Power Ranking the Best Offensive Play-Callers in College Football
Spread offenses have taken over college football, from the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 to the Baylor Bears in the Big 12. Even some Southeastern Conference teams have made spread attacks work against old-school Southern defenses.
Many college head coaches—such as Kevin Sumlin, Mike Gundy, Dana Holgorsen and Art Briles—are known as offensive gurus. And that's not even counting former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who has taken his fast-paced spread offense to the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL.
However, behind the big-name head coaches are offensive coordinators who hold the play cards and signal the quarterbacks, or make calls from the press box that make hurry-up offenses hum.
Some of these coaches are simply the next generation waiting to take over a team of their own.
10. Shannon Dawson, West Virginia
While Dana Holgorsen might be the mastermind behind the West Virginia offense, it is offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson who calls the shots.
With Dawson calling plays in 2012, WVU finished in the top 10 in the nation in scoring and total offense.
Last season, WVU boasted the top all-purpose player in the country in Tavon Austin and saw three offensive players—Austin, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey—drafted in the first three rounds.
Before heading to Morgantown, Dawson was the offensive coordinator at Stephen F. Austin, where he was the coordinator of the No. 1 passing, No. 4 scoring and No. 6 offense in the FCS.
9. Clarence McKinney, Texas A&M
Clarence McKinney only has a couple of games worth of play-calling experience at Texas A&M.
The Aggies' running backs coach and offensive coordinator had his debut with the play card in the 2013 Cotton Bowl. In that game, A&M amassed 633 yards and Johnny Manziel set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards in a 41-13 win over Oklahoma.
So far in 2013, McKinney has been excellent for A&M. The Aggies are No. 3 in the nation after Week 3, averaging 609 total yards per game, including 628 against Alabama, the nation's No. 1 defense a year ago.
As he gains more experience and builds his resume as an offensive coordinator, McKinney will quickly become a hot commodity as a head coaching candidate.
8. Tony Franklin, California
Tony Franklin followed California's new head coach, Sonny Dykes, from Louisiana Tech, and the two are off to a scorching offensive start in Berkeley, posting 556 yards per contest.
Franklin's Louisiana Tech offense led the nation in scoring in 2012, averaging 51.5 points per game to edge out a number of explosive offenses, including Oregon, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Franklin had his start at the collegiate level as a running backs coach under Air Raid innovator Hal Mumme.
After the first three weeks of 2013, Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff leads the nation in passing at 433.7 yards per game.
7. Scott Frost, Oregon
If the early 2013 season is a good indicator, Oregon's Scott Frost is well on his way to becoming a head coach.
The former Nebraska quarterback is in just his first season as the Ducks' offensive coordinator and play-caller, and they are already off to an incredible start.
UO has averaged 672 yards per game through three weeks and has averaged more than 60 points per game, ranking No. 2 in the nation in both categories.
As ESPN pointed out, the Ducks are scoring and moving the ball at a higher rate than ever before.
Pac-12 defenses, beware of Frost.
6. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma
Since Josh Heupel became Oklahoma's offensive play-caller at the end of the 2010 season, the Sooners haven't finished worse than No. 15 nationally in scoring offense and have been No. 12 or better in total offense.
Last year, OU was No. 5 in the nation in passing, led by quarterback Landry Jones, who graduated as the Big 12's all-time leading passer.
Heupel was a solid quarterback himself, leading the Sooners to the 2000 BCS National Championship. He also finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting and was OU's first consensus All-American quarterback.
In his time at OU, he has coached Jones and Heisman winners Jason White and Sam Bradford.
5. Mike Bobo, Georgia
Mike Bobo spent much of the early stages of his tenure as offensive coordinator at Georgia at the wrong end of jokes.
He turned that around recently, as his UGA offenses have been some of the most efficient in the nation.
Georgia scored nearly 38 points per game last year and finished No. 3 in the SEC in total offense.
So far in 2013, UGA is the only offense in the conference to average more than 200 rushing yards and 300 passing yards per contest.
4. Doug Nussmeier, Alabama
It only took one year at Alabama for Doug Nussmeier to grab his first national title ring.
While the Crimson Tide were known for their No. 1 defense, they had one of the best offensive attacks in school history as well.
Alabama's 2012 squad set school records for total offense and total points scored, filling stat sheets with more than 6,200 total yards and just shy of 40 points per game.
Before coming to Tuscaloosa, Nussmeier coached Keith Price and Jake Locker at Washington, grooming Locker to become a first-round NFL draft pick.
While many top offenses lean heavily toward the pass, Nussmeier presents a balanced attack, which helped lead to a stellar red-zone scoring rate in 2012, just more than 90 percent.
3. Chad Morris, Clemson
Rivals named Chad Morris the top offensive coordinator in college football in 2011, and it wasn't without reason.
The Clemson offense averaged 441 yards per game, a school record at the time, in just his first season with the Tigers.
Before that, Morris in 2010 coached the No. 5 offense in the nation at Tulsa, averaging more than 500 yards per game.
In his second year at Clemson, he broke his own mark when the Tigers finished No. 9 in the nation with an average of 512.7 yards per game. The Tigers also led the nation in red-zone scoring, putting points on the board on 95 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.
In 2013, he's off to an excellent start again, as CU has averaged just shy of 490 yards per game through the first three weeks.
2. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Kliff Kingsbury has retained play-calling duties in his first season as the Texas Tech head coach.
The former Red Raiders quarterback has guided his team to an average of more than 500 yards and 40 points per game, all in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Last year he called plays for the Texas A&M offense, which scored nearly 45 points and averaged nearly 560 total yards per game in its first year in the SEC.
As a coach and a player, Kingsbury has been under the tutelage of renowned offensive minds Kevin Sumlin, Dana Holgorsen and Mike Leach.
In time, Kingsbury will likely have a coaching tree of his own.
1. Philip Montgomery, Baylor
Art Briles has emerged as one of the most underrated coaches in college football, and much of his success is thanks to his offensive coordinator, Philip Montgomery.
Montgomery has been coaching alongside Briles since their days at Stephenville High School not far outside of Dallas. He later coached with Briles at Houston when the Cougars had some of the nation's best offenses from 2003-2007.
Since then, the two have been at Baylor and have taken the Bears from being a Big 12 doormat to consistently producing one of the best offensive attacks in the nation.
After helping Robert Griffin III win Baylor's first Heisman, Montgomery has worked to maintain the explosive BU offense—and he has been extremely successful.
The year after Griffin's departure, Baylor finished No. 2 in total offense and No. 4 in scoring offense in the nation.
So far in 2013, the Bears are No. 1 in both, tallying 69.5 points and 736.5 yards on average over their first two games.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!