Coach Jake's new offense already 'second nature' to Northwestern

Go Catz

Well-Known Member
Sep 26, 2019
102
84
28
For some reason, this reminds me of the articles we read last year, saying that HJ had learned seven different offenses in seven different years or something like that. The idea was that it would be no problem for him to learn McCall's offense, especially since he'd been studying it somewhat during his transfer year off (while running other teams' offenses on the scout team).

Nonetheless, I appreciate the positive news. I am feeling increasingly optimistic about Bajakian and Ramsey pulling it together this season.
 

corbi296

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
Sep 9, 2005
21,521
8,546
113
For some reason, this reminds me of the articles we read last year, saying that HJ had learned seven different offenses in seven different years or something like that. The idea was that it would be no problem for him to learn McCall's offense, especially since he'd been studying it somewhat during his transfer year off (while running other teams' offenses on the scout team).

Nonetheless, I appreciate the positive news. I am feeling increasingly optimistic about Bajakian and Ramsey pulling it together this season.
Ramsey has a proven track record of success as a starting Big Ten QB. Hunter did not and does not.
 
  • Like
Reactions: No Chores

ricko654321

Well-Known Member
Nov 15, 2006
3,248
1,700
113
For some reason, this reminds me of the articles we read last year, saying that HJ had learned seven different offenses in seven different years or something like that. The idea was that it would be no problem for him to learn McCall's offense, especially since he'd been studying it somewhat during his transfer year off (while running other teams' offenses on the scout team).

Nonetheless, I appreciate the positive news. I am feeling increasingly optimistic about Bajakian and Ramsey pulling it together this season.
Yeah my reaction to this article was "isn't the goal of an offense to fool the defense, not to be easy for the players to pick up?" I don't think that "Bajakian has done his job" just by teaching them the offense, he needs to have plays that move the ball too! I mean it's not a bad thing that they are saying they have full grasp of it I guess, but this sounds like classic pre-season grandstanding. I'll believe that we have a functional offense when I see it. In fact, after all these years, I'm not even sure I know what it looks like anymore.

Honestly if we can score even 24 ppg on offense against a conference only schedule this year I would be satisfied. We had 12.7 ppg last year in conference. 13th ahead of only Rutgers at 5.7 (yikes, but do they really count?). 24 ppg would have placed us 10th, though there is a bit of a cluster right there - 25.2 ppg would have been 7th. I think we can win with 24 ppg with this defense. Last year for context our D gave up 27.3 ppg in conference, but if you take out a 52 spot from OSU (who we don't play this year) that is a shade over 24 ppg. Btw the 27.3 was 9th in conference but there is also a clump there - just 1 pt less per game (26.3) would pass two teams and be 7th. Clearly the 24-27 ppg is sort of the league average range, to win consistently you need to score that much or more, and give up that much or less.

(PS Lou appreciate the article, good writing and appreciate the content so not criticizing - just a but skeptical of the preseason talk...)

 

DaCat

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
May 29, 2001
16,340
7,767
113
For some reason, this reminds me of the articles we read last year, saying that HJ had learned seven different offenses in seven different years or something like that. The idea was that it would be no problem for him to learn McCall's offense, especially since he'd been studying it somewhat during his transfer year off (while running other teams' offenses on the scout team).

Nonetheless, I appreciate the positive news. I am feeling increasingly optimistic about Bajakian and Ramsey pulling it together this season.
Ouch. I think I had erased last year's offensive stats from my memory.
Nowhere to go but up. Moving to Jake's offense will naturally get a bounce up, and then him simplifying it for the players will allow them to play without out-thinking themselves. It's always been the goal of football coaches to have the players know the playbook so well that they don't have to think about what to do, but just play. With McCall, his offense was overly complicated by all reports, and players weren't playing fast or naturally. Thorson knew the offense well, and so could just play, but others struggled to learn it.
 

Purple Pile Driver

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
May 14, 2014
12,621
7,216
113
Anywhere but the Rant Board
Nowhere to go but up. Moving to Jake's offense will naturally get a bounce up, and then him simplifying it for the players will allow them to play without out-thinking themselves. It's always been the goal of football coaches to have the players know the playbook so well that they don't have to think about what to do, but just play. With McCall, his offense was overly complicated by all reports, and players weren't playing fast or naturally. Thorson knew the offense well, and so could just play, but others struggled to learn it.
Our opponents learned our offense pretty quickly.
 

