Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2021 season and beyond.
Who: Jeff Grimes, Baylor
Title: Offensive coordinator
Previous stop: BYU offensive coordinator (2018-20)
Why he's important: No head coach in college football has bet so much on a single schematic adjustment like Dave Aranda has with the wide zone.
“I think two of the hardest things to do in college football right now is to run inside zone and dropback pass,” Aranda told Texas Football last month. “We did a lot of those two things last year, which I take responsibility for.”
And so here comes Jeff Grimes. No longer will Baylor attack people head on. They'll move them laterally and let the defense present the hole the offense will then attack.
“Appearing complex in your presentation – shifts and motions and multiple motions – presents different pictures to the defense,” Grimes told Texas Football. “But we’re still running wide zone...The idea is that we do few enough things that we can hopefully execute at a higher level than our opponents can, but still give them a whole lot to work on.”
Aranda pretty much cleaned house after a debut season that saw Baylor drop from 33rd nationally in yards per play in Matt Rhule's final year to 125th in Aranda's first. Shawn Bell moved from tight ends coach to quarterbacks and Justin Johnson returns as running backs, while O-line coach Eric Mateos followed Grimes from BYU and Chansi Stuckey was hired from Clemson to coach wide receivers.
Four different players will compete for the quarterbacks job, none of whom have significant college experience. Sophomore Craig Williams returns after leading the team in rushing with 197 yards last season (yes, for the entire season). The offensive line is a patchwork of transfers, veterans and young guys.
Ultimately, the players that play will be the ones that catch on to the new system the quickest: running backs with the vision to spot the undefended gap and the quickness to reach it, offensive linemen with the agility and stamina to beat defenders to a spot down after down, quarterbacks smart enough to imitate what Zach Wilson did for BYU last season.
Previous installments: No. 15: Sonny Cumbie, Texas Tech | No. 14: Travis Williams, UCF | No. 13: Liam Coen, Kentucky | No. 12: Jess Simpson, Miami | No. 11: Tim Banks, Tennessee | No. 10: Mike Bobo, Auburn
Baylor ran for 813 yards in nine games, seven of them losses, last season. BYU ran for more than that over a 4-game stretch in October and November.
On paper, Aranda's bet on the wide zone makes all the sense in the world. Why try to root linemen and linebackers out of a spot when you can tire them out and use their aggression against them? Instead of training to become proficient at dozens different things, why not just get really, really good at a few things but present them a dozen different ways? And if you can get the guy who coordinated the nation's top yards per play offense in college football last season -- and that guy happens to be a Texas native to boot -- isn't the decision pretty much made for you?
All of that makes perfect sense on a white board. But my question is this: What happens when Baylor's playing Oklahoma and it's 14-3 in the second quarter? When it's clear early on that Jon Heacock has trained his Iowa State defense to cover every gap and watch its backside for play-action and RPOs?
We know the Baylor offense's new punch. What's its counter punch?
Grimes answered that question at his first press conference, way back in January. When you hire a career O-line coach as your offensive coordinator, you've got a career O-line coach as your offensive coordinator.
“I think any good offense should start with the offensive line,” Grimes said. “Obviously that’s something that’s been very close to me my entire career. I take the same approach now and have and will here, and that is the offensive line leads the group. They need to be the first one off the boats when you’re storming the beach. If our offensive line produces, in particular if they have a physical aggressive mindset, which Coach Mateos and I will demand, then the rest of our offense will follow along, because they can only do their jobs.”