Kansas State Football: Offensive formation changes help young offense

Kansas State football has made some changes offensively and it’s helped their young team improve.

After an offensive output that can only be described as awful in their crushing defeat to West Virginia, the Kansas State Wildcats offense left Morgantown with a myriad of questions behind true freshman signal caller Will Howard and his young group of skill position players. After falling to the Mountaineers by 27, the Wildcats had work to do if they hoped to defeat Oklahoma State at home the next week.

And while the Cats failed to win the game (which is the goal of playing a game), the offense found a rhythm that was non-existent before. And what helped them find that rhythm? By running fewer shotgun zone read plays and more I formation, the offense itself worked more efficiently and allowed the offenses zone read plays (specifically the zone read quarterback run) to be more effective.

Why did it work and why should Kansas State football do it more?

The I formation (quarterback under center with the running backs lined up behind the quarterback in a line) creates a more timing based passing attack. Used as the primary setup for the west coast offense, the quarterback looks at a first read on the third step of their drop back, second read at either the fourth of fifth step, and the third read often at about the seventh. Obviously, every offense as it goes can become more nuanced.

It worked for the Cats in essence because freshman quarterback Will Howard’s responsibilities were greatly reduced. It allowed for rollouts and play action passes while also allowing the offense to be put into scoring position often throughout the game.

The zone read then worked in part because, well, the Cats rarely passed out of the formation, almost running entirely out of the shotgun formation. Fellow freshman Deuce Vaughn was often unable to find success running to the outside in the zone read formation, often Howard keepers. When asked to pass, Howard is asked to read the defense basically standing and then trying to fit the ball, often into small windows.

Another issue affecting the Wildcats offense is their skill position talent, which is to say nicely, not skilled. Wide receiver Malik Knowles and running back Jacardia Wright were hoped to be major contributors this season, but thus far, neither has done much of anything. Wright’s absence from the offense is somewhat confusing to fans. Freshman sensation from last season Joshua Youngblood has left the program, adding more complications.

A lack of true ‘skill’ at the skill positions limits Howard’s development as players are often truly unable to get themselves open and not athletic enough to make plays in space. Scheme and playcalling will need to work for the offense to move down the field.

Tight end Briley Moore, who missed the Oklahoma State game due to injury, and his return could help provide Howard a short to intermediate target. Fullback Jax Dineed caught multiple passes against the Cowboys and his ability to catch the ball could help the offense avoid becoming stagnant.

The Wildcats have this weekend off, and certainly hope the offense that takes the field against Iowa State on Nov. 14 resembles the one that almost defeated the Cowboys and not the offense that couldn’t get moving against West Virginia.