To understand Dana Holgorsen's offensive genius mind, you first have to understand that he served seven years as an assistant coach to Mike Leach; first as a wide receivers coach and eventually as the offensive coordinator. Holgorsen also spent time under Hal Mumme at Valdosta State.
Mumme used an Air Raid attack in his offenses which is a pass-oriented spread offense. Holgorsen adopted this offensive philosophy while coaching under Mumme from 1993 to 1995. Under Leach, he probably perfected it.
For the Air Raid to work at its optimum level, the quarterback needs to make quick decisions when he comes to the line. A quarterback who has to look to the sidelines for adjustments gives the defense time to adjust as well. Geno Smith is making the adjustments himself which is indicative of his mastery of this offense.
It's also why Holgorsen's offense makes Geno Smith so Heisman-worthy.
If Holgorsen's offense is in a three-receiver set and they are covered by the cornerbacks and safety, Smith can call a play-action which may cause the defensive backs to loosen their zone coverage. But what about a five-receiver set?
If the strong safety picks up the tight end, that leaves just the free safety to cover two other receivers— a linebacker may pick up one of the other receivers but what if—and this is the genius of Holgorsen's offense—the defense blitzes, as Baylor did in its 51-45 loss last week?
Smith is a pass-first, run-second quarterback. Smith has a great pump fake which freezes linebackers—once the linebackers stop moving, Smith throws the ball to the open receiver or takes off running.
Baylor continually blitzed on the Mountaineers, but Smith recognized it at the line. Smith took advantage of gaps in zone coverage by finding the receiver who wasn't covered.
It's not that difficult of an offense but it plays havoc with defenses.
In a 4-3 defense there are seven players in the box; that leaves only four defensive backs covering five receivers. In a 3-4, there are only three down linemen which gives Smith plenty of time to find a streaking receiver down field. Load the box and Smith will quickly toss it down field to one of his speedy receivers.
Not every quarterback can run this offense to perfection.
Geno Smith has a quick release and is able to adjust at the line without waiting for sideline instruction. Holgorsen has put his trust in Smith's ability to make great reads and move the ball down field. With weapons like Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin at his disposal, it's no surprise how well Smith has his offense clicking; he's currently completing over 83 percent of his passes.
But what is really surprising is both the low number of incomplete passes and interceptions from Smith. The more you pass, the more opportunity for picks and incomplete passes—Smith, however, has missed on only 28 passes this season. And some of those were dropped.
1,728 passing yards in 169 attempts. Not one of his passes has been intercepted.
Zero. Bagel. Nada.
A smart quarterback with great accuracy, decent wheels and receivers with phenomenal yards-after-catch stats will a Heisman candidate make.
Is Holgorsen's offense impossible to stop?
With a quarterback like Geno Smith, good luck with that.