Saturday, August 29, 2015

Falcon Football 2015: Preview the Offense

First in a series.

Always wanted to say that.

We are, today, one week from the opening of the 2015 football season. I'm going to preview the season over the next few days, covering each element of the team, starting with the offense.

Previews are previews.  You are projecting, usually based on the past and not the future.  Having said that, the most likely scenario is that BG is going to struggle to get consistent stops.  Under that scenario, if the Falcons are going to win the East and have any shot at winning the MAC, they are going to have to score points by the bushel.

This is obviously what we are set up to do.  The pressure on points is even stronger because the offense isn't geared to running out an 8 minute TD drive to kill a game.  If we score, the defense is going right back onto the field.

This team probably will need points to win, and a lot.

Just to put the challenge in perspective, for all of BG's #Falconfast hype, the Falcons did not have a good offensive output last year.  BG finished 8th in the MAC in scoring offense (conference games only).  BG was 4th in total offense, 4th in rushing offense and 5th in passing offense.  That last stat is largely based on playcalling.  The team was 11th in pass efficiency, largely due to completing only 54.8% of its passes.

Look.  There's every reason to think BG will score a ton of points this year.  All I'm saying is that this isn't what happened last year.  BG was an average to slightly above average offensive team last year.  (BG was also +8 in turnovers.  It is very unusual for a team to have a disappointing season while they are +8.  Usually, those team exceed expectations).

Anyway, the biggest difference is obvious, and it is at QB.  Matt Johnson was injured late in the first game of the season last year, and things were never the same.  (Things weren't good when he was forced out, but that's another matter).

James Knapke stepped in and gave it at all, had a couple of very good games and had some struggles.  He was also playing in a system that no one really knew and he was making his first starts.  He got a rough ride from fans---and was replaced in-game at least a couple times by Cody Callaway--but it wasn't the best of circumstances, either.

Having said that, and nothing against Knapke, but the biggest immediate upgrade for this offense is getting Matt Johnson back.  When we last saw him, he was one of the MAC's best QBs, and assuming he is healthy (which he seems to be) he is incredibly well suited to this kind of offense.  He can make all the throws, can take off into an open field, and is a very cool customer.  Having him back just makes a huge difference.

Depth at QB appears to be Knapke and Nolan Dieter.  It appears that the plan is to redshirt Morgan, and Callaway and Clayton Nicholsan are no longer on the roster.  Knapke could continue to get better, but you'd expect a big change if Johnson got injured again.

Johnson has incredible tools to work with.  BG should be able to run and pass in any situation and generate big plays with the defense spread out and on its heels.  In addition, the Falcons have an experienced line that is leaner and readier for the pace we are going to play.

Starting at RB, BG has a lot of depth.  There's Travis Greene and Fred Coppet, both of whom are high quality backs.  They have both struggled with health, which is where the depth helps.  BG also has Ga Tech transfer Donovan Wilson to add depth.  RBs can get huge numbers in this offense, and there's every reason to think that can happen this year.

WRs are similarly stacked.  BG returns Ronnie Moore, Gehrig Dieter (who appears to have his sea legs back), Ryan Burbrink and all-MAC Roger Lewis.  Behind them are guys like Chris Gallon, Jermal Hosley, Tao Redding, Herve Coby and Scott Miller, who made some nice plays in the scrimmage.  All that goes without mentioning Robbie Rhodes, the Baylor transfer who has struggled with injuries since he arrived here but if healthy would have huge upside. Point is, even without him there's a ton of talent at WR.

At TE, BG has JUCO transfer Derek Lee, who made some plays in the scrimmage and he does look like he can help to provide another option.

On the line, BG is also very solid.  Anchored by Alex Huettel at RG, the Falcons have experienced Jacob Bennett and Logan Dietz at T, Ryan Hunter at the other G and Tim McAuliffe at C.  BG is second in the NCAA in career o-line starts and Phil Steele ranks BG as having the best OL in the MAC.  (Even better, only one is a senior).

So, down the line, stem to stern, this offense is set up to succeed.  Risks would include an injury at QB or some kind of ongoing chemistry issue with the offense.  Final thought.  It likely won't be good enough for the offense to be good or even great.  They have to play at a high level the whole way in any game BG is hoping to win.

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