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Building a program: Build around a Quarterback or a Running back?

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A new series coming your way.

NCAA Football: New Mexico Bowl-Central Michigan vs San Diego State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When New Mexico fired Bob Davie and hired Danny Gonzales, I had instant excitement.

I’m not a fan by any means and I’ve never been to New Mexico in my life. However, I was thrilled they would most likely take recruiting more seriously and thus I would be able to follow them more closely through that.

The next thought that occurred to me is in many ways; they are (re)building the program from scratch. Yes, the team is full of scholarship players. However, even if you haven’t been paying close attention to the team you likely know they primarily recruited junior college players and usually didn’t start focusing on recruiting until after the season, which isn’t ideal for securing talent.

Anyway, the Lobos are rebuilding in many ways. They are committing to finding high school talent and securing talent that matches their system as well as their culture. The question then becomes, what are the important choices to make when making the first steps towards building a program from scratch?

Question 1: Who to build the offense around?

This week’s post will start with how to build the offense around. Related, will the focus and scheme of the offense being more pass-heavy or run-dominant?

Build around a quarterback

The quarterback is the de facto leader of an offense and really the entire team. A strong passing game gives the offense a large advantage over the defense due to all the variations it can have and all the different directions the ball can go. The best passing units have multiple weapons and an offensive line that buys time for the plays to develop.

On the other hand, there is a lot that needs to go right to make everything work. A great quarterback with nothing around him won’t go far in having a good offense. At least two talented wide receivers are needed. An athletic, pass-catching tight end to move the chains and target in the red-zone really seals the deal. If the O-line can’t protect the passer, none of the other pieces matter much.

One of the reasons the spread offense became popular is because it put talented athletes all across the field and in positions to make plays. That’s what a good passing offense looks like. It could take multiple seasons to bear fruits in order to get all the right players going at the same time. However, when it clicks, something special happens.

Build around a running back

A strong running game has fewer connecting pieces in order to be successful. A passing game presence helps but isn’t required. Therefore, if there is below average talent at quarterback and wide receivers, the running game can still survive. Other than a running back, a strong offensive line is needed. A solid, blocking tight-end can help too and even if it’s just a sixth lineman or a full-back, the run-game can survive.

Many SEC or B1G teams survive doing just this. They recruit power running backs and mammoth OL players and do just enough on offense to pile up the wins. The San Diego State blueprint is a good one to follow and Coach Gonzales may even have it from his days with the Aztecs. It’s not flashy, but the methodical approach on offense can get the job done.

In many ways it’s easier to build an offense around a running game, but it may take longer overall to create a top offense.

What New Mexico appears to be doing

The Lobos are taking the second approach. It may not load up the highlight reel, but more consistent. In all honesty, it’s probably the smart move. They were able to sign RB Nathaniel Jones, a high three-star prospect out of high school powerhouse St. John Bosco in California. He can be the focal point of their offense from day one and a player they can build around for the next four seasons.

There is still work today and a strong running game isn’t automatic but it’s a promising start for a rebuilding program. The next post in this series will focus on another step or choice the Lobos need to make.

What would you do?


If you were starting a team, who would you build the offense around?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    (26 votes)
  • 23%
    Running back
    (8 votes)
34 votes total Vote Now

Share your thoughts in the comments section.