TCU football shuffled its offensive staff this offseason, but the transition has been a smooth one for the Horned Frogs so far.
Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie enters his first season as TCU’s lead play-caller. It’s also Curtis Luper’s first year as co-offensive coordinator after Doug Meacham left for Kansas. However, Luper said he and Cumbie had been preparing for this scenario for a couple of years as Meacham was rumored for other jobs.
“Doug Meacham was a hot commodity,” Luper told DieHards. “So there was always a chance that he would leave. So after ’14, after ’15, Sonny and I had the conversation of he and I working together, he and I coordinating together. I approached him with it, and he was all in.”
TCU had an offensive burst when Meacham and Cumbie became co-offensive coordinators in 2014. The Frogs averaged 46.5 points per game that season, compared with 25.1 the year before.
Cumbie and Luper will try to get the Frogs back to that level after a disappointing 2016 campaign, when the average points per game fell to 31.0. The duo already has great chemistry.
“We work extremely well together,” Luper said. “I mean, extremely well together.”
The Frogs also added offensive line coach Chris Thomsen from Arizona State, with Jarrett Anderson moving over to inside receivers. Former Cal head coach Sonny Dykes also joined the staff as an offensive analyst.
So how will the new staff structure work? Cumbie will call plays, an area where he already has some experience. Luper estimated that Cumbie would call as much as 30 percent of the plays during some games when Meacham was still on staff.
Preparing those plays will be a collaborative effort with the whole offensive staff. Play-calling “doesn’t really take place on game day,” Luper said. Instead, the coaches work together to figure out what their play calls will be in certain game situations.
“So you do your homework during the week and figure out what we want to run on, say third-and-medium, based on what the [opposing] defense runs on third-and-medium,” Luper said, “and we’ll have three or four runs and three or four passes, and Coach Cumbie will just take one or the other.”
As co-coordinator, Luper will have more influence in those discussions than he had previously when he was the running backs coach.
“So I’ll have more input during the week,” Luper said. “I had more input this spring. And obviously there will be more input on game day. But all of us, we’re obligated to support the play caller. As offensive coaches, we support the play caller and make it easier for him.”
Schematically, Luper said TCU’s offense will be similar to how it has looked since Cumbie joined the staff. Their goal is to “coach it better.”
However, coach Gary Patterson emphasized the need to get tougher on offense at the end of last year. The hope is that Luper and Cumbie, along with the new staff additions, will help achieve that.
“You can tell how well a staff works together by the product that’s on the field,” Luper said.