Tom Keegan: Pooka Williams as flexbone QB?

Kansas running back Pooka Williams looks for space in the open field during his college football debut, Sept. 8, 2018, at Central Michigan.

Counting sacks as negative rushing yards qualifies as one of the sillier statistical practices of college football.

So, for the purpose of this exercise, let’s count sack yardage against the Kansas passing game, not against the rushing numbers.

Given that adaptation, KU is averaging 5.57 yards per rush attempt and 5.15 yards per pass attempt. Not many programs in the country average more yards per run than pass.

Army and Navy, for example, so seldom pass that when they do, big plays can result. Army has thrown just 39 passes and averages 10.8 yards per pass attempt.

Navy has thrown just 33 passes and averages 8.5 yards per attempt. Both schools have completion percentages under 50 percent, which makes their average yards per attempt even more impressive.

Meanwhile, Kansas has a more balanced attack, but still runs (126) more than it passes (89).

So you have to wonder, if KU implemented a flexbone offense, a la Army and Navy, would that improve both the running game and the passing game?

As long as we’re in the realm of fantasy, let’s look ahead a year and picture a personnel grouping that could make the triple option work at Kansas.

The flexbone requires having four backs who can run the football. One lines up at quarterback, with the fullback directly behind him. A slot back lines up on each side of the quarterback.

There are four athletes playing football in Lawrence this fall who could form a lethal flexbone backfield next season.

Freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr. took a fair share of direct snaps in high school and reads defenses the way Evelyn Wood read text books, so there’s no reason to think he couldn’t be the quarterback, the position at which a flexbone team’s leading rusher often can be found. Khalil Herbert and Dom Williams are well-suited for the slot back roles.

Fullback? The ideal fullback is playing high school football at the moment.

Uncommitted senior Jax Dineen is the featured running back and most active linebacker for a Free State High team that has opened its season with three consecutive shutouts. (Free State graduates, by the way, are the three leading tacklers for KU).

To envision how Pooka might handle quarterback, look at Navy’s 5-foot-9, 180-pound quarterback Malcolm Perry. He ranks third in the nation with 497 rushing yards and is tied for second with six rushing touchdowns.

Last season, Perry played nine games as a starting slot back, three as the starting quarterback. He totaled two passes (one touchdown, one interception) in those three starts, and has completed 5 of 15 this season.

No reason Pooka couldn’t match or exceed Perry’s production as trigger man in the flexbone. With that lineup of running threats, there would be no need to pass more than a few times a game.

Fourth-year Kansas coach David Beaty marvels at Pooka’s high football IQ, and the freshman from Louisiana makes such great decisions on when and where to cut.

That high football IQ plays well into the decision-making that a flexbone quarterback has to make reading defenses and deciding when to hand off to the fullback, pitch to a slot or keep it and turn upfield.

Six games into his career at quarterback for Navy, Perry has rushed for 200 or more yards three times and exceeded 100 yards every time.

It’s also easier to recruit and develop an offensive line that seldom has to worry about pass protection.

Plus, such a radical departure from the normal way of doing business in the Big 12 would drive opposing defensive coordinators nuts.

Those who fear change would consider this a ludicrous proposition. Visionaries don’t fear change. And you can bet Pooka wouldn’t fear changing from running back to quarterback. He doesn’t seem to fear anything on a football field and he would be the one deciding who gets to run the football on each play.

Comments

Bryson Stricker

plz god no.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Gerry Butler

I only have to say - - -Noooooooooooooooooooooo.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Randy Bombardier

We absolutely ought to try it considering how miserable the air raid has been. Although I would suggest that Pooka be the pitch man. You get great quarterback, fullback runs when the opponent fears the pitch and overplays the outside. Although who remembers Cromwell's pitch man? You could be right, Tom. I wouldn't be opposed to trying him in either position in such a scheme. If things do not turn around this year I think this is the direction to go to get us out of the cellar.

Or what about the Veer?

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Al Martin

Not disagreeing with your overall point, but the pitch man was Laverne Smith, and he was a burner. It was a joy to watch those two run the option.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Gerry Butler

We t had a loaded backfield remember? - - Nolan - - - Laverne - -& Billy Campfield - - man what a trio. - - - ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Son Mac

That was an all-Kansas backfield, with speed at every position. Cromwell, the quarterback was even on the track team. Good times.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Titus Canby

Bring back Cromwell as coach!

Or, how about Bud Moore?

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Randy Bombardier

But next time Pooka tosses the ball he should leave the gloves off.

Why I think we need a run first I've laid out a number of times but did not mentioning critical facet.

When you run there is less reliance on perfection of execution. The run game is more forgiving of imperfection. One reason I liked the toss sweep.

The run game is like my favorite line from one of my fave movies, Cinderella Man. It was tough during the depression and Braddock states he fights because in the ring he knows who's hitting him.

Stop us if you can run game relies on heart, persistence, doing basic things consistently.
It puts the offense into more probable success when all you need is 3.4 yards per play. If you never punt that's a mere 2.6 yards per play.

