Miami native Frank Ponce is the latest offensive coordinator to be rumored to join the Miami Hurricanes coaching staff. With Jason Candle and Kendal Briles both off the radar for Mario Cristobal, Ponce is the new rumor.
The 50-year-old Ponce played quarterback at Miami Senior High School in the 80’s, before heading to Arizona Western to play QB from 1989-1990. Ponce returned to Miami to graduate from Florida International University, and begin his coaching career at the high school ranks. Ponce coached in south Florida high schools from 1992-2006, including head coaching tenures at Coral Reef High School and Miami Senior before moving on to the college ranks.
At the college level, Ponce served as the wide receivers coach at FIU from 2007-2012, under then coach Mario Cristobal. Ponce then followed former Golden Panther OC Scott Satterfield to Appalachian State in 2013.
Ponce and Satt coached together at ASU from 2013-2018, where Ponce served as co-OC. Ponce followed Satterfield to Louisville to serve as quarterbacks coach for two seasons before returning to Boone, NC.
In 2021, Ponce served as the OC of the Mountaineers under new head coach Shawn Clark. Ponce had shared the co-OC titled with Clark under Satterfield while at ASU.
The pros of Ponce are that he’s a QB coach and has worked wonders with QB’s at both App and Louisville.
Before Coach Ponce’s arrival at Louisville, the QB situation was atrocious. Bobby Petrino left Satterfield’s staff with talented but underperforming QB’s in Malik Cunningham and Jawon Pass. That duo combined to throw nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2018. Ponce and Satterfield allowed Pass to move on and Cunningham became their starting QB.
Cunningham improved from 7.1 yards per pass attempt to 11.6 (‘19) and 8.6 (‘20) under Ponce, and threw 42 TD’s with 17 INT’s in two seasons. Cunningham added another 13 TD’s on the ground over those two years, as well.
Back at App in ‘21, Ponce worked with the struggling three-time transfer Chase Brice. Brice was abysmal during his one season at Duke. While under Coach Cutcliffe in Durham, Brice was fumbling snaps, looked scared in the pocket, and threw 15 INT’s with only 10 TD’s. In his one season with Ponce, Brice improved from 6.2 yards per attempt to 8.6, and threw 27 TD’s with only 11 INT’s.
Ponce, Clark, and Satterfield had done wonders with QB’s at App State in Ponce’s first run there. Taylor Lamb and Zac Thomas had both excelled in the Sun Belt while also playing tough out of conference P5 games. Lamb scored over 100 TD’s as the Mountaineers QB and Thomas scored almost 90 over his run at QB in Boone.
Per the SP+, App State has the 37th best offense in FBS in 2020 while Louisville had the 15th. Ponce’s return to Boone saw the offense dip to 49th with Chase Brice behind center. The ASU offense was rated 56th in Ponce’s final year as co-OC before heading to Louisville, and 31st in ‘19 while Ponce was a Cardinal.
Not exactly the improved trajectory of the offense as Kendal Briles, but with Briles off the table it’s time for looking elsewhere with the alleged $1.7M on the table for the OC position.
Scott Satterfield’s offense has always used a variety of position groups in order to get the job done. With Ponce and Clark as disciples of Satt, some things changed and some stayed the same in Boone with Clark as the new head coach. You can learn a good amount about the ASU offense under Ponce from my film preview and film review of the Miami vs. ASU game from the 2021 season.
App State has always utilized a shotgun spread look. Under Satterfield and with more mobile QB’s, they essentially used a wing back who can both catch the ball and run it from a slot type of position.
The QB has typically been mobile (Lamb and Thomas) and not a pure drop back QB (Brice). The run game has always been split between a couple of backs, the QB, and a receiver in the double and triple option looks in the run game.
App has typically used a TE/H-Back, and even put a fullback on the field. Ponce adjusted and went with 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) in ‘21.
The Ponce offense
Again, you have the film preview and review of ASU’s game against Miami where they just did what they do to people linked above. I chose a mid-season matchup with Coastal Carolina to see Ponce well into his playbook against a top flight conference rival.
Above- Zone lead play where the FB is a lead blocker, like on Iso (dial up Madden ‘98). It’s designed to the TE and FB side (King set) but bounced back side off the RT’s block. I like seeing an offense where the athletes are asked to go use their skill.
Above- I like having a personnel group on the field and being able to line up in different pictures with them. That requires versatile athletes. TE/H type players that can split wide, RB’s that can get in the slot, and that FB position like North Dakota State where he can line up as the singleback or fullback or TE. The more talented the team, the more their athletes should be versatile, ie. Percy Harvin or Reggie Bush.
Above- 2 high safeties should be able to handle the ‘over’ concept from the #3 (most inside WR) but it is a hard concept as the safety’s eyes are to his right and the WR is crossing from his left and up the seam.
Above- The window dressing Ponce uses with motion and play-action causes the safety to roll down leaving the CB 1-on-1 against a post route. Getting your playmakers in single coverage is key in modern football where it’s all about match-ups.
Above- The window dressing motion is still there, and this time it’s a give to the RB. The O-Line steps to the right and the back cuts underneath the aggressive 1-tech (nose tackle) to score.
Above- Post-Dig combo to the top of your screen and again, let the fast WR run past the entire Coastal defense. Miami has burners, it’s Aaron Feld’s job to not slow them down while it’s the OC’s job to game plan them open.
Above- Play-action concepts and getting the CB to pass off the WR to the safety forces that communication and typically a player that isn’t as strong in solo coverage (a safety) on a #1 wide receiver.
Above- If you’re ever wondering what play-action does to a safety, here’s a great look. Coastal’s safety has been overly aggressive and has been rotated down against the run. This little flash fake from Brice freezes the S’s feet.
Above- Feet frozen and eyes on an offensive player that’s blocking. The DB is all thrown off here. He gets stuck chasing and it’s too late before he can catch up to the WR.
Above- As you can see, the play fake freezes the S, interrupts his OODA Loop, and it’s too late on the recovery.
Above- Enough hitting the play side and the back side will open up. The vision of the ASU backs is impressive, and their ability to cut and re-accelerate is, as well. Recruit speed!!
Above- Half roll sprint out of the smash concept. In ‘21, Tyler Van Dyke threw variations of smash like a 10 year NFL veteran QB.
Above- Adapt or Die. Ponce proves he can adapt by eliminating the triple option portion of the ASU playbook with Brice at QB. But, when the ‘Eers need a 1st down on 3rd and 1, it just makes sense to have Brice as an option.
Above- Here, Brice is reading the DE 1st. When the DE crashes down (plays inside on the run), he pulls and carries outside.
Above- Instead of a triple option pitch, the option here is a throw to the arc’ing H-back. When the linebacker runs with the TE, the QB keeps underneath it.
Would Ponce be the big name that Miami fans are expecting? Absolutely not. Pulling an OC from the Sun Belt isn’t exactly a big deal. But does Ponce run an offense that Tyler Van Dyke would excel in? Yes. Does Ponce have South Florida recruiting connections? Yes. Is Cristobal familiar with Ponce so the trust-factor is already there? Yes.
While it wouldn’t be the huge ‘pop’ people are looking for (Ken Dorsey, Jason Candle, Kendal Briles, etc.) Ponce is a college football OC and QB coach who has ties to Cristobal and the Miami community. I can see it happening more than I can see a few other rumored OC’s working out in Coral Gables.