Eastern hopes air-raid offense fixes woes from last season


File Photo | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern transfer quarterback Johnathan Brantley throws a ball in spring practice last year at O’Brien Field. Brantley is one of two frontrunners for the starting quarterback job.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

Eastern head football coach Kim Dameron does not want to see his team average just 17.6 points per game again this season. 

That is something Dameron and the entire program have emphasized and made very clear dating all the way back to the end of last season.

The football program let former offensive coordinator Greg Stevens go after watching the offense slog through the entire 2017 season, struggling to move the ball down field and being especially weak in the passing game. 

The quarterback position in 2017 was not just struck with the injury bug, but rather a full-on pandemic. Starter Mitch Kimble was lost to injury for the entire season after getting hurt in week three. Scotty Gilkey Jr., Bud Martin and even Cody Edwards for just one pass, all struggled in Kimble’s absence. 

Enough was enough for Eastern. During the offseason, Stevens was replaced by new offensive coordinator Scott Parr, who brings with him an air-raid offense which revolves around success throwing the football. 

The team also has brought in four new quarterbacks, they now have six on the roster, in a duo of moves that the team hopes ensures the struggles of last season do not return. 

The air-raid offense is new to Dameron as far as coaching it goes; he does however have experience defending it. 

“I had a lot of respect for (the air-raid) when I kind of realized what it does,” Dameron said.

The experience Dameron has defending against it came against Mike Leach when Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech. Dameron pointed out that at the time people would joke that Leach only had nine plays in his playbook and that he was a “weird dude” for running that style of offense. But that perception changed when he watched film on the air-raid.

 “The more you break down the film, the more you see how good they really are and how efficient they are and they have answers for things,” Dameron said. “Our answer for them in the Cotton Bowl was that we basically brought pressure and played a lot of man coverage because we were better than them athletically we could do that. If you’re not better than us athletically, your’re going to have a hard time doing that.”

Dameron hopes to rely on his team being better than its opponents athletically, however, he feels the air-raid offense gives them a chance to be better and to be different.

Being different could prove to be very beneficial to Eastern next season as the other schools in the OVC have never seen them run this style of offense. 

“It’s going to be interesting to see because there is not anyone in our league that runs anything like it, that’s why I chose it,” Dameron said. “When I first started coaching I was a defensive coach for triple-option offense and you could see each week how hard it was for those people to have to defend the triple-option. That’s kind of the way I see this. This is an offense, in philosophy, which is very similar to what the old triple option used to be.”

The offense is obviously totally new to a lot of Eastern’s returning players, which means there is a new playbook to learn and new audibles and adjustments for everyone to grasp. But, Parr feels the offense is “on track” to everyone understanding it.

“I have been pleased with our players ever since I have gotten here,” Parr said. “(I’ve been pleased with) first off the talent, the culture that Coach Dameron has created and their intelligence and commitment to practicing.”

 JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]