If there is a Yoda of offensive minds in college football, it may very well be Bob Stitt. New Texas State coach Jake Spavital hired Stitt to run the Bobcat offense in 2019. Football nerds, such as myself, we’re somewhere between giddy and what the Brits call chuffed to bits at the news.
If you’ve never heard of Bob Stitt, that’s ok. Stitt’s spent most of his coaching career in the lower levels of college football. His most high profile job came in 2015 when he took over Montana. Before that Stitt was the head coach at the Colorado School of Mines. In fifteen years coaching the Orediggers, Stitt’s team made three Division II playoff appearances, never surviving past the second round.
While pundits celebrated his hiring at Montana, Stitt was never a fit in Missoula. After three seasons, the Griz higher-ups wanted "toughness and swagger" that Stitt’s spread offense wasn’t perceived to bring. The bigger issue may have been that he struggled to beat Montana’s hated rival Montana State in the wonderfully named, the Brawl of the Wild. Still, Stitt’s players raved about his ability to bring a team together and stay positive even after difficult loses.
After Montana let Stitt go in 2017, in spite of a 21-14 record and one playoff appearance, Oklahoma State and Mike Gundy hired him as an analyst. Analysts are a modern football construction, taking many of the responsibilities of a graduate assistant, but without the actual coaching, or the ability to recruit. They gameplan and advise coaches, but aren’t present at practice for instructional purposes.
Stitt is the godfather of several spread schemes, including the fly-sweep action, made famous when Dana Holgorsen ran the play in West Virginia’s dismantling of Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. In the post-game, Holgorsen did what few coaches would at that point, he told ESPN’s interviewer that he’d gotten the fly sweep from “good friend Bob Stitt at Colorado School of Mines.”
Suddenly Stitt’s name was everywhere, and more coaches made pilgrimages to the School of Mines each offseason. He’s also a master conductor of screens, with interrelated movements and deception. Stitt designs his blocking schemes to give defenses false reads, and he uses his best stuff in the red zone where conversions are more critical. His concepts are now widely used and diluted. If you’ve watched a college football game, chances are you’ve seen a Bob Stitt Wrinkle on most offensive possessions.
Texas State will run more plays and in quicker succession than in previous years. Stitt’s goal is to execute 90 to 100 plays per game. That’s roughly 40 more a game than the 2018 ‘Cats ran under Zak Kuhr. To accomplish that tempo Stitt limits substitutions to prevent the defense from subbing and slowing his roll.
Another benefit of all these interested coaches collaborating with Stitt is the information runs both ways. He started to run a no-huddle offense after a meeting with Holgorsen in Morgantown. The pace aspect combined with Stitt’s misdirection adds another variable for defenses to deal with.
Stitt told Dan Wolken in 2012 he'd be willing to move up as an offensive coordinator, but only if the head coach would give him total offensive control. We assume that’s what Spavital is doing. Spavital, having spent time at two of his coaching stops with Stitt disciples - Kevin Sumlin and Holgorsen, is well aware of Stitt’s proclivities.
Texas State is getting a truly great offensive mind, combining with a sharp offensive-minded head coach. After Montana, Stitt’s named linked to coordinator jobs at Penn State and BYU before ending up in Stillwater, he’s a coveted play caller and schemer and should make Texas State a potent offensive unit if he can match his scheme to the personnel on the roster.