Greg Davis

I haven’t blogged in over 3 months, mostly because school got real busy down the stretch but I told myself I’d get back at it during the break. This blog is to vindicate the rumors about University of Texas Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis. Darrell Royal always jokes that students graduate from the University of Texas with a degree in their major and a degree in offensive coordinating. I am here to say play calling is about one hundred times harder than most people think it is.

Chris Simms and Mack Brown have taken a beating from the media and even their own fans but the difference is they also received praise at times. Chris Simms has moved on to the NFL and is now the starting quarterback for a playoff bound team. Last year Mack received the 10 year $26 million deal and is now receiving numerous ‘Coach of the Year’ awards. During the rough times, if you call 10 and 11 win seasons rough times, Greg Davis received more than his fair share of criticism. The numbers don’t lie. Let me break it down for you. If UT scores 14 points in the Rose Bowl they will have scored more points than any team in college football history. The Longhorns are averaging 50.9 pts/game which ranks them first, even ahead of USC’s which some people think is the best offense in college football history. In his 8 seasons at Texas he has coached 6 of the school’s top 7 passing seasons, 7 of the top 8 total yard seasons, and spots one through five on the school’s all time scoring charts. In the 104 years of Texas football before Greg Davis came along the University of Texas had never seen a 3,000 yard passer, a 2,000 yard rusher, 1,000 yard receivers, or a 1,000/1,000 pass/rush quarterback. Without boring you with numerous other stats in short Greg Davis has helped rewrite the Texas record books.

In high school we used to come in to practice Monday morning and in our lockers was a thick stapled packet called a game plan. There was an offensive game plan and a defensive game plan and you were delivered the right one. In the offensive game plan a one or two sentence summary was written about each player on that week’s opposition’s defense. When does he come in? Does he take plays off? How fast is he? How quick is he? Is he a good tackler? Is he a hard hitter? Is he better in the passing game? Is he a better run defender? Is he a good blitzer? Does he have any injuries of note? Has he repeatedly been beaten on any particular types of plays? Middle school coaches, our “scouts”, would put these together from scouting. Then there is a formation breakdown. What formations do they run? What percent of the time do they run or pass out of each? What kind of field position do they run each? Who lines up where in each? What percent of the time do they blitz out of each? Last a breakdown of the plays. Each play is drawn up and a chart of when they ran it as a percentage in terms of down and distance. Then all week the sophomores on the scout team run these plays live to simulate how the plays look as they develop on the field. The point is an ungodly amount of research went into preparing these things and they were prepared by middle school football coaches. I cannot even fathom what kind of preparation goes into a college program game plan. There is more to it than drawing up plays in the dirt. It is a very choreographed game and there is a mental chess match that takes place.

Some people argue that it is the talent that Mack Brown recruits that is the sole reason for this recent offensive explosion. I wholeheartedly disagree with that. Greg Davis is a chess master. One thing I hadn’t watched as closely until I got to college was the chess match that goes on between the offensive and defensive coordinators. I also realized how horrible it is to watch football on TV. On TV you cannot see the chess match that takes place in subbing personnel and you also cannot see crap in the passing game, at least not live. Most routes over 8 yards are off the screen and it is near impossible to see a passing play develop on TV. The first time I realized Greg Davis was a chess master was my freshman year at a home game against Oklahoma State. At the beginning of the possession Texas went in to the huddle with a running back (Cedric Benson), two tight ends (Bo Scaife and David Thomas), and two receivers (Roy Williams and BJ Johnson). A package with two tight ends and a strong inside runner like Cedric essentially forces a defense to stay in a base defense consisting of only four defensive backs. To everyone’s surprise Texas broke the huddle and lined up 5-wide. Scaife and Thomas are not your typical tight ends, both are very athletic receiver types who create mismatches. Before the snap Texas has already won the down because of these mismatches. The two safeties can man up the tight ends but that leaves both Roy Williams and BJ Johnson on corners with no safety help. One or both of the safeties can stay deep to provide help but that leaves a linebacker on either Scaife or Thomas which as I told you before is a mismatch. OSU chose to man up Scaife and Thomas with linebackers and as a result they got beat over the middle. The next part of the equation is what I like even more. After the play Simms hurries to the line and Texas goes no huddle to prevent OSU from getting their extra linebacker off the field in exchange for a nickel back who can cover Thomas or Scaife. Four of five plays later and about 50 yards later OSU calls a timeout to give themselves a chance to get better aligned. Later in the game Texas huddled with the very same personnel but this time OSU countered by going to a nickel. Texas breaks the huddle and lines up in an ace set, two tight ends and a running back in the back field. OSU going to a nickel made them undersized and more vulnerable to the running game and of course Benson bangs up inside for easy yards.

