It was first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman on Thursday, that former Montana head coach Bob Stitt is expected to join the Oklahoma State coaching staff as an offensive analyst.
Stitt was recently fired from the University of Montana, where he had been the head man since 2015. Prior to that, Stitt spent 14 seasons as the coach of Division II Colorado School of Mines. He’s a Nebraska native who has been involved in coaching for a long time. He started as a graduate assistant at Northern Colorado in 1989, shortly after he finished his playing career as a running back for the Doane University Tigers.
The tenured, 53-year old coaching vet is most known outside of the FCS and Division II ranks, for teaching former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and current West Virginia head coach, Dana Holgorsen, his version of the “fly sweep”.
Stitt had met Holgorsen at a coaches’ clinic in the mid-2000s. While Stitt was on a fundraising trip to Houston in 2008, he made a visit to see Holgorsen, who was Houston’s offensive coordinator at the time, at a Houston Cougars’ practice. Coach Stitt’s “fly-sweep-touch base”, helped Coach Holgorsen put up a whopping 70 points on the Clemson Tigers in the 2012 Orange Bowl. And, when asked about this “volleyball-like” play in the postgame interview, he showered Stitt with all of the credit, as shown in the clip below:
Since that interview, many coaches who run the spread offense have implemented elements of Stitt’s style into their game plan. He’s known for his speed and wanting to play as fast as possible, which is why I think he will fit in perfectly at Oklahoma State. Additionally, I think he will be able to add some of his own creative wrinkles into Mike Gundy and Mike Yurcich’s offense.
Now, before I break down Coach Stitt’s style further, let’s talk a little bit more about the offensive analyst position.
What Does an Offensive Analyst do?
The “analyst” position has been a recent trend in college football. Teams hire analysts to be consultants, and sort of the “behind the scenes” coaches. Their job is similar to that of a graduate assistant, but… they don’t have to do any of the school work.
The analyst breaks down film of games and practices, looks for tendencies or trends that will give his team the edge, and consults with the coaching staff to assist in building the game plan each week.
The analysts do have some restrictions however, they are not allowed to actively coach, and they can’t recruit off campus. By “actively coach”, I mean they are not allowed to instruct players at practice or on the sidelines during games.
Analysts generally make about $50,000 a year (all of the analysts at OSU made $50,000 last season), and can be extremely beneficial for a relatively low price. They also don’t count towards the ten (formerly nine until this upcoming season) assistant coaches that each FBS team is restricted to.
Okay, now back to the creative mind of Bob Stitt.
So, how did Coach Stitt finish with a 108-62 overall record at Colorado School of Mines, get named Coach of the Year in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference twice, set multiple offensive records at Montana, and earn a victory over Carson Wentz and the defending champ North Dakota State Bison? Well, with creativity and innovation.
Montana finished 10th in passing offense, 11th in scoring offense and 9th in total offense in his final season as head coach. Stitt’s offense uses a limited number of formations (really only two), mostly shotgun, single-back sets, and he didn’t change much when he moved from Colorado School of Mines to Montana.
As I mentioned above, Stitt wants to run as many plays as possible, as fast as possible, and he has his own unique way of accomplishing this.
Let’s take a deeper dive into to his style.
Fly Sweep and Fly Sweep Motion
In Stitt’s version of the fly sweep, the quarterback will send a receiver in motion in front of him (shotgun set), and the quarterback will “toss” the ball to the man in motion, or, based on the design of the play, make another read, such as handing off to the back, based on what the defense gives him. This “toss”, as Holgorsen notes in his video above, is a forward pass and will not count as a fumble if the motion man drops the ball.
Here’s are some clips of Tavon Austin and the Mountaineers running it in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
The line will block like a normal sweep. If the lineman is uncovered, they can pull, and covered lineman will block the man in front of them. They will try to stretch the defense as wide as possible to create holes for the motion man to cut up field.
Stitt loves to use the motion man to cause the defense to overreact and get them off balance. You will see in these clips below that the motion man is normally just “eye candy”, until the defense doesn’t respect him.
In the video below, you will see the motion man is a decoy, and the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back off tackle:
Next, you see the motion man as a decoy again. As the linebackers follow the man in motion and the defensive back is blitzing from that side, the bottom side of the screen is open for a running lane, and the Montana QB is fully aware.
See the screenshot below from the last video showing the defense shifted with the man in motion.
Stitt also uses this fly motion to open up the passing game.
This time you see the man in motion go behind the QB, a little wrinkle Stitt will throw at opposing defenses to keep them on their toes. Although, it didn’t work out so great here.
Oklahoma State does not use a lot of “fly sweep” or “jet sweep” motion. We saw James Washington and Tyron Johnson get the ball on these sweeps a few times last season, but I think Stitt’s knowledge of this style can help the Cowboys effectively implement it into their offense. And, this will just be something else that opposing defenses have to worry about when they face the Pokes.
Coaches such as Justin Fuente and Matt Canada use this type of motion on a frequent basis, and I would say that both of those guys have led some pretty successful offenses in their coaching careers.
The next part about Coach Stitt’s offensive philosophy that I want to cover is his tempo, which I think will fit in perfectly at Oklahoma State. Stitt has said that he wants to run 50 plays per half (!!). They don’t substitute much and they try to play as fast as possible. The two videos below demonstrate this fast-paced offense.
