What are their strategies and what are they going to attempt to do to us? The Big 12 is importing two very different cultures into the mix and here at Barking Carnival we want to take a tolerant, welcoming, and entirely superior attitude towards our future romping grounds in Ft. Worth and Morgantown.
Getting to Know You from The King and I (via MJTro12)
They only look cute and entertaining until Yul Brynner comes out and starts knifing Mountaineers while shirtless:
THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR 1975 Yul Brynner Knife Fight Scene (via IRONMUNSTER)
We'll need to proceed with caution at first...
The Horned Frogs:
Ultimately, what they do isn't terribly different from what we see in Norman. They combine pattern-read zone defense, nickel personnel, and extensive pressure packages to bully teams into 3rd and long where those same tools become nightmarish.
They are also similar to Oklahoma in that they seek versatility from their base personnel group and avoid relying on situational packages like Saban and his ilk do. Inevitably, this results in people speculating weakness against the running game (permanent nickel personnel!) that consistently fails to materialize.
The true weakness of the Horned Frog scheme is the same we find against Stoops, they struggle to defend against multiple points of concentration.
For example: Consider the strategies of Robert E. Lee against the Army of the Potomac. Frequently on the defensive and armed with a far better cavalry that informed him of the movements of his clumsy foes, Lee would read the Union Army's intent, and then quickly arrive there with everything he had available thanks to his decisive and empowered commanders.
TCU operates on the same principles, they read the play and use their speed to arrive in numbers and with leverage. Patterson breaks up his front calls from the coverage and then splits the coverage in half with the Weak and Free safeties responsible for their respective half of the field. Consequently, you have simpler assignments combining to create a more complicated and aggressive whole.
As far as weaknesses, if you threaten them at multiple points with misdirection or multiple options then you can punish them for their lack of size but otherwise you will be repulsed like
Greg Davis McClellan.
Losing Tanner Brock is rough but the strength of the secondary is the greatest barometer of their defensive dominance. TCU funnels a lot of plays into their Free Safety to clean up so their ceiling as a defense is often set by how great an athlete they have back there.
On offense TCU employs a variety of spread-tactics. The philosophy is spread 101: spread the field and hit em' where they ain't. You could describe them as a spread-to-run team but they also make heavy use of the quick game. The Patriots sans Gronkowski might be an apt comparison.
With Casey Pachall and most of his weapons back they are pretty well staffed for the upcoming season, although they must replace a chunk of their OL. It's one of the better looking offenses in the league but there are better...
Holgorsen decided to ditch the 3-3-5 stack defense for this season and the Mountaineers are also losing arguably their best player at each level of the defense. They brought in OSU's Deforest to run a 3-4 defense but he's listed as a co-defensive coordinator and they haven't hired his partner yet. Considering who they landed as a linebackers coach and the move to the 3-4 I'm guessing that Holgorsen is leaning towards a defense from the NFL school of confusion such as we see in Baltimore or with the Ryan brothers.
Hard to say much about what to expect since they are presenting unknowns both in personnel and in staff but it seems unlikely that they'll be in the top echelon of Big 12 defenses in 2012.
As far as their offense, this is a great starting point for learning about the intricacies of the Holgorsen AirRaid but again I'll give you some basics here.
Holgorsen took 2 major lessons from working with Leach at Tech, A). the usefulness of a running game and B). the AirRaid practice regimen. They install the entire offense within 3 days and then drill their concepts relentlessly until it's all muscle memory.
Simplicity is at the core and rather than having a million sight adjustments and reactions to defenses, Holgorsen wants his QB to pick the best play at the line and relying on their execution. The routes mostly attack vertically (besides the extensive screen game) and they all look the same before the receivers make their breaks. If you can cover them all then congratulations, now do it 50 more times.
He also packages screens and runs in such a way that the defense is threatened across the LOS at multiple points. Go back and re-watch OSU's drubbing of OU and you'll see some of these plays. Triangle screens packaged with inside zone meant OU linebackers playing flat-footed or breaking ankles.
It's arguably the best offensive system in football today, we'll see if he can sustain success with it from year to year as they did in Lubbock. In case you didn't know, they are returning their QB, 2 best receivers, and all their backs from last year.
The surest way to bring them down, besides possesing better players across the board, is to confuse and harass their QB who shoulders a lot of responsibility for getting them in the right plays and executing them. Both of those tasks are made difficult by their use of screens, runs, and no-huddle approach.
Another method is to play similarly simple defenses and attempt to out-execute them, which is made difficult by the fact that all they do in practice is run these plays over and over. I expect we'll attempt both.
This will be Diaz's greatest challenge yet as he figures out how to keep up the success he had against OSU's passing game last year while getting better pressure and not being gashed in the running game. Fortunately WVU doesn't yet have the running game that Holgorsen and then Monken have had at OSU. Joe Wickline, imo.