It's hard not to fit guys into stereotypes when you have little else to go by. And while it's easy to do that with players, it's really easy to do that with coaches. Who have they worked for? What did they play in school? You squeeze a guy into a profile based on that, and while it completely ignores that he is an individual human being with individual ideas, in the absence of cold, hard evidence, you go with the next best thing.
Okay, so who has Josh Henson worked for?
Les Miles. He was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for Miles at both Oklahoma State and LSU, working for miles for eight seasons. Miles himself is actually a good example of both why you should and shouldn't stereotype coaches. He comes from the Bo Schembechler tree -- Michigan offensive lineman from 1974-75, grad assistant from 1980-81, offensive line coach from 1987-94 -- and one can certainly see similarities between LSU's "power offense, attacking defense, and calculated risks" style with Miles and that of Schembechler's Michigan teams; but he also has brought his own brand of crazy to the mix, where "calculated risks" take on a new meaning, and the aggressive defense can sometimes get really aggressive. Still, Miles' offenses are usually based around sound, matchups-based offenses and lots of running. That's one clue.
David Yost and Gary Pinkel. For the last four years, Henson has served as Mizzou's offensive line co-coach. He'll continue to do so. Yost comes from the school of Four Verts, and whatever "cerebral" actually means in this sense, I find myself wanting to use that word to describe Yost's play-calling style. We can debate about the magnitude of Yost's flaws (actually, let's not), but he certainly could have been accused of over-thinking at times. Yost has most certainly not come from the Schembechler tree, but he proved willing to adapt his system to the talent at hand. If there's one similarity we can hope for between Yost and Henson, it's that. And it's all but certain that, no matter the changes in style, Mizzou will be lining up in spread alignments with Henson in charge, as with Yost.
And what position did Henson play in school?
Offensive line. Here's where the massive generalizations come into play. It's easy (and probably inaccurate) to assume that a former quarterback would probably like passing, a former running back running, etc. Well, it's just as easy to assume that a former lineman, like Miles for instance, would enjoy physical play, hats on hats, etc. That doesn't have to just mean running the ball by any means, but it's easy to assume such a thing.
So let's take these three generalizations and apply them to what we saw from Mizzou this spring. Everyone involved freely acknowledged that we didn't get the whole picture in the spring, and that's fair. But we saw an emphasis on simpler assignments for the receivers (lining up in the same spot each time), a desire for more (and more diverse) use of the tight end position, and in what might have been a very telling glimpse, we saw hints of a "run the ball well, then rush to the line and try to punch you in the mouth with the same play" approach. That's something we saw quite a bit from Oregon's Chip Kelly -- finding a weaknesses and ruthlessly exploiting it until the defense adjusts, then find the new weakness created from the adjustment and do the same -- and it's an approach that is really easy to like. It at once combines spread offense with physical play and a pace that can be exhausting for opposing defenses. If that's the major change we see now that Henson has the baton -- and it's really not that big a change -- it's easy to like it.
All this said ... we of course won't know what Mizzou's offense looks like until we see it in another few weeks. Speculation is fun, though.
MizzouRugby: Once the 2013 season is over, I can think of two likely themes for what will be written about our offense. The first: Henson utilized the numerous weapons at his disposal at WR and RB, and with the help of an improved line, he helped Franklin lead this team to a (at the very least) more productive, consistent offense that sustained drives for longer than three downs and a punt. Or secondly: The changes Henson made, while making sense in the SEC, weren’t quite a right fit for our personnel yet, with lack of TE and RB size and an O-Line more suited to pass blocking than power run blocking making it another frustrating offensive year. I think the first is more likely than the second.
countrycal: Henson should certainly bring a different approach to play calling this year. It may not be as exciting when it is hitting on all cylinders, but I suspect it will more consistently challenge both the range and depth of opponents’ defenses. I think our offensive squad has the athleticism and experience for a successful season, including a trained mind and steady hand in the coordinator’s box. I think we will see more sustained drives interspersed occasionally with wide open downfield attempts aimed at taking advantage of our speed and athletic ability.
The Beef: I am intrigued by the notion of the numerous speeds of play which was talked about during Media Days. I am also intrigued by the in-line TE talk and other nuances. I think MU fans were exposed to none of this during the spring, and I would not be surprised if the media gets little exposure to it during summer practice. Henson has more experience than anyone on the MU staff (save for Washington now) in regard to SEC play, and I think that experience will help. I laugh at the notion that brought up which was that Yost’s offense was too complex, but we now have five speeds of tempo at which we can run plays, which, to me at least, seems more complex. But hey ... if it works (and I think it will work better than last year because of experience, depth and weapons), I got no problem with it.