DaCat

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
May 29, 2001
16,340
7,767
113
This is what makes me chuckle when I hear how complicated McCall's offense was. We seemed to have it figured out pretty easily.
I think it was more the case of the McCall offense being overly complicated for our players trying to execute it, but the end result was still an offense that didn't fool defenses and was not effective. The worst of both worlds.
 

CoralSpringsCat

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
Dec 4, 2002
16,653
10,535
113
Coral Springs, FL
Creativity and smart play calling don’t need to be “complicated”. That’s what I believe McCall lacked. I don’t buy this over complicated BS; it was never an issue when the offense was playing well. Predictability and lack of imagination? Now that’s another story.
 
  • Like
Reactions: stpaulcat

FanatiCat

Well-Known Member
May 29, 2001
5,398
680
113
I thought the “complicated” part of it was not the design of the plays themselves but that it required the QB to make certain calls/adjustments at the line, like protection and so forth. If the QB makes the wrong read, and/or makes the wrong call based on that read, one could see why our offense looked like no one was on the same page last year.
 

gocatsgo2003

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
Mar 30, 2006
29,768
9,288
113
Creativity and smart play calling don’t need to be “complicated”. That’s what I believe McCall lacked. I don’t buy this over complicated BS; it was never an issue when the offense was playing well. Predictability and lack of imagination? Now that’s another story.
It wasn't necessarily complicated, but required a lot of on-the-fly post-snap reads. No coincidence that it worked best with veterans in key positions.
 
  • Like
Reactions: CoralSpringsCat

gocatsgo2003

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
Mar 30, 2006
29,768
9,288
113
I thought the “complicated” part of it was not the design of the plays themselves but that it required the QB to make certain calls/adjustments at the line, like protection and so forth. If the QB makes the wrong read, and/or makes the wrong call based on that read, one could see why our offense looked like no one was on the same page last year.
Correct, though just as much post-snap as pre-snap.
 

NUCat320

Well-Known Member
Dec 4, 2005
12,094
4,556
113
Nowhere to go but up. Moving to Jake's offense will naturally get a bounce up, and then him simplifying it for the players will allow them to play without out-thinking themselves. It's always been the goal of football coaches to have the players know the playbook so well that they don't have to think about what to do, but just play. With McCall, his offense was overly complicated by all reports, and players weren't playing fast or naturally. Thorson knew the offense well, and so could just play, but others struggled to learn it.
And the one year the offense really worked, it was largely because of a record-setting receiver capable of getting open, always.
 
  • Like
Reactions: phatcat

NUCat320

Well-Known Member
Dec 4, 2005
12,094
4,556
113
Maybe it wasn’t as much about the difficulty of the offense but the capabilities of the players who were asked to execute the offense last year?
Corbi, this is the fight you’ve lost already! It was a terrible offense. No creativity. No motion. No deception. Predictable play-calling. (And, yes, not much receiving talent. But nothing ever done to compensate for that weakness.)
 
  • Like
Reactions: EvanstonCat

CappyNU

Well-Known Member
Mar 3, 2004
2,534
707
113
Chicago
The fact is, over the last 7 years of the McCall regime, which included 2 QBs, 1 RB, 2 TEs and 1 WR that were drafted/got NFL time, no aspect of the offense was ever top-3 in the Big 10. Scoring was bottom-3 in conference 5 of 7 years, and yards per play was dead-last 3 of 7 years.

The first 5 years of McCall's reign, we lead the conference in passing yards twice, were top-3 in scoring once, and were never dead-last in any category, despite having virtually no NFL skill-position talent outside of QB.

It will be nice to see a functioning offense again in Evanston.
 

DaCat

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
May 29, 2001
16,340
7,767
113
The fact is, over the last 7 years of the McCall regime, which included 2 QBs, 1 RB, 2 TEs and 1 WR that were drafted/got NFL time, no aspect of the offense was ever top-3 in the Big 10. Scoring was bottom-3 in conference 5 of 7 years, and yards per play was dead-last 3 of 7 years.

