Hope for a Change: Tony Franklin '13

Many things symbolize Virginia Tech football, including a lunchpail mentality on defense, but the offense is devoid of its own identity. It's overly complex, conservatively predictable, and lacking in execution. Tech's had the same leadership on offense for the past 10 years and it feels as if a different approach is needed in order to consistently win the big games that have eluded the program. The staff have been learning on the job, some for a decade, and they haven't been held accountable for a subpar product. The struggles this year can't be attributed exclusively to just the offensive staff, but this year would be a good time to re-evaluate the philosophy and direction of the offense.

State of the Offense

Tech's offense incorporates a lot of different concepts and ideas from around the country, but execution has been sacrificed for complexity. The result: jack of all schemes, but not the master of one. The college game sets limits to how much time teams can practice. So what might work in the NFL, multiple formations and packages, doesn't in college. The offense usually picks mid-season after it's simplified, but it's bloated and stagnant towards the beginning of the season, and for the bowl game. Additionally, conservative tendencies lead to predictable play calling.

Offensive philosophy seems to be focused on time of possession rather than aggressively attacking and scoring. In the last 4 seasons, Tech has done a good job of ball control, but that hasn't necessarily resulted in greater offensive production, especially in the big games.

Year TOP TOP Rank Plays per Game Plays per Game Rank Total Offense Rank
2008 32:49 6 70.1 45 101
2009 31:29 23 65.4 98 46
2010 31:57 19 67.4 77 37
2011 34:06 3 72.2 53 38

Aggressive, attacking offenses that light up the scoreboard are becoming the norm in college football. Tech has gone halfway with some spread principles, and a concentrated focus on big plays, but it's obvious the current staff isn't able to successfully teach and execute the spread. I feel Tech needs to fully commit to the spread, and Tony Franklin is one of the leading experts in the nation.

The Tony Franklin System

Over the years, Tony Franklin has experienced a lot of success as an offensive coordinator running his spread system. Franklin has ties to the current coaching staff having played at Murray State with Bud Foster. He graduated right before Frank Beamer coached there. Franklin's philosophy would provide a big difference in direction of the offense.

"We spread it to figure out what is going to work in any particular game and then we just do that. [...] I'm not hung up on who gets the ball and how we do it. I just want to score points." - Tony Franklin

Franklin's offense has roots in the same Air Raid offense as WVU's under Dana Holgorsen, but he has his own distinctive and actually patented system. The Tony Franklin System has many principles that work well in the college game, my favorite being the installation of offense in 3 days. Less complexity yields better execution. Smart Football provides a good history and description of the Air Raid offense. Franklin differs from the stereotypical Air Raid as he has been very balanced between the run and the pass especially after his brief tenure at Auburn.

Year Rushing Offense Rank Rushes/Game Passing Offense Rank Pass Attempts/Game Total Offense Rank
2009 27 39.9 42 33.5 27
2010 40 38.8 62 35.4 49
2011 70 39.2 45 36.8 51
2012 11 44.8 9 40.8 2

After Franklin's tenure at Auburn he was at Middle Tennessee State in 2009, and now Louisiana Tech (2010-current). The last 4 years he has shown a commitment to the run in his offense. The first two years at La Tech there were growing pains with personnel, but now the offense is extremely productive.

Franklin runs a hurry up offense mainly out of the shotgun, but his philosophy isn't to lead the country in pass yards or rush yards. It is to run a lot of plays and do what works to score points. Virginia Tech has run 696 plays in 10 games, while La Tech has run 864. Franklin is currently the offensive coordinator for Louisiana Tech which leads the country in total offense. Even though he runs a spread offense, he incorporates power running. This year he used a 3 back Bone formation which was used effectively to run against Texas A&M as Good Bull Hunting points out.

Several plays are ran through this formation such as counter, counter trap, zone read and power-sweep

Alabama rushed for 122 yards against Texas A&M, Louisiana Tech mustered 165.

Fit at Virginia Tech

Franklin has experienced a lot of success, but he was fired from Auburn 6 games into his first full season. He didn't have a complete roster of spread personnel, and more importantly, Auburn never completely bought into his system. Currently, Tech has a roster that could immediately be successful in Franklin's system, and the talent in the region typically fits the spread offense. The lesson learned from Auburn is Franklin's offense won't be successful unless there's total buy in and some autonomy from the head coach. A down season might lead to Beamer stepping back and giving something new a chance.

The popular opinion is that Frank Beamer would never fully commit to a spread offense, but he has currently agreed to go halfway with spread principles. Also, he seemed inspired by Chad Morris' scheme. Last offseason a lot was made of Tech incorporating the pistol formation, as well as trying to run a hurry up offense. The current staff tries to mimic the various spread philosophies seen on visits across the country, but they don't have the knowledge and confidence to successfully implement them. We currently have a mush, rice pudding, pho type spread that is utilized some of the time but never truly committed to.

"Obviously if you can line up and you've got better players than else and play great defense and eat clock and win as many games as you can, that's a great way of playing football, too. The problem is, 95 percent of us don't have that type of talent to do that."
- Tony Franklin in Response to Nick Saban's remarks against spread offenses

Virginia Tech's current approach with its offense doesn't mesh with the goal of a national title. A physical ball control offense has worked for the likes of Alabama, but there are only a few teams that have the players to win consistently against teams with equal or greater talent. Bud Foster has expressed his respect of spread offenses in his preparation for teams such as Clemson and has even said he would prefer an Oregon-type spread offense if he was a head coach.

