Golden Nuggets: Dykes-Franklin Offense Contains 20 Base Plays, Took Three Days to Install

Thearon W. Henderson

Intent on simplifying the Cal offense, Dykes and Franklin completed installation of their offense in only three days. The base offense consists of around 20 plays and far fewer signals than the 500+ involved in Tedford's offense. Now the goal is to play as fast as possible.

Stewart Mandel recently spent some time watching the Cal offense and came away impressed by the simplicity of the Bear Raid.

This season, Cal will join the fast-growing group of teams -- West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M among them -- whose offenses descended from original Air Raid practitioners Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. Dykes and Franklin were part of their original Kentucky staff in the late 1990s. And for an offense that's broken records virtually everywhere it's spread -- including last season at Louisiana Tech, where the Dykes/Franklin-coached Bulldogs led the nation in both total offense (577.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (51.5 points per game) -- it's surprisingly simple. The pair began their offensive installation on a Monday, and by Friday, the third practice of spring, they were practically done. The base offense consists of roughly 20 plays -- three screens, six runs and 12 or so pass plays -- that can be packaged together. By comparison, Cal's offense under Tedford contained more than 500 different signals.

The general philosophy of Air Raid teams is that the offense becomes harder to stop the faster and more skillfully the players can execute it -- something they accomplish by practicing the same handful of plays over and over. Dykes cites the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers and its "Rule of 10,000 Hours," which professes that geniuses of a certain craft get to that level by accruing 10,000 hours of practice.

"It's not really a scheme-based offense as much as teaching fundamentals and techniques," Dykes said. "They [the defense] know we're going to throw slants. The idea is to be good enough throwing slants where they know it's coming and still can't stop it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The better players you have, the better it works."

Now that the team has the base offense installed, the coaches' goal is to run the offense as fast as possible. While learning the offense was easy for the quarterbacks, playing as quickly as Dykes-Franklin expect has been a challenge.

And then there's the pace. Ideally, the Bears will operate at the same frenetic tempo that allowed Dykes' Louisiana Tech team to average 88 plays per game last season. They're not there quite yet ("It's ugly," Franklin said of the process), but the ball is placed and a new call is signaled within seconds of the prior play ending. Processing the call and getting everyone in the right place is taking a little bit longer.

"It's a really fast paced offense," Kline said. "What I've been trying to do is get as many plays off as I can, run the best play I can, and if I make a mistake, at least I'm making a mistake while going 100 miles an hour."

It will be interesting to see the balance of traits--speed, efficiency, accuracy--demonstrated by whomever is named the starting QB.

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