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Quarterbacks wearing #12 have won 14 Super Bowls

Quarterbacks wearing #12 have won 14 Super Bowls.

What does it mean that Geno Smith comes from a long line of Mike Leach/Dana Holgorsen star quarterbacks? I don’t know. At a minimum, it means he’s part of a very interesting and distinguished set of college quarterbacks. Because few players have dominated college football over the last 15 years like quarterbacks under Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen.

Leach is one of the most fascinating characters in recent college football history, and he’s been one of the most influential coaches in the modern passing game. That’s what tends to happen when your quarterbacks produce video game numbers practically every season. Leach was the offensive coordinator under Hal Mumme at Kentucky in 1997 and 1998, which is when the Air Raid offense arrived on the national radar. At the time, there hadn’t been any Wildcats drafted in the first round since running back George Adams in 1985. Twenty-six months after Leach and Mumme arrived in Lexington, Tim Couch was the first pick in the NFL draft.

Leach then spent a year as the offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Sooners with Josh Heupel at quarterback. Heupel led the conference with 3,460 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, and also sported the highest completion percentage (62.0%) in the conference. Those were big numbers in a conference where only four players threw for even 1900 yards, and was enough to land Leach the head coaching job at Texas Tech after only a season in Norman. When Leach moved to Lubbock, Texas in 2000, the quarterback cupboard appeared bare. He took unheralded sophomore quarterback Kliff Kingsbury and shaped him into the player that led the NCAA in pass attempts in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Klingsbury led the Big 12 in passing yards in both 2000 and 2001, and then as a senior, became just the third player in college football history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season (after Ty Detmer and David Klingler). Klingsbury went on to have an unremarkable career in the NFL before excelling as an assistant coach with the Houston Cougars. He followed then-head coach Mike Sumlin to Texas A&M after the 2011 season, and after turning Johnny Manziel into a Heisman Trophy winner, Kingsbury is now the new head coach at his alma mater.
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From the Colorado School of Mines to the NFL

Unless you follow Division II football, you probably aren’t familiar with the name Bob Stitt. He’s the head coach at the Colorado School of Mines, and here is what Bruce Feldman wrote about him in the summer of 2011 in connection with the One-Back Clinic, an annual meeting of a few of the sharpest minds in college football:

Stitt is the 45-year-old head coach at Colorado School of Mines, a Division II school just down the road from the Coors facility in Golden, Co. Stitt is a regular to the one-back clinic and has become pals with [Dana] Holgorsen and the rest of the core crowd. His teams win big despite dealing with high academic requirements… Stitt’s topic is the pistol offense and back-shoulder throws. As you’ll find out, Stitt is a huge believer in the back-shoulder throw. He talks about it the way Jared talks about Subway. “If this stuff works with our guys, it’ll probably work with the guys you have,” he says. “We’re an engineering school, and we only have one major, engineering. Our average ACT score in math is 29.” That line draws the biggest “Oooh!” of the day. . . .

The tricky part of Stitt’s tact — as is the case with many of the things discussed here — is that it’s hard to say just how well these things could be replicated someplace else. “I love coming to this because it reinforces a lot of what we do, ” one coach says. “Sometimes you might get one or two things you can try out from a technique or a practice point.” It’s also pretty good for networking because you never know what position might open a few months from now.

That was only a year and a half ago, but Stitt’s fame has grown considerably since then. He’s become famous in some circles for the Fly Sweep, a play brought to the national state when Holgorsen repeatedly used the Fly Sweep in the Orange Bowl eleven months ago. So what is the Fly Sweep?

On most plays, West Virginia has Geno Smith in shotgun in a fairly standard shotgun spread look. On the Fly Sweep, the Mountaineers would motion a wide receiver/running back, usually Tavon Austin, before the snap, and have him accelerate as he approached the quarterback. When well-executed, the snap would arrive in Smith’s hands for just a fraction of a second before he would pitch the ball forward to Austin, who would be arriving between the center and the quarterback just a second after the ball was snapped. Already in motion and with the ball in his hands, Austin would then be able to use his considerable speed and quickness to get in space and rack up yards against an unprepared defense.

Well, in the Orange Bowl, it was executed perfectly. For four touchdowns. Take a look:

One of the benefits of the play is that it is low risk: if the quarterback/sweep exchange is mishandled, it’s simply an incomplete pass because the quarterback is technically throwing the ball forwards. So why the post today? Well, last week, the Stitt Sweep (my post, I get to pick the name) entered the NFL. I’m not sure if Jay Gruden picked up the play from his time in the Arena Football League or the World Football League — or maybe from just watching last year’s Orange Bowl — but there’s no doubt where the inspiration came from the Bengals first touchdown of the game against the Cowboys. You can see Andy Dalton’s touchdown “pass” to Andrew Hawkins at the 40-second mark of this video.

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