New Tulane Offensive Coordinator Jim Svoboda brings an explosive offense to NOLA
Tulane Head Coach Willie Fritz tabbed Central Missouri Head Coach Jim Svoboda as his new offensive coordinator. Coincidentally, Svoboda was hired at Central Missouri to replace Fritz when Fritz left Central Missouri for Sam Houston State in 2010.
Admittedly, I knew little about Svoboda when he was announced. I knew he has been a head coach at the Division II level for over the past 12 seasons. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Montana State from 2007-2009 and the Quarterbacks coach at UCLA from 2004-2005. He was a finalist for the Broyles Award in 2005 and then added the title of Offensive Coordinator for the Bruins in 2006. Prior to his time at UCLA, Svoboda spent 10 seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Northwest Missouri State. During his time at Northwest Missouri, his team won 3 Division II National Championships.
Just before Christmas, Coach Fritz was kind enough to appear on The Jimmy O Show. During his appearance, he mentioned he wanted an offensive coordinator who could take advantage of his personnel and who could develop a strong running game. Not knowing much about Coach Svoboda, I turned on the video and looked at the stats. I made it through 10 quarters of offense from the 2019 season and 4 more from 2017. There isn’t a ton of Central Missouri game film on the internet, so I had to go with what is available. Here is what I found.
Coach Svoboda runs his base offense out of the shotgun. His team also ran plays out of the pistol, under center and the wildcat. He does a good job of protecting his quarterback. He employs a lot of quick passes, moves the pocket and does a good job of having outlet receivers available in case the quarterback is under pressure. His quarterback was rarely hit or sacked. He also did not show a lot of run-pass option or read-option which limited the hits on his quarterback. If his quarterback was running, it was usually a designed run where the quarterback was protected by the play design.
One of the things that stood out to me about Coach Svoboda is his ability to set plays up and create big play opportunities. In 2019, Central Missouri averaged a whopping 10.11 yards per passing attempt, which shows how explosive his offense can be. For reference, LSU’s explosive offense with Joe Burrow that same year averaged 10.6 yards per attempt. Since 2012, Tulane’s best yardage per attempt has been 7.97 in 2019.
Coach Svoboda’s teams’ yards per completion are equally impressive. Since 2017, his receivers averaged 15.47, 15.47, 18.07 and 14.50 yards per catch. In the past 5 seasons, Coach Svoboda’s teams have averaged 3,784.4 yards passing and 32 touchdowns per season. That is the average, not the best season, and that average season would be by far the best passing season that Tulane has had since 1998 and on par with Tulane’s 1998 numbers.
Coach Svoboda also gets the ball to his best players in the passing game. In 2021, his best receiver recorded the following stat line: 67 catches for 1,438 yards (21.46 ypc) 10 touchdowns. In 2019, now-Tulane receiver Shae Wyatt had 65 catches for 1,452 yards (22.34 ypc) and 12 touchdowns. His second best receiver that year, a tight end, had 40 catches for 894 yards (22.35 ypc) and 15 touchdowns. We haven’t had a receiver catch 60 passes since Ryan Grant caught 77 in 2013 and Marc Zeno holds our single season receiving yardage high at 1,206 in 1987. Coach Svoboda’s best receivers put up big numbers and make big plays.
Coach Svoboda’s teams have historically run the ball well too. From 2016-2019, his teams averaged 2,310.3 yards rushing per season, 185.6 yards per game and 28 touchdowns per season on the ground. In 2021, the Mules took a step back rushing for only 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns total. Whether that was due to taking a year off from football due to COVID in 2020 or just a lack of personnel, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, 2020 was an anomaly from a rushing standpoint dating back to Coach Svoboda’s first year at Central Missouri. Last season, Tulane ran for 164.9 yards per game and 19 touchdowns. If we get the Svoboda rushing attack from 2016-2019, we will improve upon our run game and should definitely improve upon our passing attack.
Coach Svoboda also appears to agree with Coach Fritz in a couple of other key areas. The first area is tempo. Central Missouri used tempo to its advantage after momentum plays and when they had the other team on the ropes. They were also able to pull back and play a little slower when the situation called for a slower tempo without hurting their offensive output. Strategic use of tempo is something that Coach Fritz has preached over the years, not just going fast for the sake of going fast.
Another area where Coach Svoboda appears to agree with Coach Fritz is being aggressive on 4th down. Anytime Coach Svoboda’s teams were in neutral or plus territory and it was 4th and 5 or less, he tended to go for it and his 3rddown play calls took into account that he had already made the decision to go for it on 4th down. Synergy between the head coach and play caller is important and it seems like that is the case here.
So, did Coach Fritz check his boxes? You’re damn right he did.
Coach that can get the ball to his best players? Check. If you’re a Tulane receiver, you’d better get your head around and your hands up because the ball is coming to you a lot.
Coach with a strong running attack? Check. Coach Svoboda’s better offenses averaged over 200 rushing yards a game and his teams overall averaged better running totals than Tulane did last year.
Most importantly, Coach Svoboda has a history of developing quarterbacks and his offensive scheme does a lot to protect the quarterback. After a tough 2021 where he took a lot of hits, we could see a huge year for Michael Pratt.
I didn’t know it before today, but I am a Coach Svoboda fan.