Wofford offense evolves with the pass

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - After Wofford hired football coach Josh Conklin three years ago, alumni started asking him about when the Terriers would start passing the ball more.

With the way the 2019 season began, some of the same alumni wanted to know when the Terriers were going to run the ball more.

Conklin's goal to develop a dual-threat type of quarterback has seemed surprising, if not strange considering Wofford has long been synonymous with the triple option rushing attack of his predecessor, Mike Ayers, the school's winningest coach.

But as the Terriers were en route to claiming a third consecutive Southern Conference title, Conklin and offensive coordinator Wade Lang - also Ayers' long-time offensive architect - demonstrated they would make necessary adjustments to any plans.

Wofford had four interceptions - three by starting quarterback Joe Newman - in a season-opening, nonconference loss at South Carolina State. The Terriers' 23 pass attempts were more than in any game since 2007.

"The issue I think for all of us is you've got to be able to balance what your guys can do well, you have to be able to utilize their strengths," Conklin, whose team has been selected by SoCon coaches as the preseason favorite for the upcoming spring season, said on Thursday.

"We really went back and said, 'OK, look, we experimented with some of this stuff. Let's go back to what Joe does really well. Let's lean on that. We can still expand it, but we want to expand on it with what he does really well.'"

Wofford didn't attempt more than eight passes in any of the following four games while Newman and the offense got on track. A senior, Newman went on to become the first Terriers quarterback to be named SoCon offensive player of the year. He even threw the ball 23 times in a late October game - a victory.

Wofford sat out this past fall, but its run-with-pass option basically was on display - at Coastal Carolina in an unbeaten regular season on the FBS level.

Beginning Feb. 20 at Mercer, the Terriers will be back to finetuning their offense behind a new starting quarterback, perhaps junior Peyton Derrick or sophomore Jimmy Weirick. Derrick is a second-year transfer from Appalachian State who sees the field well, while Weirick has the arm strength not necessarily seen in the old wingbone rushing attack.

"I think Coach Lang and his staff have done a tremendous job being creative in terms of how to build what we want it to look like in the future and also what's it's been in the past," Conklin said.

"We want a guy that can obviously run the option principles out of the gun, underneath center. We also want guys that can throw the football down the field and do some of the things we want to do in the passing game based on what our personnel is.

"Although it's not the triple (option) - three yards and a cloud of dust at times underneath the center, the wingbone, whatever - it still has those types of principles. We're just doing it as different looks."

Updated January 21, 2021

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