Greg Davis loves creating these kinds of mismatches. He is so successful at this because he is great at being flexible. He doesn’t have a system that he sticks to regardless of the personnel. How else would he have produced the school’s record leader at quarterback, running back, and receiver in an 8 year span. This year Romance Taylor steps in as the X-factor. When he is in the huddle you still don’t know the personnel because he can lineup at running back or at receiver and do both equally well. Vince Young credits his evolution as a passer to the pre-snap read, something he learned from Greg Davis. Now when Young comes up to the line he surveys what personnel the defense is in. Is a linebacker or a safety head up on Thomas? He points out where the free safety is lined up. Vince rarely checks out of a play but just surveying the defense gives him the edge to take his game to the next level.

In my first couple years at Texas what frustrated me most was fans pleas to Mack and Greg Davis to open up the playbook. These guys have been very successful in their careers and they do things for a reason. Davis is an X’s and O’s type of guy. He is not a super motivational emotional leader. He is a very calculated methodical leader who will out think you. When Texas fans wanted the playbook to be opened up I still don’t know what they were asking for. Did they want more trick plays? Did they want us to throw the deep ball more? Good teams do not rely on these things. Look back to some recent championship teams. Miami, Oklahoma, and Ohio State. None of those teams had real open offenses. In my opinion if you rely on big plays out of the passing game and trick plays to win you are not going to be a good football team. And not only are those high reward plays but they are high risk plays. More often than not the difference in the game is the team that makes less negative plays rather than the team that makes bigger plays.

Our fans and the media used to hate when we would throw bubble screens and 5 yard hitches to Roy Williams, BJ Johnson, and Sloan Thomas. I perfectly understood the play. First off, if the defense respects you by playing off the ball, then take what they give you. Second, if you get the ball in the hands of your playmakers right now, then you are a mistackle away from a big play. Worst case scenario an undersized corner comes up and makes a great tackle dropping the receiver for a 2-3 yard gain. Best case scenario the athletic mismatch results in a corner flat-backed or with broken ankles and a big body receiver rumbling down the field. The reason those receivers were good was because physically they created mismatches not because they were exceptional route runners. Why make a riskier pass down the field so that a receiver catches the ball with less opportunity to make a move and get yards after the catch? After watching the Texas games this year a buddy of mine that goes to Tech recently told me that he thinks our most dangerous plays are the hitches and bubble screens we throw to Pittman, Taylor, and Sweed. How ironic.

There are only three plays in the past two years that have caught me off guard and left me thinking wow Greg Davis is really trying to open it up.

  1. Last year the reverse pass throwback to Vince in the Missouri game.
  2. Playaction to Romance out of shotgun and then throwing it back to him on a streak(three times, you will see this in the Rose Bowl guaranteed we haven’t run it since Baylor)
  3. The wheel route Vince hit Pittman on at the end of the first half of this years OU game

There are a few points I am trying to make:

  1. Most people have no idea of the film study, the charted statistical breakdowns, and the hidden philosophy behind every play.
  2. Greg Davis is an underrated coach and gets little acknowledgement for what he does
  3. Greg Davis isn’t opening it up any more than he ever did.
  4. You can be very clever without ‘opening it up’

-hj

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