Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Falcon Football Preview: The Offense

Football season is coming around the corner...time to take an uninformed look at what the season might hold for BG.  We'll start with the offense.

Overall, you have to expect the offense is going to be better.  They should be stronger at two position groups and hopefully as good at two other ones.

All the numbers listed below come from MAC games only from last year.

So, when you look at all 8 games, BG's offense was actually #4 in the MAC.  The Falcons had 29.6 per game, and if you could add another touchdown a game you'd be #2 in the MAC.  (WMU led at 45).

Anyway, when you look at improving, yes, BG is likely to improve but it isn't like you're likely to get 14 points more a game.  I don't think when you compare this offense with the Johnson-Greene-Lewis-Deiter offense (47 per game) isn't that good.  The '13 offense scored 38 points a game...I'm not sure I see the developed skill players that offense had either.

BG was 3-5 in MAC play.  Given the schedule, a two-game improvement would be significant for the program, and any my view is that the offense is only going to provide so much additional production.

Last year, Coach Jinks felt like BG found an "identity," by which he meant that BG had discovered that it could play fast but run the ball, something BG did relentlessly down the stretch, sometimes getting 3 RBs with 100-yard games.  It was different than the identity had been only one year before and what it had been imagined to be early in the year (Air Raid).

So let's start with the running game.

BG was 6th in yards per carry last year.  From that, they lost their #1 RB, 1,000-yard rusher Fred Coppet.  The cupboard is certainly not bare...they return Donovan Wilson and Josh Cleveland.  Wilson was the least productive of the three backs, however.  Now, he probably was in some lower-yardage situations and he could improve.  Cleveland was over 6 yards a carry, so that's not likely to get a lot better.  There is some competition for the #3 spot, but no one with proven ability.  Anyway, I think the best you can expect out of the RBs is that they will be as good as they were last year.

Running isn't just running includes the line as well.  BG lost 3 starting lineman from last year and ranked #89 on Phil Steele's list of most returning offensive starters.  Again, the cupboard is not bare and I don't expect a big drop off, but I wouldn't expect this line to be a lot better than before.

So, switching to the passing game.

Of course, James Morgan is the key determining factor.  He has an incredible arm, but Coach has said he tends to think and not react.  Now, last year he was a freshman and making his first starts.  He ended up the #10 ranked QB in the MAC.  He completed 55% of his passes, whereas the top QBs in the MAC were all in the 60's.  He threw 12 INT on 280 attempts.  Robach, for example, threw 6 on 320.  Terrell--the championship QB--threw 1 in 220.  In all conference play, QBs threw picks on 2.8% of passes and Morgan was at 4.3%.

Normally, you would expect to see a big improvement from year 1 to year 2.  There is certainly room.  Coach has said the INTs have to come down...that's a killer.  If it does, and if completions get up into the 60s, that's good progress and the passing game should get better.  BG was 8th overall in passing efficiency.  EMU had 60% completions and 8 picks and was ranked 4th, just for reference.  You'd hope to have the running game free up passing lanes, but you also have to find out if the line can protect the QB.

As for receivers, again, I expect BG to be better but how much better isn't clear.  You lost Moore (42 catches) and Zimmerman (22 catches).  You return Scotty Miller, who's All-MAC and you are going to compliment him with Datrin Guyton, who has the potential to be a real force in this conference.  Redding remains the #3 guy....Coach indicated in Fall practice that he had really made a jump forward, which would be great because he shows great ability but has not had a really big break out.  There's some new blood behind those guys--both Phoutavong and true FR Quinton Morris offer uncoachable height.

Anyway, the key reason to think that the receivers will get better is that Guyton is a true deep threat and Morgan has the arm to get it there and that should create some big plays and then also open up some stuff underneath.  Miller catching the ball in space across the middle should scare any defense.  Anyway, between Morgan maturing and the addition of Guyton, I think the passing game could take a significant step forward.

 A couple other things.  BG gave up 18 sacks, though that was on a lot of attempts.  Either way, that number needs to stay as low as possible.  We've discussed the inexperience of the line.  This is partly on Morgan though.  He just can't hang onto the ball.

Finally, the biggest play in football is 3rd down.  BG was absolute last in 3rd down in the MAC and 124th in the country.  BG simply has to move the chains more.  Long possessions will make a huge the defense...and help put points on the board.  Hopefully, you end up in more convertible situations with more complete passes and consistent running, but either way, BG is not going to go 5-3 in the MAC at 34% conversion of 3rd downs.

So, I think offense should take a step forward.  As with all things, though, I think Falcon fans should be careful with expectations.  The offense will be better but I'm not sure they are ready for a quantum leap forward.

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