College Football 2011: 25 Teams that Will Throw More than They Run
The "old school" noble style of football is to grind the ball out on the ground and run between the tackles much like Vince Lombardi's old Green Bay Packers teams did.
We are now in a new age of football, and spread offenses and pass happy styles of play are becoming more and more prevalent across the college football landscape.
I will now run down the top 25 teams in college football who will air the ball out rather than run the ball up the gut.
As always let me know your thoughts and opinions.
25. Miami [OH] Redhawks
Departed senior Thomas Merriweather was the Redhawks leading rusher in 2010. With Merriweather gone the Redhawks will count on sophomore running back Tracy Woods to assume the full-time rushing duties. This transition in itself would be reason to believe that Miami [OH] will mold their offensive game plan around the passing game next season.
Add to that the fact that quarterback Zac Dysert was selected as a second team All-MAC pick last season and it becomes blatantly obvious that new head coach Don Treadwell will rely on the passing game to score points. Dysert attempted 343 passes last season and his arm should get plenty of work in 2011 also as Miami [OH] will lean on their air attack on offense.
24. Maryland Terrapins
Quarterback Danny O'Brien returns for the Terps after throwing for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns as a freshman.
O'Brien loses star wide receiver Torrey Smith to the NFL, but Quintin McCree will return along with tight end Matt Furstenberg. Both Furstenberg and McCree figure to contribute more in 2011 and help ease the pain of losing the speedy Smith.
Do it all running back Da'Rel Scott is now departed after gaining 2,401 rushing yards at Maryland. Scott's departure along with the progression of O'Brien will lead to new head coach Randy Edsall leaning on the passing game during his first year in College Park.
23. Clemson Tigers
It’s uncertain whether quarterback Kyle Parker will return for Clemson in 2011 or pursue his MLB career. Parker threw for 2,213 passing yards last season, and if he does return, he could be in line for an even bigger season in 2011 with running back Jamie Harper now gone.
Harper ran for 760 rushing yards last season and was penciled as a starter for next year, but he surprised head coach Dabo Swinney and others when he announced that he would forego his eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
Running back Andre Ellington also returns and will take over the rushing duties as well as catch balls out of the backfield.
The focus will now shift to the passing game with hopefully the return of Parker and young receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown.
22. SMU Mustangs
June Jones made his pass happy offense a staple of his success at Hawaii and he has now carried that high volume passing system to SMU. The Mustangs ranked No. 21 in the country in passing yards last season, averaging 275.8 per game, and it’s expected that SMU will once again heavily rely on the pass.
Quarterback Kyle Padron returns under center for Jones after throwing for 3,828 passing yards and 31 touchdowns in 2010. Padron will welcome back wide receiver Cole Beasley who had 1,060 receiving yards last season.
SMU won’t rely on Craig Jones and Eric Dickerson like they did back in the day, but rather these new look Mustangs will focus on the passing attack.
21. Cincinnati Bearcats
Quarterback Zach Collaros returns for his senior season after having a subpar 2010 campaign. Collaros threw 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season and endured plenty of highs and lows in what turned out to be a disappointing campaign for first year head coach Butch Jones.
Collaros will rely on wide receivers D.J. Woods and Anthony McClung to stretch the field next season. Running back Isaiah Pead is also an adept pass catcher and has been an integral part of the passing game in past years.
Wide receiver Armon Binns is no longer with the program, but that shouldn’t stop Cincy from taking to the air to win games in Butch Jones’s spread offensive attack.
20. Texas A&M Aggies
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill returns under center after throwing 13 touchdowns over the course of the final seven games of the 2010 season.
Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope are Tannehill’s two favorite targets and will once again be looked upon next season to provide fireworks in the passing game. Running back Cyrus Gray also returns for the Aggies as does sophomore Christine Michael who played well last season before being sidelined by an injury.
Despite the presence of Michael and Gray I expect the focus to be on Tannehill and the passing game in 2011.
An aerial attack isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Texas A&M football, but next season the focus will definitely be on the passing game.
19. Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State is known for producing elite running backs such as Steven Jackson and departed senior Jacquizz Rodgers.
It appeared that the Beavers would rely on their ground game again, but then “quizz” Rodgers shocked fans when he announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. After hearing this news Beaver fans began looking at quarterback Ryan Katz and the passing game to take precedent offensively.
Katz threw for 2,401 yards last season and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore. The quarterback’s presence under center along with the recent announcement that wide receiver James Rodgers would get a fifth year of eligibility because of a medical hardship year is reason to think that head coach Mike Riley will take to the air in search of points in 2011.
18. Georgia Bulldogs
The signing of highly touted running back Isaiah Cromwell was a recruiting coup for Mark Richt and Georgia. Cromwell will eventually become a dominating force on the ground for the Bulldogs, but next year the offense will revolve around quarterback Aaron Murray and the passing game.
