Balance in the offense. Pretty common belief in football that balance in the offense leads to success in the offense. If all you do is run it becomes easier for teams to focus all their efforts at stopping it. At that point you can still be successful but you better have a mammoth offensive line and every player has to put a hat on a hat and play football.
What proves slightly more difficult is if all you are capable of is passing. Again at that point you better field an offensive line that creates a pocket, wins their matchups and more often than not allows very very few sacks. Still you likely need balance within your passing game itself. Does it do you any good to go five wide if only two are legitimate targets?
Right now the Kansas Jayhawks have no balance. There are other reasons for the current struggles and perhaps 2007 inflated expectations a bit to high but that season certainly points to some glaring reasons why 2009 and perhaps even to a lesser extent 2008 weren't as successful.
First off let's take a look at the 2007 statistical breakdown for the Jayhawks offensively.
|Marcus Henry||54||1014||18.8||82 (TD)||10|
|Aqib Talib||8||182||22.8||58 (TD)||4|
Clearly we all know this was a good year offensively against a weaker schedule, but still it's not hard to see we were a much more balanced team.
Todd's numbers are what they are, amazingly he still looks to be on pace in 2009 for a better statistical year but that doesn't take into account the fumbles, the sacks and other wasted offensive plays that seem to be plaguing him this year.
A quick look at the running game vs. passing though and you'll see Kansas rushed for over 2400 yards in 2007 while passing for around 3700 as a team. 40% run, 60% pass, probably about par for the spread. Certainly some balance in that area and when you look inside each of those areas separately you see an equal amount of balance.
McAnderson 190 carries, Sharp 111 carries. Hell even Todd ran it 92 times although I wouldn't say that's the ideal scenario this year. Still why can't we see this type of split with Sharp and Opurum? Take away the Sharps injury and who knows if Toben sees the field much past UTEP.
In the passing game the spread amongst receivers is great. Marcus Henry with 54 catches, Dexton Fields with 63, Derek Fine with 46, Dezmon Briscoe at 42, Kerry Meier with 26 and running backs combined with a total of 40 balls thrown their way. No single player was the recipent of more than 22% of the teams receptions. Who does a defense focus on? It's pretty clear this year but in 2007 the ball was being distributed around no one man more emphasized than the next and it made the offense very difficult to defend. Isn't the point of the spread to get more athletes on the field than the other team and get them into space? So what good does it do if only two of those athletes see the ball? Just a question.
Now let's jump to 2008 a year which was truthfully very close to being a disaster. A great game against Missouri and a monster comeback in Ames essentially made things feel a whole lot better than maybe they really were. Nonetheless it was a success but things were clearly trending away from the balance we saw in 2007.
|Jake Sharp||186||860||4.6||47 (TD)||12|
|Dezmon Briscoe||92||1407||15.3||69 (TD)||15|
|Kerry Meier||97||1045||10.8||68 (TD)||8|
|Jake Sharp||25||283||11.3||67 (TD)||1|
|Angus Quigley||17||82||4.8||14 (TD)||1|
2008 final numbers were 1650 on the ground and just shy of 4000 through the air. Moves the Jayhawks to 30% of their yards on the ground and 70% through the air. If you remember the ground game really came on much stronger in conference play so I'll accept this as a failure in the non-conference combined with the fact that confidence was through the roof in the passing game. It worked too for the most part, even in the losses the offense was working.
Sharp was effective with over 180 carries on the year. The running game certainly wasn't to 2007 standards but we lost an All American left tackle and a senior right tackle so a dip was somewhat expected.
The passing game is where you begin to see a bit of a troubling trend. For all the talk of Reesing, Dez and Meier being great it shouldn't be hard for a defensive coordinator going forward to see where they need to pool their resources. There are two guys on this list that catch better than 60% of the balls thrown. Granted they were somewhat new on the scene and both are very good, but is everyone else a decoy? The spread the ball around distribution from 2007 is long gone.
All in all 2008 was productive and the offense never stalled out like it has this season but when you look at the numbers it would seem the Jayhawk playcalling was at the very least trending in the direction that has led to the complete unbalance we are seeing today.
|Toben Opurum||116||498||4.3||26 (TD)||9|
Here's a quick look at 2009 YTD. Currently Kansas sits at about 30% of their yards coming from the ground game and again about 70% in the air. On paper it wouldn't seem we've regressed in this area much from 2008 but only 313 of the rushing yards in 2009 have come after conference play began. Yep, 313 yards rushing in 5 games. How many would you guess in the first five conference games for 2008? 843 is the magic number, a 163 yard/game average. Our offense turned it on in 2008 when conference play began. So in this current skid it'd be safe to bet that maybe 10% of our offensive yardage is coming on the ground. Not tough to defend when you tell your front four to tee off and drop the other seven into coverage.
It becomes even less difficult when you realize that once again, two players on the Jayhawks are accounting for nearly 60% of their offensive receptions. Now I'll concede the fact that Johnathan Wilson has dropped a good number of passes this year but do we not have anyone else on the team that can catch a ball? Let's give them a shot. Against Kansas State Tetravian Ingram finally came in for Johnathan Wilson who has struggled of late. Missed the first pass thrown his way and yanked back to the sideline. The reactions to the two's behaviors seems a bit unproportional.
Also why doesn't Tim Biere see the ball more? He seems every bit as capable of making a catch as Derek Fine. Not too mention he runs like a truck down the field. Has he been tackled yet? or just eventually bounced out of bounds. The running backs are seeing about the same number of balls as they have in the past but the effectiveness is down. Too many middle screens and shovel passes perhaps? Why not check down to these guys on our normal every down passing plays when no one appears open?
To wrap up I just want to make it clear that what this group has done for the University of Kansas football program is immeasurable. It's made Saturday's matter again in the fall. Nobody sets out to lose and certainly these guys put in a tremendous amount of hours and effort all year. They deserve and will get my continued support. Somewhere though whether it rest with the man at the top, the offensive coordinator and certainly a little bit with the signal caller, this offense isn't remotely close to where it's been. In 2007 this team did it with players nobody wanted out of high school. Literally no one wanted Marcus Henry, Brandon McAnderson was far from the top of anyones list at running back and as I recall the Head Coach on the other sideline this past weekend didn't recruit Jake Sharp.
Kansas should be better, it's time to adapt what we're doing and fix the problems. Changes were swift on the defensive side of the ball, but are coming far too slowly for the offense. I'm headed back to Lawrence this week to see Senior day for this crew and I'm thrilled to say I'll send off Stuckey, Meier, Reesing, Sharp and likely Briscoe. I just hope that the teams struggles this year can be corrected enough to get them a bowl game and then going forward our program finds a way to adapt what we've done well in the past to continue moving forward as a program.