The first 5 years of McCall's reign, we lead the conference in passing yards twice, were top-3 in scoring once, and were never dead-last in any category, despite having virtually no NFL skill-position talent outside of QB.

It will be nice to see a functioning offense again in Evanston.
McCall inherited a high-powered offense featuring senior QB CJ Bacher coming off one of the best seasons by a NU QB, with 4 year starter Tyrell Sutton and a solid receiver corps led by Lane, Peterman, Ward, and Dunsmore.

One might give him credit for "developing" Kafka and maybe Persa, but one could argue he didn't do a great job with Siemian, and I don't think Thorson reached his full potential under McCall either.
 

NUCat320

Well-Known Member
Dec 4, 2005
12,094
4,556
113
The fact is, over the last 7 years of the McCall regime, which included 2 QBs, 1 RB, 2 TEs and 1 WR that were drafted/got NFL time, no aspect of the offense was ever top-3 in the Big 10. Scoring was bottom-3 in conference 5 of 7 years, and yards per play was dead-last 3 of 7 years.

The first 5 years of McCall's reign, we lead the conference in passing yards twice, were top-3 in scoring once, and were never dead-last in any category, despite having virtually no NFL skill-position talent outside of QB.

It will be nice to see a functioning offense again in Evanston.
Coaches adapt and change. Mick didn’t. Offensive strategy definitely passed him by.
 

corbi296

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
Sep 9, 2005
21,521
8,546
113
Corbi, this is the fight you’ve lost already! It was a terrible offense. No creativity. No motion. No deception. Predictable play-calling. (And, yes, not much receiving talent. But nothing ever done to compensate for that weakness.)
According to whom? Someone had to take the fall for last season and MCCall certainly deserved some of the blame but don’t illude yourself into thinking that last season was all or mostly about McCall. You put Coach Bajakian in place as OC last year with all the other variables unchanged and very little changes in my opinion. We were woefully lacking talent at key positions last year and no coach could have overcome that predicament.
 
Last edited:

PURPLE Book Cat

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
Sep 3, 2007
1,778
332
83
According to whom? Someone had to take the fall for last season and MCCall certainly deserved some of the blame but don’t illude yourself into thinking that last season was all or mostly about McCall. You put Coach Bajakian in place as OC last year with all the other variables unchanged and very little changes in my opinion. We were woefully lacking talent at key positions last year and no coach could have overcome that predicament.
The fatal problem for McCall was that, regardless of his ability to adapt or craft an effective offense, he lost the confidence of the players and Fitz. Even the most successful and brilliant coaches (Lane Kiffin, for instance) lack staying power when they lose the confidence of their teams.
 

Purple Pile Driver

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
May 14, 2014
12,621
7,216
113
Anywhere but the Rant Board
The fatal problem for McCall was that, regardless of his ability to adapt or craft an effective offense, he lost the confidence of the players and Fitz. Even the most successful and brilliant coaches (Lane Kiffin, for instance) lack staying power when they lose the confidence of their teams.
The fact that very few if any former players came to his defense is telling in itself.
 
  • Like
Reactions: No Chores

FeralFelidae

Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2003
9,725
2,799
113
The fatal problem for McCall was that, regardless of his ability to adapt or craft an effective offense, he lost the confidence of the players and Fitz. Even the most successful and brilliant coaches (Lane Kiffin, for instance) lack staying power when they lose the confidence of their teams.
And putting all his chips on Aidan Smith.
 
  • Sad
Reactions: willycat

corbi296

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
Sep 9, 2005
21,521
8,546
113
The fatal problem for McCall was that, regardless of his ability to adapt or craft an effective offense, he lost the confidence of the players and Fitz. Even the most successful and brilliant coaches (Lane Kiffin, for instance) lack staying power when they lose the confidence of their teams.
I think that’s accurate. He obviously was not a favorite of some players based on the comments that came out last year but it seems likely it went beyond that.it’s hard to be a coach in one place for a very long period of time. Easier in college than the pros but the tendency to get comfortable and develop habits and practices that become predictable/ineffective both on the field and off is still there.
 

phatcat

Well-Known Member
Nov 5, 2001
11,753
4,062
113
Baltimore
McCall inherited a high-powered offense featuring senior QB CJ Bacher coming off one of the best seasons by a NU QB, with 4 year starter Tyrell Sutton and a solid receiver corps led by Lane, Peterman, Ward, and Dunsmore.

