TCU's new offense is a receiver’s dream.
"This is the type of offense a receiver wants to be in," Horned Frogs receiver David Porter said. "You get to spread the defense out and get the ball in open spaces."
Bragging rights among TCU’s skill guys are up for grabs and on the minds of playmakers like Porter and running back B.J. Catalon.
"We talk about that every day," said Porter who rooms with Catalon. "Who is going to have the most catches? Who is going to make the most plays. We’re always talking about this offense."
Yet the Horned Frogs’ new up-tempo attack won’t mean TCU will be abandoning the running game. When Mike Leach’s "Air Raid" style attack is at the root of an offense, the assumption tends to be made that moving the ball on the ground is a thing of the past. That belief is well-earned, evidenced by Leach’s Washington State squad ranking last among FBS teams at 18.7 rush attempts per game in 2013.
Yet new offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie aren’t expected to put TCU’s talented running backs on the cupboard shelf. As the Leach offense has grown and expanded, with several different guys putting their spin on it, the running game has become a integral part of its success at several different places, including Oklahoma State, where Meacham helped the Cowboys rank in the top five nationally in total offense from 2010-12 before his lone season at Houston.
In 2013, Houston averaged 33.5 rush attempts per game with Meacham at the helm and Texas Tech, Cumbie’s former team, averaged 32.7 rush attempts per game. Those rush attempt per game numbers are music to the ears of TCU center Joey Hunt.
"I came from an offense in high school where we ran the ball all the time," Hunt said. "I want to continue to run the ball, too, [so we] have big plays running and passing.”
Up-tempo spread offenses at OSU, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Baylor are known for their high-flying passing games, yet OSU and Baylor averaged more rush attempts than pass attempts a year ago. Not surprisingly, those two squads found themselves in the thick of the Big 12 title race in November.
Balance is key.
"You have to run the ball," Hunt said. "We want to have a balanced offense. Be able to run the ball when we need to and pass the ball when we need to."
Having that ability is arguably the thing that separated Baylor’s offense from the rest last season. The Bears could throw when they wanted to throw or run when they wanted to run, and both aspects of the offense set up the other.
With Meacham and Cumbie in charge, TCU hopes to do the same. The tempo has increased, with Porter calling it "crazy" and Hunt admitting "it’s different" and noting that he has taken on a centerpiece role in the tempo change as the guy who gets on the ball and sets the rhythm for the entire offense.
It is creating excitement and anticipation for TCU’s offense to debut on Aug. 30 against Samford, because it’s not just a new offensive system the Horned Frogs' OC duo has brought to Fort Worth, Texas.
"They have swagger and confidence," Hunt said. "And that’s what our offense needs."