Stitt being accustomed to this style that Gundy and Yurcich are already using should be nothing but a positive for the Cowboy offense. He will be valuable breaking down film about something he’s very knowledgeable about. I can’t wait to see how fast this offense gets going at times next season.
Screens are a huge part of Coach Stitt’s offense. This is another tactic he uses to widen the field and stretch the defense horizontally. He uses a mixture of wide receiver screens and screens to the running back. In addition, he loves to use the screen as a decoy for the rushing attack or to setup the deep ball. I’ll show some examples of a few of these below.
In this video, we see Montana lined up with two receivers to each side and the running back in the backfield with the quarterback. The quarterback’s fake is meant to draw the defense’s attention to the run, as the lead blocking receiver takes on his man. The quarterback pulls the ball back from the running back and fires out the receiver.
Here again we see a wide receiver screen, this time out of the “Trips” formation, meaning three receivers on one side. The North Dakota State defense is in man coverage here, which makes it easy for the receivers to block, especially with two of the defenders in tight, “press” coverage. The blocking design leaves the receiver with only one defender to beat to get into the end zone. Teams like those odds, especially a team with very talented receivers like Oklahoma State. The only problem here is… my guy drops the ball.
In this next video, we see the Griz faking the wide receiver screen to one side, and hitting the running back on the screen to the other side of the field. The outside wide receiver on the running back screen side blocks the linebacker moving towards the play. The slot receiver releases downfield to draw the defensive back/outside linebacker away from the screen. The cornerback follows the inside receiver, and this opens space for the running back to gain some big yardage.
Below we see another running back screen, this time the receivers on the running back screen side both release to the inside. The two receivers basically block three guys on this play, as all the defenders follow them inside. On the other side of the field, we see the wide receiver running a screen as the decoy. This doesn’t work out as well as the video above, but it’s definitely interesting.
Something interesting you might have noticed from these videos is that the offensive linemen do not release and block on Stitt’s screens. For most teams, the O-Line will release and lead block for the man with the ball, but Stitt prefers them to stay at home. When FOX Sports asked him about this he replied, “We’ve found that D-linemen are too well-coached and they re-trace so we eliminate the O-line.”
As you might also notice, in these screen designs none of the linemen release downfield. Stitt’s reason for this is that defensive linemen are often very well coached and athletic, so when the offensive linemen release to block in the screen game, their counterparts are usually perceptive enough – and quick enough – to track these plays down from behind.
Earlier I mentioned that they like to use the screen to setup the run or the deep pass, and the following videos provide some examples.
This first video shows the trips formation wide receiver screen that we saw above, but this time the QB looks it off and fires the ball deep to the single receiver on the other side. A big part of Stitt’s philosophy is exploiting matchups, which is something he does here by bringing the defense to one side of the field and hitting the big play on the other.
Here the screen sets up the run… the quarterback run this time. The running back sprints out to the trips receiver side before the snap to draw the defense’s attention even more to that side. As the linebacker widens out in response, the Montana quarterback knows he has a numbers matchup now to run the ball. His response is a quarterback draw, which is good for a solid gain. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see SPENCER SANDERS run something like this.
Stitt will also fake the screen and give it to the running back, which is another great wrinkle.
Oklahoma State does not have a lot of running back screens in their playbook, and from what I’ve seen, doesn’t have many different wide receiver screen concepts either. I think Stitt implementing these types of plays will be a huge plus for the Cowboy offense and will be just another way to confuse the defense and exploit matchups.
Now Stitt’s passing game isn’t all screens. He uses a variety of different concepts in his passing scheme. He doesn’t just know how to stretch the field sideline to sideline, he also knows how to air it out and push the ball down the field.
According to insidethepylon.com:
“Stitt’s passing designs typically include four components: A man-beating route, a zone-beating route, a shallow route, and a deep route. So, on any given play the QB simply needs to verify the coverage, and then he knows where to go with the football. As with any system there are exceptions, but it is a very quarterback-friendly design.”
Sounds like a great system for a young quarterback…
Whether it’s a crossing route
A concept with three vertical routes and one shallow
Getting the running back involved
Or this shallow cross route design
Stitt has a lot of great passing concepts that he runs. Some of these Oklahoma State already runs, or runs versions of, but it would be nice to see a few of these aslkl4445 added pages to the playbook.
Before I wrap up, I wanted to bring up a conversation with a good buddy, Craig Bachhuber. Craig was recruited out of Colleyville Heritage High School to come and play defensive back for Coach Stitt at Colorado School of Mines. He told me that Coach Stitt came to his home in Dallas and was one of the nicest guys he’d ever met. In addition, Craig stated that Stitt was extremely knowledgeable and had an interesting take on the game. So, it sounds like Oklahoma State is getting a solid all-around guy, and who knows, if Yurcich decides to take another job in the future… maybe we have our next offensive coordinator.
In conclusion, I know I wrote a lot of words on a guy who’s “just an analyst”. But, I really wanted to express how amazing of a hire I think this is. Adam Lunt explains it perfectly in his tweet below:
Truly a brilliant move by Gundy to add Stitt to the staff. The biggest issue with the OSU offense was finding ways to stretch offense horizontally. Stitt pretty much wrote the book on new modern screens and fly sweep. Should be fun.— Adam Lunt (@AdamLunt817) January 19, 2018
And, I completely agree! With the possibility of starting a freshman quarterback next season, why not get as many great offensive minds as you can in Stillwater?
All I can really say now is... can it be September yet?