One might give him credit for "developing" Kafka and maybe Persa, but one could argue he didn't do a great job with Siemian, and I don't think Thorson reached his full potential under McCall either.
I give him credit for 2012, though it seems like the sort of tripped over Venric Mark. That offense was pretty effective and fun to watch.
 

EvanstonCat

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
May 29, 2001
26,731
3,426
113
Yeah my reaction to this article was "isn't the goal of an offense to fool the defense, not to be easy for the players to pick up?" I don't think that "Bajakian has done his job" just by teaching them the offense, he needs to have plays that move the ball too! I mean it's not a bad thing that they are saying they have full grasp of it I guess, but this sounds like classic pre-season grandstanding. I'll believe that we have a functional offense when I see it. In fact, after all these years, I'm not even sure I know what it looks like anymore.

Honestly if we can score even 24 ppg on offense against a conference only schedule this year I would be satisfied. We had 12.7 ppg last year in conference. 13th ahead of only Rutgers at 5.7 (yikes, but do they really count?). 24 ppg would have placed us 10th, though there is a bit of a cluster right there - 25.2 ppg would have been 7th. I think we can win with 24 ppg with this defense. Last year for context our D gave up 27.3 ppg in conference, but if you take out a 52 spot from OSU (who we don't play this year) that is a shade over 24 ppg. Btw the 27.3 was 9th in conference but there is also a clump there - just 1 pt less per game (26.3) would pass two teams and be 7th. Clearly the 24-27 ppg is sort of the league average range, to win consistently you need to score that much or more, and give up that much or less.

(PS Lou appreciate the article, good writing and appreciate the content so not criticizing - just a but skeptical of the preseason talk...)

I think it was Mike Leach that said something like the best offenses are ones where the players don't have to think, because they are intuitive, simple, and easy to execute. When you have something that players know how to execute, guess what? They execute. Which is what you need.

I think the other thing I like about what I'm hearing about Bajakian run offenses is that it is flexible in adapting to the personnel and making use of their strengths. They ran heavy at BC because that's what fit their personnel.

Jake ran a pass happy offense when he had Dan Lefevour who is one of the leading passers in NCAA history throwing to Antonio Davis at Central Michigan. In Bajakian’s first season, they all wound up having career years. Running a traditional spread offense, LeFevour threw for 3,562 yards and ran for 1,122 yards. The two running backs, Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins, combined for 1150 yards on the ground. And Brown caught 102 passes for 1,003 yards.

When Bajakian was hired to run the offense at Cincinnati, he tailored the spread offense to feature tight end Travis Kelce, now the best player in the NFL at his position. Kelce caught 45 passes for 722 yards in his senior year, and the Bearcats had back-to-back ten win seasons with Bajakian running the offense.

When Bajakian became the offensive coordinator at Tennessee, he had better athletes across almost every position of the roster, like future Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara. The Volunteers ran a shotgun spread offense with pro style principals. That meant Tennessee ran most of the same formations Bajakian used at his previous two stops, but the plays were designed for the quarterback to get the ball out more quickly to a playmaker in space.

From 2015-2018, the Buccaneers were a vertical passing team that featured Jameis Winston throwing the ball down the field regularly to playmakers like Mike Evans.

Then at Boston College last season, Bajakian’s offense ran the ball over 50 times per game. All ACC running back A.J. Dillon rushed for 1,685 yards before declaring for the NFL Draft in December.

Another thing I like about Bajakian is that he has consistently run top 40 offenses at every stop in his career. I'm confident we'll see one again this year at NU. McCall had ONE top 40 offense in his time at NU, and many in the bottom quartile including our pitiful close to dead last offense last year. How anyone could defend him is beyond me. He was terrible.
 
