It has been described as relatively easy to implement.
It can vary in tempo.
It spreads the field from sideline to sideline.
It’s a pain in the neck to defend, too.
After engineering turnarounds at Florida Atlantic and Houston in back-to-back seasons, Kendal Briles has landed at Florida State as the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Briles’ expertise is a spread offense that has been one of the nation’s most prolific. He’s expected to have primary play-calling duties under coach Willie Taggart, whose “Lethal Simplicity” up-tempo offense last season never found its rhythm due to a myriad of issues.
“I am excited to see what coach Briles does for Florida State,” Marcus Clark said. “It was really fun to be a part of that offense. A lot of times, defenses couldn’t keep up. It gives players a lot of freedom to make plays.”
That should be game-day music to FSU’s ears.
Clark, 23, a former All-Big Bend selection and two-way player at North Florida Christian, was a reserve, redshirt senior running back at FAU in 2017. That was Briles’ lone season as the Owls’ offensive coordinator under Lane Kiffin before he departed to Houston in 2018.
FAU won 11 games, including its last 10, and won the first Conference USA championship in school history. Under Briles, the Owls led league in scoring at 40.6 points per game and also averaged a league-high 285.3 rushing yards. He flipped the script at Houston this past season as the Cougars finished 16th nationally in passing offense at nearly 300 yards per game.
Briles likes to identify his unit’s strengths and fit his formations to make a maximum impact. It’s a good bet Briles has already started that process in the Seminoles’ film room this week.
FSU needs to make an impact in 2019 – and that’s a huge understatement.
Last March, Taggart said in interviews he believed FSU had the talent to turn things around quickly from 2017. His tone changed last fall, and many believed the first-year coach underestimated how quickly his team would adapt to his system and the dysfunction in the program’s culture. Suddenly, FSU appeared to be a multi-year fix.
On the flip side, however, red flags appeared. Repeated mistakes on game day, a lack of visible progress and whispers among players that Taggart didn’t adhere to his own fundamental mantras chipped away at Taggart’s leadership skills.
But that’s ancient history, even at two months ago. It’s time to turn the page, because that’s what Taggart must do to get this right. His message hasn’t changed – he wants players who will live up to FSU’s standards, and he has vowed to make it happen.
Briles’ arrival has lifted the spirit of fans. Taggart isn’t sitting still either. More coaching moves are expected as the FSU administration maneuvers through the multi-layered process that includes finances. Speculation that Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts is eyeing FSU is a plus, too. He would give Taggart the dual-threat quarterback who better fits what he likes to do on offense.
FSU fans are among the most loyal and passionate in the country. They want to believe. They want to see results, even if the Seminoles’ offense will feature its third different scheme in as many years.
“I will say that I really enjoyed playing for KB and the offense is a lot of fun to execute,” former FAU quarterback Jason Driskell shared via text message.
Driskell passed for 2,247 yards and 15 touchdowns as a redshirt junior under Briles in 2017. The redshirt junior decided not to return to FAU for his senior season, instead graduating with a degree in civil engineering and chasing his dreams off the football field. Driskel made his last game count, accounting for four scores as FAU rolled past Akron 50-3 in the 2017 Boca Raton Bowl – the program’s first bowl appearance since 2008.
Todd Stroud, a former FSU player and coach, saw Briles’ offense operate, up close and personal. He was on the Zips’ defensive staff in the bowl game and was the program’s defensive coordinator last season. Briles called plays in rapid-fire succession with hand signals from the sidelines, and the Owls didn’t punt on their first nine possessions against Akron.
“That offense really puts you in a bind defensively,” Stroud said. “Their simplicity makes us (defense) even more simple because you can’t substitute. You either have to have nickel (defense) or dime on the field, or you get stuck on the field in base. It limits what you can do on defense and limits your opportunities. It’s very difficult to defend.”
Clark, who returned to Tallahassee and works in real estate (Keller Williams Town and Country Realty) and construction (Construction Support Southeast, Inc.), enjoyed his one season in Briles’ offense. Clark said teaks and variations of the offense were made as late as game day.
“That’s a testament to coach Briles’ offensive mindset,” Clark said. “His play-calling was second to none. The offense was easy to understand. When everyone’s on the same page, there’s nothing the defense could do.”
Just ask the Zips.
FAU outgained Akron 582-146 in total yards. Tailback Devin Singletary ran for 124 yards and three touchdowns, pushing his season total to 32 to lead all Division I FBS players. The Zips, coached by Terry Bowden – Bobby’s son — were overwhelmed.
“If you look at FAU (2017), the offense was very balanced,” Stroud said.
“From a personnel standpoint, it’s an offense that can thrive with an average line because you are not slowing the game, and you are not trying to bloody people’s noses by being real physical. You don’t know what you are going to get. If you take linebackers out of the box, they will beat you with numbers.
“It’s a pain in the neck to defend.”