Sure, the 2020 football season is shortened and conference-only. But, that doesn’t mean they won’t play 11-on-11 and let Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby call plays. You might ask yourself “well, what will that look like” and well, that’s a fair question. A year after John Rhys Plumlee took the college football world by storm with his game-breaking speed and elite quickness, a new coaching staff has a clean slate in the quarterback room.
Matt Corral and Grant Tisdale join Plumlee as the potential suitors for Kiffin and Lebby’s first-year offense in Oxford and they all bring something different to the table. Corral, the oldest of the three, brings athleticism and tons of talent. Plumlee brings world-class speed and a knack for the big play. And Tisdale is almost a spot-on mixture of the two.
The good news is both Kiffin and Lebby have experience with all kinds of quarterbacks and all walks of skill sets. So let’s go down memory lane and take a look at some of their best work as coordinators and play-callers, shall we?
Seth Russell, Baylor - 2015
Jeff Lebby ran the offense in Waco when the Bears finished 10-3, finishing the year with a victory over top-10 North Carolina. Despite a neck injury that shortened his season to just seven games, Russell was extremely effective and efficient.
Russell completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,104 yards. He threw 29 touchdowns and ran for six more for a Baylor team that was flourishing in the Big 12 with its high-flying attack.
I think someone was looking for this video earlier of Seth Russell breaking one off and then diving into the endzone? pic.twitter.com/lkshoAFjpl— ODB (@OurDailyBears) April 15, 2020
Russell threw the ball 200 times in seven games and was incredibly accurate and deadly downfield.
Given Plumlee’s limitations through the air, this would lend a little more to Corral and Tisdale. But, the way Lebby utilizes the run game with his quarterbacks shouldn’t immediately rule Plumlee out. Russell and Baylor were balanced that season and hurt opponents by both air and land.
Russell’s 2015 season gives me a lot of Corral vibes.
Jalen Hurts, Alabama - 2016
Kiffin’s last season in Tuscaloosa was a doozy. The former Channelview, Tex. native flourished in the Lane Train offense, torching folks for 2,780 yards through the air and 23 touchdowns while also running for 954 yards and 13 scores. Hurts seemed to get more and more comfortable in Kiffin’s offense as the season went on, punishing Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Auburn.
This one is a toss-up. Hurts did plenty through the air, but did a considerable amount of damage with his legs. This could work for all three of our Rebels. All three possess plenty of athleticism and speed to burn defenses on the edge and they can all make the intermediate throws that got Jalen into rhythm week in and week out.
But, if I had to pick one, I see a ton of Tisdale in his game that year.
Jason Driskel, FAU - 2017
After Kiffin’s final season at Alabama, he made his way Boca Raton, Fla. to take over the Owls program as head coach. All he did in his first year in Conference USA was win the damn league and go 11-3. His first quarterback at FAU may not have the gaudy touchdown and yards numbers like others on this list (2,247 yards and 15 touchdowns), but the offense sure was purring that year.
They attacked you downfield with deadly force.
4 RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS for @FAU_Football QB Jason Driskel. pic.twitter.com/boKs6AmynM— Stadium (@Stadium) October 8, 2017
And they were never afraid to get after you on the ground with a physical run game. This is something that Lebby has alluded to several times in fall camp, “fast, fearless, physical.”
As I’ve pointed out already, all three potential starters can do serious damage on the ground, but the downfield aerial assault is something that is Corral and Tisdale’s specialty. This is also something that could lend to a truncated two-quarterback system that could work with the right amount of mixture with each dude’s skill set.
Driskel seems to mirror Corral and Tisdale a little more, but the commitment to the run game (84 carries) also fits Plumlee as well.
McKenzie Milton, UCF - 2018
After Lebby left the Lone Star State, he made his way to Orlando to work Josh Huepel and the Knights. His first pupil, Milton, was a gem. Coming off an undefeated season, Milton’s encore was a smashing success. The Miliani, Hawaii prospect finished with 34 total touchdowns, helping Central Florida finish 12-1. But, it was his remarkable play along with Lebby’s play calling that helped them win yet another American Athletic Conference title.
McKenzie Milton sells out at the goal line, and UCF has come all the way back to take the lead late. pic.twitter.com/CuVYkIXiPc— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 13, 2018
This play here screams “Plumlee”.
But, as you can see in the highlights from their win over Pitt two years ago, there is plenty of ways for Corral and Tisdale to do damage, too. Milton was a true dual-threat in Lebby’s scheme and I, for one, am very excited to see what they cook up for Ole Miss this year.
Dillon Gabriel, UCF - 2019
The last signal caller we are going to look at is Milton’s successor comes from the same high school. The true freshman absolutely dominated the AAC, throwing for almost as many yards (3,653) as Chad Kelly did in 2015 (4,042). UCF’s offense averaged 541.5 yards per game (is that any good?) with a balanced attack, led by Gabriel’s aggressive playing style through the air (9.2 yards per attempt).
The lefty was lethal when going deep, connecting time and time again.
This throw by Dillon Gabriel (one of many) made me believe he's legit. Dude's a freshman and dropping dimes like this pic.twitter.com/4Aya0AGNE9— Joe Broback (@joebroback) September 18, 2019
We’ve seen that throw before, haven’t we?
Gabriel didn’t run as much as Milton or the others on this list, he did his damage with his left arm which makes me lean a little more towards Corral or Tisdale. But, he was deadly in the intermediate passing game as well like Hurts so Plumlee could just as easily plug in and do some things here, too.
Either way, these two are almost certainly going to be able to piece this thing together to make this fall quite fun.