Murray threw for 3,049 yards and 24 touchdowns last season and he figures to throw for just as many yards during his sophomore campaign this coming season. A.J. Green and Kris Durham are gone, but wide receiver Tavarres King and tight end Orson Charles figure to step in and help make up for the departed duos production.
The fact that running back Washaun Ealey was recently suspended by Richt is just more reason to think that Georgia will focus on Murray and the passing game next season on offense.
17. Tennessee Volunteers
Tyler Bray performed well under center as a freshman for the Volunteers, throwing 18 touchdown passes in nine games.
Bray will be asked to continue throwing the ball around the field in 2011 as Tennessee will focus on the passing game next season.
Wide receivers Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones are gone, but fellow freshman Justin Hunter played well in his first season in Knoxville and finished with 415 receiving yards. Hunter will most likely take on an increased role next season for the Vols.
Running back Tauren Poole will carry the rushing workload for Tennessee, but it will be quarterback Tyler Bray and the passing game that will be the focus of the Volunteers offense.
16. Missouri Tigers
Even with the departure of Blaine Gabbert you can still expect Missouri to throw the ball at a high clip in 2011 just as they did in 2010.
Head coach Gary Pinkel has shown to prefer this style and he won’t stop running his five wide spread offense any time soon. Up to four players are competing for the starter’s job including Blaine’s younger brother Tyler Gabbert.
Wide receiver T.J. Moe had 1,000+ receiving yards last season and will be back once again in 2011 to keep the Tigers high flying offense running.
15. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Not a lot changed when Tommy Tuberville took over for Mike Leach at Texas Tech last season as the Red Raiders threw the ball around the football field as much as ever. Texas Tech ranked No. 7 in the country in passing last season, averaging 318.9 passing yards per contest.
Tuberville and offensive coordinator Neal Brown will have to decide on a replacement for the departed Taylor Potts, but either way the emphasis should be on the passing game once again until proven otherwise.
Leading rusher Baron Batch is also gone from the program after exhausting his eligibility in 2010 so it’s not like there is a clear cut advantage with the running game. Expect Texas Tech to continue doing what is familiar to them and that is throwing the ball all over the field.
14. Utah Utes
Running back Matt Asiata is gone and quarterback Jordan Wynn now inherits full responsibility for the Utes on offense.
Wynn has thrown for 3,500+ yards and 25 touchdowns in his first two seasons at Utah but has been shaky at times as well. In fact head coach Kyle Whittingham considered benching Jordan after back to back rough outings against TCU and Notre Dame.
Despite these past struggles the passing game will be a point of focus for the Utes in 2011. Jitterbug wide receiver DeVonte Christopher returns after enjoying a breakout sophomore season in 2010. Look for Jordan to seek out DeVonte early and often in the passing game next year in Salt Lake.
13. West Virginia Mountaineers
Noel Devine’s electrifying four years in Morgantown have come and gone and now West Virginia must move on without Noel’s 29 career rushing touchdowns.
Quarterback Geno Smith will be the headliner of head coach Bill Stewart’s offensive attack in 2011 as the Mountaineers figure to switch their offensive emphasis from the running game to the passing attack.
Geno threw for 2,763 passing yards and 24 touchdowns during his first season as full-time starter last year. The junior quarterback will also benefit from the return of dynamic wide receiver Tavon Austin.
Ryan Clarke appears to be the running back that will be tasked with replacing Devine’s production, but expect Bill Stewart to look to Smith and the passing game in search of his yards and points.
12. Texas Longhorns
Garrett Gilbert struggled last season as the Longhorns limped to a 5-7 record, but Gilbert will be counted on to play well in 2011 for Texas.
The former five-star recruit out of Austin, Texas threw for 2,744 passing yards last season as a sophomore. There will be a similar emphasis on Gilbert and the passing game in 2011 for Texas.
Wide receiver Mike Davis had 478 receiving yards as a freshman and should take on an even bigger role as a sophomore.
Even with the addition of highly touted running back Malcolm Brown you can expect Texas to lean on their passing attack.
11. Arkansas Razorbacks
Even with the departure of star quarterback Ryan Mallett you can be sure that head coach Bobby Petrino is going to favor the passing game.
Petrino utilized this spread offense at Louisville and now at Arkansas, and there is no reason to believe that he will stop using it now. Expect many four and five wide receiver sets from Arkansas next season as they will once again take to the air on offense.
Joe Adams and Jarius Wright return for the Hogs at wide receiver and it will be up to Petrino to find a replacement at quarterback for the strong armed Mallett.
10. Illinois Fighting Illini
Running back Mikel Leshoure is moving on to the NFL after rushing for 1,697 yards last season for Illinois. This means that the onus will be on sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to keep the offense operating at a high level.
Scheelhaase threw for 1,825 passing yards and 17 touchdowns last season and he will be the central cog in Illinois’s offensive attack in 2011. Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins amassed 746 receiving yards last season and will likely be Scheelhasse’s favorite receiving option on offense.
Even with Leshoure, Illinois only put together a record of 7-6 and if they want to have a breakout year in 2011 then it’s going to have to happen in the passing game.
