PROVO — How do you create an offense?
That’s the chore new BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes faces in the month of March. It began in full force the day after National Letter of Intent Day, once he had his entire staff hired and in the office, the final face a running backs coach from Rice University.
Grimes organized meetings with BYU’s offensive coaches, sessions that ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. They went over every aspect of the offense. After a break for lunch at 11 a.m. and brief personal workouts as a staff, they were back at it for the rest of the day. This was the routine for 15 days.
One of the first things Grimes told his guys is that this BYU gig was his first as a coordinator and he wanted “to do it right.” He then explained what that meant.
“We went through everything,” said tight ends coach Steve Clark, the only holdover from Ty Detmer’s offensive staff.
“We started with the huddle, how we call the personnel, and we ran the gauntlet up to how we’re going to kneel with the ball and run out the clock in victory formation. It was everything, including two-minute drills. It was a lot of work, a lot of tedious work, coming up with names of plays and terms.”
Grimes didn’t come in the room and throw down a playbook and tell his guys they needed to gobble it up, digest it and memorize everything.
“He wanted it to be our offense so he came in and said, ‘Let’s put together an offense that is our offense and do it with all our previous experience, all our backgrounds and knowledge,’” said Clark.
“The hardest thing, the most difficult thing and the biggest challenge was coming up with terminology that made sense to the players, that didn’t overlap too much, that didn’t duplicate too much. We got it done. The players have done a great job on their own studying the formations, learning the motions, shifts and all the things that are pretty intricate. They’ve done a good job with the leadership.”
Since Clark is the only one on Grimes’ staff with hands- and eyes-on experience with all the offensive players, his main contribution has been to help identify personnel.
“I knew what players could do what. Jeff said he wanted to come in with a clean slate, he didn’t want to watch a lot of film because he wanted players to come in and get to know who they are," Clark said. "If they’d been in the doghouse before, he didn’t want them in the doghouse now. He came in and said, ‘Well, are we an 11-personnel team, are we a 12 personnel, are we a 20 or a 10 personnel?’ I kind of helped him understand what kind of team we are.”
Translation: The first number in this grouping is the number of running backs, the second number is how many tight ends. So 12 personnel is one RB and two tight ends. An 11 personnel is one RB and one tight end. The remaining available skill players in a formation are receivers, so a 12 personnel group has two wide receivers. An 11 personnel is one RB, one tight end and three receivers.
“Jeff and I worked together before here at BYU, so we both speak the same language. I sort of knew what he wanted to do, so it was really easy and very seamless,” said Clark.
In those 15 sessions, Grimes had every coach bring in film from their respective experiences, things they liked. He put up video of his own from LSU that showed how motion and shifts could be implemented.
Pass game coordinator Aaron Roderick then shared film he’d been involved with, things he liked. Ditto for receivers coach Fesi Sitake from Weber State. AJ Steward showed clips from Rice and O-line coach Ryan Pugh put plays on the screen from University of Texas at San Antonio.
“It sounds boring, but it was actually a lot of fun. It was very educational to learn these things,” said Clark.
Grimes made it clear that all would have a say and take ownership of the product.
“He is great. He’s been great with the input. If you have something to say, you have the ability to say it. Sometimes it got shot down and sometimes it was picked up. It is an atmosphere where everyone feels free to say what they want and contribute.
“Jeff says these are our players. ‘The tight ends are not your players, they are our players, so let’s all coach them.’ If you see something, say something. He isn’t coaching a position, so he is a great sounding board and he is involved in everybody. He comes to my meeting room; he goes to A-Rod’s meeting room and gives his input. It’s a very good atmosphere. There are no egos involved, we just work together to make this offense the best it can be.”
Like any new staff, everyone, including players, wants to please, wants to shine. There has been an elevated level of passion and work inside the staff and locker room.
“Jeff is really good at explaining what he wants but giving you parameters for doing what you want," Clark explained. "Any time you make changes like this, it brings in energy.”
After the designing meetings, Grimes got his first chance to introduce concepts on the field this past Monday.
“The No. 1 thing coach Grimes wanted was energy, and we got that. We had two turnovers, balls on the ground. That’s two too many, and we’ll fix that. But the energy, the passion, the fight, the will to play and work is what he was looking for, and that was accomplished. At the same time, we got in a lot of shifts and motions and plays. There were some missed assignments, but those are things we can clean up the next session,” said Clark.
During spring camp's 15 practices, Grimes and his staff will have six installs.
An install is a specific set of plays that can be run from different formations and involves different personnel and what motions or shifts will be used. It includes details like snap count for that insertion.
“Hopefully we can get all six installed, and if we do that, we’ll have probably 80 percent of the offense installed,” said Clark.
“They’ve (the players) been really good at picking it up. It isn’t easy, it is not an easy offense, and the players have done a great job. We are learning it too, and it is important for all of us to learn it together. If we get in the six installs, we’ll have a lot of offense.”
Grimes will tailor BYU’s offense to his talent, then perfect what it does best.
That’s the object of the 15 days, the ultimate end game to spring practice in the post-Detmer era.
It continues Friday in closed practice session No. 3.