Good enough reason to take the snap under center in my opinion.

Like the ball hawk mindset that our defense is currently enjoying a run first offensive mindset is contagious, builds confidence, builds tough mindedness and is the root of football. We forget at one time the forward pass did not exist. With this approach we will no longer beat ourselves as we have so often. We will make our opponents beat us. It will put fear into them knowing we are not going to just give it to them. In fact we are going to take it to them. We are going to take the game from them. We are going to smash them in the mouth. We are going to run all over them.

Does anyone remember the Nebraska teams that did that? They were unstoppable. They would hang 50 points on you and have their third string playing in the third quarter.

The momentum year to year will get us better and better linemen who want to do more than pass protect. We will have a pipeline of linemen. We will wear out our opponents and score at will late in the game. The key to success is to buy when everyone else is selling, to sell when everyone else is buying.

Let's sell off this awful air raid for good.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Tim Hills

Nolan cromwell’s Backfield: Norris Banks-fullback. Laverne Smith and Billy Campfield pitchmen. Triple option was beautiful to watch!

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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JD Roth

Nolan rushed for 294 yards in a 23-3 win over Number 1 Oklahoma.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Kevin Millikan

I was there! but I think ou scored late and it ended 23-13?

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Gary Wirsig

Nope - Nov 9, 1975. 23-3

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Andy Godwin

"there would be no need to pass more than a few times a game". Good thing because, based on a "n" of 1, I don't want to see Pooka pass again.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Joey Meyer

Thank you Tom!

Why try to recruit and play the same way as everyone else in the Big 12 when we'll, on average, be the 8th or 9th best?

We should zig when everyone else zags.

Recruit different players (smaller faster run-block linemen) and let's make a go of this. I would happily take a bowl game every other year by running a well-organized junk offense.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Sam Allen

One type of offense or defense for each coach only, if a change shall be made, do it in a down year.

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Sam Allen

Chances should gradually be made, (small chunks at a time).

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Randy Bombardier

Other pluses:

No more sacks leaving you in a bad situation where everyone knows you're gonna pass.

Holding calls less likely.

We would own time of possession frustrating our pass happy opponents. Imagine starting the the game and running off 8 minutes on our opening possession. The opponent then gets the ball and if he doesn't score we get it back and run out the rest of the quarter. At some point in time you will see utter panic on the opposing sideline.

No stoppage of the clock unless we run out of bounds.

We could go back to grass and do what OU used to do...the center of the field was about 30 inches higher than the sidelines so when running to the sideline you're running literally downhill. Makes the option more interesting and explains why pursuit was often burned.

The receivers block, block, block then, uh oh. Burned. When you run run run, the play action works so much better!

The chances of turnovers are less in the run game when you don't have to pitch. Still, the odds of turnovers from the run game are much lower than the passing game.

Wind and cold weather may affect the passing game but affect the running game much much less. When other teams will be struggling we will have business as usual.

The next Barry Sanders coming out of Wichita just might land at KU.

Lastly, we have had some dandy running backs historically. Sure, we've had a few great quarterbacks but i don't think we will be producing NFL calibre players in the air raid system, running backs or quarterbacks.

I am very high on Kansas as a run first, run last team. My.prediction is that if we continue in this direction we will be out of the cellar of the conference and will start clawing our way to the top. Three seasons and we will be at 8 or more wins.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Freddie Garza

*Eyeroll*

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Freddie Garza

We're not going to be in the top tier of the conference in 3 years. Period. Here we go with these unrealistic expectations again, JUST because we finally have a 2 game winning streak for the first time in years.

Can we at least get to .500 first before we start talking about national championships?

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Michael Leiker

Get Pooka the ball any way you can! Then, pretend to give Pooka the ball any way you can!!

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Michael Sillman

Agree with moving to a running game but that does not mean you have to go all the way to the flexbone.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Brian Wilson

I have no problem with the triple option, or the veer, or the wildcat or even AIR RAID!!! . Why do we have to run just one offense. Why don't we just mix it all up and confuse the hell out of them on every play and just mix and match the system up. I hate telegraphing the other side about what we're doing.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Jeffery Stadler

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I have an idea. Let's not break our favorite new player in the 3rd game of his Freshman flipping year. Run the offense and get him the ball in space where he is dangerous.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Lawrence McGlinn

I am not sure about this because I can't tell if we are 1. truly at a long-term disadvantage because of location, tradition, etc. or 2. if we have just had three really bad coaches over the past 9 years. If it is 1, then I would say give it a shot. If it is 2, then I would rather have a more traditional offense, maybe more pass heavy because it is more fun to watch. But if we are always going to be short athletically we might as well try the Army-Navy model. Back up the Brinks and hire Jeff Monken from Army. He knows how to run the option/flex with an athletic deficit. I don't think we would upset many good teams, but we would more consistently beat weak teams. He might stay, too, because not many other schools want to run the flex/option.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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