It's been 20 years since Frank Beamer was given an ultimatum to change his staff and it might be time, especially after this year, that he's given another. The current offensive staff has tried hard to succeed and implement new ideas but has consistently had execution problems. Beamer has given Bryan Stinespring 10 years to lead the offense, but it hasn't produced at a national championship level. Now is the right time to move in a new direction.


Good Read

I think there can still be success in the offense we currently run, but the way we call plays is baffling & certainly needs to change in the offseason. I'm not against us switching to a completely new system, I just don't want to have another down year because we are installing a brand new offensive scheme.

Pre-marital sex will blow your mothers fake legs off her porch

(those who were frequents at Sharkeys from 2006-2008 will understand this epic graffiti by the first urinal)


I'd rather gain an offensive identity AND lose the bad play calling. If it takes another down year to get us to a National Championship, I'm willing to take it.

Reading this just gets me excited for next year. I hope we see the necessary changes take place in the off season in hopes of moving forward as program. The current offensive staff is simply not going to be able to produce like the elite programs right now (looking at you Newsome, O'cain, Sherman, and Stiney).

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson

In Franklin's offense, the center makes adjustments.

This is really cool, smart, and a great example of how Franklin is an innovator. If he's given complete control of the offense, meaning The Frankinator stays hands off, then I'm in favor of brining in a coach who looks to himself before others for new ideas.

The idea was baked around 2003 in something called the National Indoor Football League. Tony Franklin, Louisiana Tech's offensive coordinator, was then coaching the Lexington Horsemen against the Ohio Valley Greyhounds in a bandbox road arena so loud even the horses needed earplugs.

Franklin decided to save his quarterback's vocal cords by rerouting the plays. Instead of the quarterback screaming out the protection pickups — picture Peyton Manning's pre-snap histrionics — the responsibility was moved to a centralized location.

The logic was simple: The center is closer to his offensive linemen than a quarterback in shotgun formation.

"The quarterback in our offense doesn't have to speak," Franklin explained. "To us, crowd noise is nothing. We laugh about it."

At fast-moving Louisiana Tech, plays are signaled in between snaps as the Bulldogs hurry into formation. Warner handles all the protection schemes up front, then relays them via hand signals to quarterback Colby Cameron.

"It makes it really easy on the quarterback," Cameron said. "I don't have to worry about the protection."

Cameron, a senior finance major, happily defers to Warner's brain and vocal power. "He's civil engineering," Cameron said of his center's major.

Warner is a former walk-on who literally walked over from Ruston High, right across the street.

Warner alters the snap count by using seven or eight code words during a game, and the system is working. Louisiana Tech has scored 50 or more points seven times.


What about Kevin Rogers? Beamer has familiarity with him and he could be the QB coach too. The fact that he's worked in the NFL and with Brett Favre could be a good selling point to potential recruits.

def a possibility

Kevin Rogers is at Temple right now I believe. Rogers last stop over at Boston College wasn't good to say the least and I don't know how his recovery from health issues has gone if he would still be up to be an OC. If it was back in the day in 2005 I would've definitely wanted Rogers but not as sure now. He is definitely very familiar with VT and the staff.

Other than landing Michael Vick and having good fullbacks to lead on the load option, there is nothing Kevin Rogers did at VT that would make me excited for his return.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Thoughts on the most likely next OC....

...Ralph Friedgen?

I would be shocked....

if we hired Tony Franklin. Shocked.

It's been mentioned a couple of times recently, here and elsewhere. But in case somebody doesn't know...

1. Franklin was blacklisted from college football for writing a tell all book about Mumme's regime at UK. He spent 4 years in arena league, then has worked his way up from Troy to MTSU and now to LaTech.

2. He sells the Tony Franklin System to high schools. Can you imagine a VT coach having a side business peddling his wares?

3. He runs a spread.

it's fun to think about, but if that's the offense you want, you're rooting for the wrong school. I would guess if it isn't Friedgen, it's some other OC you recognize and has been around a long time.

Some Feedback

1. That might be a major sticking point with Beamer who values loyalty so highly.

2. BeamerBall.com does exactly that, the coaches appearing on TTL is another way they sell themselves. Side hussel is already happening in Blacksburg. I'd argue it's a recruiting advantage, coaches are asking Franklin to come help them, and he's developing a great network.

3. I truly believe the coaches want to run a version of the Clemson offense this fall. The primary reason why they failed, they don't have the expert like Morris to pull it off.

Don't forget to mention the fact

That Beamer actually held special teams conferences for a while to teach other coaches about his system in exchange for the cash moolah... Hell, you can buy one of the guides through the itunes...

Logan 3:16

Regarding those concerns

1) The issue at Kentucky was over a decade ago and he was one of the only people on the staff that was cleared by the NCAA. You forget to mention he was at Auburn after Troy which was after the Kentucky situation. So another proven coach in Tuberville trusted him to come to a SEC school after the scandal.

2) Beamerball, special team clinics, lunchpaildefense.com all of it coaches using influence to make outside money. He's previously sold ownership to his partners while he was at Auburn so if it was an issue might not be a deal breaker for him to sell his consulting firm. Feel like a coach who has tons of connections to HS football programs would be valuable for recruiting.

3) We've run a semi spread quite a bit. My favorite win over the past 2 years was against Miami and we were a basically a spread team that Saturday. Spread isn't a dirty word and doesn't mean having to pass all the time. Just in the ACC UNC and Clemson have become spread teams recently.

You're right....

...I was thinking the Mumme book came out when he was at Auburn. I had his stops mixed up.

That might help. I just think there are literally hundreds of choices, Beamer won't pick one with so much perceived baggage. Unless Bud does know him enough to vouch for him.

That's the point really. We can read bios and interpolate relationships, but this is a small world. The VT coaches already know every OC and which ones they would want to work with and not.