With too many unknowns regarding the offense for Kansas football this fall, I reached out to the SBNation TCU blog, Frogs O War, to see if I could gain some insight from their talented staff. Managing Editor Melissa Triebwasser was kind enough to provide some amazing insight into the guy charged with turning David Beaty’s Air Wreck into an Air Raid.
RCT: Let's start off immediately with what Kansas fans care about the most, and that's taking the play-calling duties away from David Beaty. What is Doug Meacham like in terms of a playcaller? How aggressive is he? We've watched bubble screen after bubble screen for the past two years and we're sick of it. Part of that was due to questionable offensive line play and the desire/need to get the ball out quickly. But with an experienced and talented offensive line returning, will the ball get thrown downfield?
FOW: If you like fade calls on third and three and double reverses on third and one, you'll love Doug Meacham.
Meach is definitely aggressive, and has no problem throwing the ball all over the field. Sometimes, to the detriment of his team. TCU fans were frustrated with the offensive play last year, and some of that blame, in our eyes, fell on the play-calling. When the Frogs had generational talents like Josh Doctson and Trevone Boykin, Meach's penchant to rely too heavily on the passing game and to call a ton of deep balls worked to perfection, and the results spoke for themselves.
But when the talent turned over, it appeared that Meach didn't adjust his game plan accordingly, and it became easy to question some of the decisions. Now, it's not fair to blame it all on him - the receivers couldn't catch and Hill turned it over far too much, but his stubbornness certainly played a role as well.
I think the point that fans turned on him came late in the game against OU, in a tight spot, when the Frogs literally called a double reverse on third and one, deep in their own territory, that was predictably stopped behind the line. That brought back memories of the two fade calls against Baylor in 2014 - one on third and short the other on fourth - and the calls for a change began.
Meacham is absolutely talented, and he did some amazing things for the Frogs in his three years at the helm. I might seem like a bitter fan maligning the guy now that he's gone, but we owe him a lot. It just seemed that last year, when the talent wasn't as good, he was a little too stubborn in sticking with what had worked previously. And the results spoke for themselves.
Meacham is obviously known as an Air Raid guy, but even those systems have to have effective rushing attacks. I know Coach Patterson got a little frustrated with him toward the end of the 2016 season with a sudden lack of success rushing; How well will he mix in the run versus the pass?
The Frogs ran the ball quite a bit in his tenure at the helm; Aaron Green had 244 rushing attempts as a senior, and Kyle Hicks had 203 a season ago, and he wasn't fully healthy for most of the year. It's not that he won't run the ball by any stretch, but it's the situational instances where he chooses not to that are frustrating.
The Frogs averaged nearly 200 yards on the ground per game in 2016, nearly 200 in 2015, and 175 in 2014. Those numbers were slightly below the norm for the Frogs, but still significant when you look at how many pass attempts the team had. Meach brings so much tempo to a program - Kansas is already running 70+ plays a game, but that number will go up closer to 80, and those additional ten snaps can make a huge difference for an offense.
TCU has obviously had some great offensive talent over the past three years. At KU, at least for this year, I think he'll still have talent, it's just that outside of Steven Sims that talent will be very raw and inexperienced. Do you have any insight as to his abilities as an instructor?
Sonny Cumbie is the QB whisperer in the partnership - he's given the bulk of the credit for Boykin's development, and is expected to work wonders with true freshman Shawn Robinson and class of 2018 commit Justin Rogers. But, prior to his stint in Fort Worth, Meach was credited with the development of several top-flight receivers at Oklahoma State as well as being Greg Ward, Jr's QB coach, so he certainly has a history of getting the most out of his players.
Meacham certainly played a role in the success of Doctson and Listenbee, and is an exceptional talent evaluator as well as developer. You should see an improvement across the board - and don't forget - the now slender Doug is a former offensive lineman who blocked for Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, so he should have an impact on the Jayhawks' line as well.
Is his system more suited to a pocket passer (Peyton Bender) or a scrambling QB (Carter Stanley/Tyriek Starks)?
