Arkansas' Bielema plus Enos is a match made in offensive heaven
There’s nothing worse in sports, especially as it pertains to schemes, tactics and philosophy, than a coaching hire based on style opposed to substance.
For University of Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, the decision to hire former University of Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was a head scratching one to say the least.
Chaney was most known for his time spent under head coach Joe Tiller at the University of Purdue (1997-05) where he, and future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, assisted in setting all kinds of passing records off the strength of finesse-based, spread-to-pass offensive attack.
Chaney’s background is a stark contrast to Bielema’s preferred uber-physical, ground-and-pound, tight-end centric, “12,” “13,” and “22 personnel” attack. One might say that it was a genius hire as Chaney would bring something to the table that isn’t necessarily in Bielema’s repertoire.
To that I would answer, true.
There’s no doubt that a mesh in philosophies can breed more opportunity in the form of versatility, but that mesh may commonly evolve into a clash, as well. And when we saw that Chaney’s offense looked a lot like Bielema’s looked at the University of Wisconsin, where he served as HC from 2006-12, it was clear who was in charge of the offense.
Now that Bielema has pulled a fast one and lured now former Central Michigan University head coach Dan Enos to take over the spot vacated due to Chaney’s departure to be the OC at the University of Pittsburgh, supporters of the Cardinal and White are once left again scratching their collective heads (mostly because they don’t know who the heck he is).
But popularity aside, this hire makes total sense to those who believe that continuity among a staff is the best way to go about business.
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Little did I know, but I first got hold of Enos’ work during his time at Michigan State University following a family friend by the name of Javon Ringer, an MSU running back, whom I was told was a future star.
That very year, 2007, Ringer did indeed become everything our mutual friend said he would be. The 5’9″, 213-pound back ended up rushing for 1,447 yards which was the most at the school since former Atlanta Falcons’ back T.J. Duckett did it six years earlier.
In fact, Ringer was the first 1,000-yard rusher since Duckett and a great deal of the credit should’ve gone to the newly minted running back coach, Enos.
But the first time I actually knew who Enos was happened to be when I broke down film of his star left tackle at CMU, Eric Fisher, for an NFL draft-based website when I was just beginning my sportswriting career.
Fisher ended up being the No. 1-overall pick for the Kansas City Chiefs (2013) as he displayed supreme athletic prowess in both run- and pass-protection schemes.
Both Bielema and Enos share the distinction of having high draft picks at the left tackle position as Wisconsin’s Joe Thomas achieved similar distinction under Bielema in 2007 (3rd overall).
Enos took over at CMU for now Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, who got the job when the previous HC, Brian Kelly, bolted to be the University of Cincinnati head man. (Ironically, Jones copied Kelly again, taking over for him at Cincinnati when the latter left to be the head man at Notre Dame.)
The reason Jones could easily slide into Kelly’s spot, twice, is because both are proponents of the spread-to-pass offensive attack. So Enos, being a balanced, pro-style coach, had to go a couple of recruiting cycles before he could get the kind of players needed to fulfill his philosophy — specifically recruiting in-line tight ends and fullbacks, something I’m not sure Kelly or Jones had ever heard of.
While Enos will always have a vast rushing attack, he specializes in the development of quarterbacks. His first QB in the 2010-11 season, sophomore Ryan Radcliff, ended up going from 17 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, to 25 TDs opposed to 16 INTs the subsequent season.
But it was his stats as a senior that truly told the story of his development: 3,163 yards, 23 TDs and 9 INTs.
But make no mistake about it; Enos had a workhorse at the running back position as he’s a major believer in offensive balance.
Running back Zurlon Tipton still generated 1,497 yards on 252 totes with 19 TDs in Radcliff’s senior season. The 6’1″, 219-pound back proved to be just what the doctor ordered for a scheme that deploys running backs out of numerous alignments.
This past season, Enos had another 3,000-yard passer in sophomore Cooper Rush (27 TDs, 13 INTs), and he also had another 1,000-yard rusher in senior Thomas Rawls (1,103 yards, 10 TDs).
But as it pertains to Arkansas’ roster, it’s already tailor made for Enos to step right in and implement Bielema’s scheme.
Did you catch that?
Enos, for all his accomplishments, will still have to cater to what Bielema likes. The only difference is, Enos likes those same things, as well.
Expect a lot of gap schemes as “12” “22,” “20,” and even “30 personnel,” from under center or in the “Gun,” are his preferred grouping of choice. He likes to pull linemen in the run game, which coincides with his use of the “Counter” and “Draw” game (Bielema, anyone?).
This is the type of personnel grouping, and alignment split, Bielema dreams about at night. (Take note of not only the down and distance, but also look at the game clock; that’s a man’s formation!)
Enos loves running out of “pass” formations, and he loves to go vertical from power-based formations. Out of this formation, Enos can generate physicality as the back will have a lead blocker, and he can also send all five targets out for a pass — which he did.
He makes use of tight splits from his outside targets — a Bielema specialty — which usually look like runs but set up the play-action game really well.
His scheme is so versatile he can jump right into any personnel grouping and generate an explosive play vertically, but it’s his rushing scheme that will receive top billing.
This seems like a play right of the Hog’s playbook: “22 personnel” toss sweep to the boundary complete with pulling action from the center and lead from the play-side tackle and FB.
“The first thing we want to do is qualify somebody physically,” Enos said after he accepted the CMU gig (per the Detroit Free Press). “If they physically fit the mold of asking them what we want them to do at a certain position, whether its speed, strength, get off blocks, flexibility, whatever that is physically.
Enos doesn’t have to worry about anything of the sort with the Hogs; he’s inheriting an offense that is tougher than a two-dollar steak and is loaded in the personnel department.
He gets to see his work pay immediate dividends in the form of much-maligned senior QB Brandon Allen — who is capable of performing all the duties within the parameters of the scheme.
He will also finally get the benefit of working with a competent defense that should make his job on offense a lot less difficult. Enos is very similar to Bielema in philosophy, but he’s just different enough to help the offense fully evolve.
Things are on the right track in Fayetteville.