Last edited:

EvanstonCat

Well-Known Member
Gold Member
May 29, 2001
26,731
3,426
113
According to whom? Someone had to take the fall for last season and MCCall certainly deserved some of the blame but don’t illude yourself into thinking that last season was all or mostly about McCall. You put Coach Bajakian in place as OC last year with all the other variables unchanged and very little changes in my opinion. We were woefully lacking talent at key positions last year and no coach could have overcome that predicament.
McCall's last season was pitiful, but take that away and you still have an OC that underperformed greatly during his time at NU. Rarely ever had anything that could be considered a good offense.
 
  • Like
Reactions: drewjin

phatcat

Well-Known Member
Nov 5, 2001
11,753
4,062
113
Baltimore
I think it was Mike Leach that said something like the best offenses are ones where the players don't have to think, because they are intuitive, simple, and easy to execute. When you have something that players know how to execute, guess what? They execute. Which is what you need.

I think the other thing I like about what I'm hearing about Bajakian run offenses is that it is flexible in adapting to the personnel and making use of their strengths. They ran heavy at BC because that's what fit their personnel.

Jake ran a pass happy offense when he had Dan Lefevour who is one of the leading passers in NCAA history throwing to Antonio Davis at Central Michigan. In Bajakian’s first season, they all wound up having career years. Running a traditional spread offense, LeFevour threw for 3,562 yards and ran for 1,122 yards. The two running backs, Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins, combined for 1150 yards on the ground. And Brown caught 102 passes for 1,003 yards.

When Bajakian was hired to run the offense at Cincinnati, he tailored the spread offense to feature tight end Travis Kelce, now the best player in the NFL at his position. Kelce caught 45 passes for 722 yards in his senior year, and the Bearcats had back-to-back ten win seasons with Bajakian running the offense.

When Bajakian became the offensive coordinator at Tennessee, he had better athletes across almost every position of the roster, like future Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara. The Volunteers ran a shotgun spread offense with pro style principals. That meant Tennessee ran most of the same formations Bajakian used at his previous two stops, but the plays were designed for the quarterback to get the ball out more quickly to a playmaker in space.

From 2015-2018, the Buccaneers were a vertical passing team that featured Jameis Winston throwing the ball down the field regularly to playmakers like Mike Evans.

Then at Boston College last season, Bajakian’s offense ran the ball over 50 times per game. All ACC running back A.J. Dillon rushed for 1,685 yards before declaring for the NFL Draft in December.

Another thing I like about Bajakian is that he has consistently run top 40 offenses at every stop in his career. I'm confident we'll see one again this year at NU. McCall had ONE top 40 offense in his time at NU, and many in the bottom quartile including our pitiful close to dead last offense last year. How anyone could defend him is beyond me. He was terrible.
I didn't know he was at Cincy. I hope he does well, I don't think I could BearCats having another year like last year
 
  • Like
Reactions: LansingCat

Katatonic

Well-Known Member
Oct 23, 2004
11,316
827
113
McCall inherited a high-powered offense featuring senior QB CJ Bacher coming off one of the best seasons by a NU QB, with 4 year starter Tyrell Sutton and a solid receiver corps led by Lane, Peterman, Ward, and Dunsmore.

One might give him credit for "developing" Kafka and maybe Persa, but one could argue he didn't do a great job with Siemian, and I don't think Thorson reached his full potential under McCall either.
Held both Siemian and Thorson back from their full potential (and couldn't develop a viable passer as a backup for both their tenures), and there's a reason why Kafka and Persa credit Baz and not McC in their development as passers.
 

Katatonic

Well-Known Member
Oct 23, 2004
11,316
827
113
I thought the “complicated” part of it was not the design of the plays themselves but that it required the QB to make certain calls/adjustments at the line, like protection and so forth. If the QB makes the wrong read, and/or makes the wrong call based on that read, one could see why our offense looked like no one was on the same page last year.
This.

It also required the other players on O to "read & react" to what the D was showing, so required a certain level of experience/familiarity on both ends for a successful play (both QB and target had to be on the same page).

This is the major reason why the 'Cats have struggled in the passing game when breaking in a new QB (whereas the Domers went thru a stretch of multiple new QBs a little while ago, with each having big passing games early on as a starter).

And why that promising group of frosh receivers really didn't see the field (when for other programs a frosh receiver can make an immediate impact).