9. Arizona State Sun Devils
Quarterback Brock Osweiler will most likely assume the full time starter’s job in 2011 after throwing 647 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the final two games of 2010.
Wide receivers T.J. Simpson and Mike Willie will be Osweiler’s top two targets and will try to lessen the sting of Kerry Taylor’s departure.
Running back Cameron Marshall is also a serviceable back and will add punch to the rushing game, but Osweiler and the passing game is truly what has Sun Devil fans excited about the 2011 season. Finally, Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson has had his best success at ASU under a high volume passing system.
8. Arizona Wildcats
Arizona will break in an entirely new offensive line in 2011, but expect Arizona to pass just as much as ever next season.
The Tucson Citizen reports that head coach Mike Stoops is expecting big things out of quarterback Nick Foles and that the offense next season will resemble “a full-time pass happy spread.”
Foles threw for 3,191 passing yards on 426 passing attempts and it’s expected that the quarterback will put up similar numbers next season as well. Receivers Juron Criner and David Douglass return for Arizona in 2011 as the Wildcats will look to pass their way to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
Arizona averaged 307.7 passing yards per game last season which was good for No. 9 in the country and they may top that in 2011.
7. Boise State Broncos
Quarterback Kellen Moore is returning for his senior year and this will mean that you can expect Boise to once again feature a pass heavy offense.
Senior wide receiver’s Titus Young and Austin Pettis need to be replaced, but expect new wide receivers to surface in their place. Doug Martin leads the rushing attack after rushing for 1,260 yards last season, but the back also racked up 338 receiving yards as well.
Boise State ranked No. 6 in the nation in passing yards last season and Moore’s decision to return means that the Broncos will most likely end up near the top of that list once again in 2011.
6. Houston Cougars
Quarterback Case Keenum has thrown for 13,586 passing yards and 107 touchdowns throughout the course of his collegiate career and he will pad those lofty stats during his final season in 2011.
Keenum will pick up where he left off in 2009 after having his 2010 campaign cut short by a torn ACL that he suffered against UCLA.
Houston traditionally loves to pass the football and Keenum’s return will do nothing to weigh down the Cougars aerial attack. The Cougars get the majority of their receivers back with the exception of James Cleveland.
In the end it all equals Case Keenum throwing the ball constantly and racking up an innumerable amount of passing yards.
5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly loves to run a fast paced, pass happy spread offense and it appears that this season Kelly will have the personnel to do just that. Quarterback Dayne Crist returns after having a ruptured patella tendon end his 2010 campaign.
Crist will have the benefit of playing out of the shotgun and throwing to the talented duo of Michael Floyd and Theo Riddick.
Running back Armando Allen Jr. is gone and Cierre Wood will most likely inherit Allen’s rushing duties. Notre Dame is similar to some other teams on this list in that their transition in the running game will lead to a greater emphasis on passing the football.
We saw what Brian Kelly’s offensive attack looked like when he had his full complement of players at Cincinnati and now we will get to see what he can do with perhaps better talent in South Bend.
4. Hawaii Warriors
Hawaii features former quarterbacks Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan and that should tell you all you need to know about the Warriors offensive philosophy.
Last season Hawaii led the nation in passing yards by throwing for 394.3 yards per game and the Warriors will look to do much of the same in 2011.
Quarterback Bryant Moniz returns after throwing for 5,040 passing yards and 39 touchdowns in 2010. Moniz will try to put up similar numbers during this upcoming season playing in head coach Greg McMackin’s pass happy spread offense.
Leading wide receiver and departed senior Greg Salas will need to be replaced for Hawaii.
3. Stanford Cardinal
Andrew Luck shocked NFL scouts and college coaches alike when he announced that he would be returning to school rather than entering the NFL Draft.
Alas the Carolina Panthers loss becomes Stanford’s gain.
Luck threw for 3,338 passing yards and 32 touchdowns last season for the Cardinal. Colby Fleener and Griff Whalen will be counted on to step up as receiving options for Luck.
Running back Stepfan Taylor also has the shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon return to form one of the most lethal pass catching duos in the country. Weeden threw for 4,277 yards last season and Blackmon caught 1,782 of those yards.
Running back Kendall Hunter is gone and now more than ever head coach Mike Gundy will rely on his passing game.
Oklahoma State has become known for having potent passing attacks and with players such as Weeden, Blackmon and wide receiver Josh Cooper this season appears to be no different.
Expect Oklahoma State to go to the air often on offense in 2011.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Running back DeMarco Murray finished his accomplished Sooner career in 2010. This means that now more than ever the focus will shift to quarterback Landry Jones on offense.
Jones threw 38 touchdowns last season and will benefit from the return of star wide receiver Ryan Broyles next season. Broyles caught 131 passes and racked up 1,622 receiving yards last season for Oklahoma.
The pass catching duo of Jones and Broyles along with the return of Kenny Stills is more than enough evidence that Oklahoma will lean heavily on their passing game in 2011.
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