Kansas football: Will Brent Dearmon’s offense work for the Jayhawks?

Kansas football head coach Les Miles leads the Jayhawks onto the field.(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kansas football head coach Les Miles leads the Jayhawks onto the field.(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

After the firing of offensive coordinator Les Koenning on Sunday, the RPO guru Brent Dearmon has been promoted to the position. With this promotion, only one question remains: Will Dearmon’s offensive style improve Kansas football?

It only took five weeks for first-year Kansas football Head Coach Les Miles to see the writing on the wall in regards to his offense.

To Miles, that writing probably said something like this: “This offense, uh, uh … uh, isn’t gonna work out.”

To unsatisfied Kansas Jayhawk fans, it probably said: “This offense is way too predictable, too unimaginative, and is a GIGANTIC WASTE OF TALENT.”

All joking aside, after another inconsistent offensive performance against Oklahoma last week, it was clear that former Kansas offensive coordinator Les Koenning’s playcalling wasn’t going to cut it for the remainder of this season, nor in the long term.

After five weeks, Kansas currently ranks 101st in the FBS in scoring offense and 102nd in total offense.

Considering the Jayhawks have played an FCS team, a Sun-Belt Conference team, and a rebuilding West Virginia team in three out of five games this season, their current status in the FBS offensive rankings are disastrously bad.

If the issues on offense were the product of limited talent, Koenning would still be employed. However, with an elite running back in Pooka Williams and two legitimate studs on the outside in Daylon Charlot and Andrew Parchment, talent isn’t the issue.

Ultimately, Koenning’s playcalling wasn’t putting the players in the right positions to succeed. I could see it, you could see it, and thankfully for Kansas fans, Les Miles could see it as well.

With that being said, Les Koenning is out as Kansas’ offensive coordinator and Brent Dearmon is now in.

Dearmon may be young when compared to other Division-1 coaches, but he already has a consistent track record of unbelievable success. Much of that success is due to Dearmon’s three favorite letters: RPO.

What is the RPO?

RPO stands for run-pass option.

During RPO plays, the quarterback has the option to hand the ball off to the running back or throw a pass to a receiver. The quarterback bases his decision on the movement of a specific defender — usually a linebacker.

Once the ball is snapped, it’s pretty simple: If the defender comes up towards the line to stop the run, the quarterback will pass the ball. If the defender drops back in coverage, the quarterback will hand the ball to the running back.

While the quarterback is the decision-maker of the play, the other offensive players also have important jobs to do.

The offensive line blocks for the run the entire way. It doesn’t matter what variation of the RPO it is, the line will always run block.

Since the offensive line is run blocking, the quarterback becomes vulnerable to defenders blitzing through open gaps. As a result of this, he has to get the ball out of his hands quickly. That means the receivers will typically run short routes (slants, bubbles, ins, etc.) to get open as quickly as possible.

Lastly, the running back — even if he doesn’t get the ball — will always go through the motions of a typical run play.

Will RPO plays work with this Kansas offense?

Short answer: The RPO should work just about anywhere.

RPOs are easy plays for an offense to run and a hard play for the defense to stop. Of course, the bigger, faster, and more talented teams will be better at running it and defending it; but as long as the quarterback can throw at an average level, that team should find moderate success when using these plays.

In regards to Kansas specifically, the RPO can absolutely work for them. Why? Well, they’ve already proven it on the field this season!

Out of the five Kansas football has played, which game do you think they focused the most on RPO style plays? You guessed it, week 3 versus Boston College. In that game, the Jayhawk offense exploded for 48 points on 567 total yards. In the other four games, Kansas averaged 17.8 points per game and a total of 312 yards per game.

The obvious question: Why didn’t Kansas continue to run the same type of offense in the following two games? The answer: That’s why Koenning is out of a job right now.

Instead of building off of that performance, Koenning decided to return to his old-school mentality of “we’re gonna run down your throat each and every play.” That strategy works perfectly for teams with a dominant offensive line. But for the 2019-20 Kansas football team, that mentality will get you fired from a job.

But that’s exactly why Brent Dearmon was promoted.

Dearmon is a part of this new wave of young coaches who are changing the way offenses play. These types of coaches are taking over the game of football. Whether it be Lincoln Riley at the college level or Sean McVay in the NFL, these coaches are finding creative, innovative, and sometimes weird ways of out-scheming opposing defenses.

As previously mentioned, Dearmon’s offensive philosophy is centered around the RPO. Dearmon is the undeniable master of that offense. He wrote the book on it. No, really. Dearmon LITERALLY wrote a book about it.

With his former job being a “senior offensive analyst” for Kansas, his ability to physically coach the players was limited. His job was to help break down game film and provide his advice to the coaching staff. But at the end of the day, Koenning was the man calling the plays on gameday.

When the news broke, many Kansas football fans were worried that Miles would become the new play-caller. Miles is an extremely accomplished football coach, but he’s notorious for having underwhelming offenses.

But in a conference call with the media, Miles said Dearmon will be given full control of the playcalling going forward. Some would say giving that much responsibility to a coach with no Divison-1 experience is a major risk; but luckily for Dearmon, it’s hard to believe that this offense could get much worse.

Dearmon has an incredibly difficult challenge ahead. He has only two short weeks to fully implement his system before facing off against the Texas Longhorns in Austin.

But he does have weapons to work with: An elite running back, speed on the outside, and a quarterback who has the ability to do damage with his legs.

It may not look seamless against Texas, but Dearmon should be able to get creative with this team at the very least.

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It would be naive to expect the Kansas football to start scoring 30 plus points per game, but Dearmon’s RPO heavy offense will come as a welcoming change of pace that this program and this fanbase desperately needs.