so much of the game spreading them out sideline to sideline.

Double screen involves entire o-line. The tackles will block the cornerbacks, the guards will work their corresponding alley safeties and the center will ‘rat kill’ back for the tunnel.

You can see the screenshot above and the video below. The QB will read the running back. If the defensive end plays the back, he flips his hips and throws backside to the wide receiver running the tunnel.

Passing concepts

I’m a really big fan of the Air Raid passing concepts of coaches like Longo, Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen not to mention the Godfather, Hal Mumme. I have written about open grass reads and coaches like Dub Maddox and Patrick Taylor (read more here), 95 or Y-Cross (here), and stick just about everywhere on SOTU.

“6” or four verts is a great concept to install. Off of 6, the QB can tag different concepts and read the defense like Dub Maddox likes in his R4 materials “CAP’d or unCAP’d.” There’s also mesh, shallow, y-cross, and stick.

Above, you can see stick and mesh. They’re staples of the Mike Leach Air Raid playbook, and mine, too. There are many ways to run mesh but this is a classic way to run it.

Above, two old school Air Raid staples are Shallow and Cross. I’ve drawn cross a little different here than how Hal and Mike run it but it’s all the same purposing.


Of course I would want to play fast, uptempo, spread football. Wait, do I sound enough like Manny Diaz now? All joking aside. The field is 120 yards long and 53 13 yards wide, why not use it all? That was the point of the Mumme and Leach Air Raid invention. They spread the ball around to all five potential skill players and even at times get the QB involved in running the ball.

If I had the skill talent the ‘Canes have I would be constantly trying to snap the football, while the defense is struggling to catch its breath, and slinging the ball around all over the field. The idea of slow developing plays wouldn’t exist. Everything is a quick release. Dub Maddox talks a lot about getting the ball out of the QB’s hands within a certain amount of seconds. With Miami’s offensive line woes a slow running, slow developing offense wasn’t the right choice. Just look at the stats.