Meacham has had his greatest success with QBs that can run a little, as evidenced by what he did with Boykin (1320 rushing yards across two seasons) and Kenny Hill (609 yards in 2016). He also did well with Ward at Houston, and set records at previous stops as well. A lot of Meach's plays have the QB stretching the pocket or moving it altogether, and having a guy who is at least good on his feet and can throw on the run certainly makes a difference.
The read option is a big part of the playbook as well, so the guy taking the snaps has to at least be a threat. There was nothing more disheartening for Frog fans a year ago than watching Foster Sawyer (a big-armed dude who has all the physical tools above the waist but wasn't exactly light on his feet) come in and try to run the same book as Kenny Hill. In the Texas game, when Hill got hurt, Foster came in and on his first snap, rolled out and literally fell on his butt. Great kid - not a great fit in Meach's offense. But that goes to my point above - when you have a dude who is 6'5"/230, why are you calling a read option/rollout on his first play off the bench?
Anyway... I would expect he will go with one of the more mobile options, unless one or both are turnover prone and Bender keeps the ball going to the guys wearing the right jersey color. They don't need to be dynamos running the ball, but at least a reliable threat and have good enough feet to buy time and keep plays alive.
Due to all of the new faces on the Kansas offense, this may be above your pay grade, but I'll ask it anyway - last year, Kansas quarterbacks combined for 2,885 yards, with a 59.8% completion percentage and a 16/22 TD/INT ratio. In your opinion, what are some realistic numbers KU fans should expect from the QB position this year?
Pretty sure we aren't supposed to be talking about pay on an SB Nation site right now ;). But, seriously... I have paid closer attention to Kansas Football than most, because it always ends up being the scariest game on TCU's schedule for one reason or another. David Beaty is doing a hell of a job, and the talent level is already rising significantly. Adding Meach to the equation is a boon, to be sure.
I don't know all that much about the three guys in contention to be the starting QB in 2017, but I can relay my experience as a TCU fan. In 2015, Trevone Boykin had a sub-60 completion percentage and threw seven touchdowns to seven picks in starting about half the season. He gave fans little reason to believe he would be the guy the following year. Enter Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, and suddenly he's a Heisman candidate and a finalist for several major awards, leading the Frogs to the cusp of the playoffs (on no why did I bring that up now I am sad).
Now, Boykin certainly had an incredible skillset and finally had coaches recognize it and build the offense around it, so I'm not saying Kansas fans should expect similar results. That being said, there's no reason the completion rate should rise - though don't expect 68% or anything because he does like to whip the ball around quite a bit - and the TD/INT ratio should swing to the positive because the reads are much faster and much simpler in Meacham's O. And I will be shocked if that yardage mark doesn't increase up closer to 4,000.
Any other thoughts you might have would be much appreciated as well.
Well, my final thought would be this: I would understand if the readers feel like I was a little negative or bitter, having lost a talented coach to a conference rival. And sure, there is a bit of me that keeps asking, 'why in the hell did Meach leave TCU for Kansas?'.
But, that being said, Meach was faced with losing his play-calling duties to Cumbie (who is, hopefully, the heir apparent to Patterson), and the move made total sense for him once the ultimatum of "you can stay, but your role will change" was laid out. Meach wants to be a head coach, I think, if the right situation arises, and the opportunity to prove himself at Kansas, and with a coach he has a long history with, is a perfect fit.
He is really good at what he does - turning programs around, maximizing the potential of the roster he is given, and bringing an exciting brand of football to a program that needs an energy injection. He is cool as all hell, but he can be cocky and difficult to work with sometimes, and stubborn as can be. Those qualities help make him successful, but can lead to him wearing out his welcome quickly, too.
It's a great move for him and a great pickup for KU, and I see it as a win-win. I am certainly not looking forward to facing him for the next couple years. I will be interested to see if he changes some of his philosophies to match what he has to work with in Lawrence, or if some of the square peg, round hole tendencies follow him up I-35. Ultimately, I think he will do well, help Kansas win a few more games, and move on in a season to two to lead a program elsewhere.
He's a good guy with a great family and an incredible coaching acumen. I don't hold the fact he left for another job in-conference against him, and hope he makes a big difference for KU... 11 times a year.