Houston Cougars: An analytical perspective on the Kendal Briles hire

The Houston Cougars landed a big fish in the college football world this past Saturday when they signed Kendal Briles to be the associate head coach and offensive coordinator under Major Applewhite. This hire does have its backlash in the public relations department, but let’s focus on what Briles brings from a football perspective.

Kendal Briles has come back to his alma mater to be the offensive coordinator. The son of Art Briles, who took the Houston Cougars to new heights, earning himself a job at Baylor. There at Baylor, he would face a scandal that would lead to his departure.

At the time of things were coming to light, Kendal Briles was the OC for his father at Baylor. He had previously been the wide receivers coach, passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

During his tenure as the Baylor OC, the Bears averaged 48 points per game in 2015 (1st in FBS) and  35 points per game in 2016 (35th in FBS).

Following his own departure from Baylor, he would land a job as the Assistant Head Coach/OC/QBs Coach for Florida Atlantic University under Lane Kiffin this past season. Kiffin and Briles would lead an offensive charge that turned a 3-9 football team into an 11-3 offensive powerhouse.

FAU averaged 41 points per game (8th in FBS). The Owls finished 5th in total yards, 9th in yards per game, 4th in rushing yards, 4th in rushing yards per attempt, and 6th in points scored. These rankings are out of 128 teams.

Let’s compare that to how the Major Applewhite/Brian Johnson led offense of the Houston Cougars did in 2017:

The Houston Cougars finished 61st in total yards, 40th in yards per game, 72nd in rushing yards, 63rd in rushing yards per attempt, and 73rd in points scored. That last statistic had them finishing just behind football powerhouse Buffalo.

So what Briles brings from a football perspective is a potent offense. The pace is fast, the offensive line splits are wide and the plays are not complex. It is an efficient and effective offense.

Many remember an offense that was effective through the air but a Briles’ offense is strongest on the ground. FAU running back Devin Singletary rushed for 1,918 yards and 32 touchdowns this past season. The year prior, Singletary only had 12 rushing TDs.

The offense uses the run game to set up the passing game. With the wide splits, that forces a defense to widen out their front seven, freeing up the running lanes. The Owls only attempted 26 passing attempts per game versus 48 rushing attempts.

This will be the same offense that was run under Art Briles at UH. The same offense that won the 2006 Conference USA Championship. An offense that had Kevin Kolb drafted 36th overall (2nd round) by the Philadelphia Eagles.

In 2006, UH averaged 33 points per game with a balanced attack of 278 passing yards per game versus 168 rushing yards per game.

Houston Cougars greats, Anthony Alridge, Jackie Battle, Vincent Marshall, and Donnie Avery all flourished in that system as well.

Kyle Allen, a traditional pocket-passer, did not flourish in the offense that Applewhite ran because he was not able to move out of the pocket. In a Briles’

offense, his arm talent could reign supreme.

What that does is put D’Eriq King back to the wide receiver position, adding speed to an already-fast corps.

But it’s important to note that Allen does have the option to transfer, without penalty, as he has graduated from UH.

To top all of this off, Briles too graduated from the University of Houston. He was a backup quarterback and slot receiver for one of the most potent offensive attacks the program has had. This is certainly his university.

Though the decision to hire Kendal Briles is marred in controversy, from a football standpoint, it is a top-notch move. The Houston Cougars are gaining a top offensive mind in the country for a contract similar to Brian Johnson’s.

This hire can be a grand slam, 99-yard touchdown pass, or it could be like the Houston Cougars offense last season, an attempt to run it up the gut and go nowhere.

We’ll see what happens in the upcoming season.