Running it 60 percent of the time might not be bad for Turner Gill and KU


In an interview with WHB 810 on Tuesday, Kansas coach Turner Gill was asked about how often he envisioned his team would run the football.

"What that percentage is, I can't give that answer right now," Gill said. "If you sit here and say, 'What's your ideal situation?' I would say it would probably be more of a standpoint of being 60 percent run the football and 40 percent throw the football."

Gill did say that he would adjust his offensive philosophy to his talent, especially in his first year. That means KU still might rely some on the pass this year.

But 60 percent runs? When I first heard it, that number sounded awfully high, especially considering the success teams have had with the spread offense in college football the last few years.

So just how uncommon is it for a team to run it 60 percent of the time in today's college football?

Perhaps not as uncommon as you might think.

Let's take a look at some run percentage numbers.

To calculate a team's run percentage, I simply divided its rushing attempts by the combined number of rushing attempts and passing attempts it had during a season.

I understand this isn't perfect, as sometimes, passing plays turn into runs when quarterbacks either scramble or are sacked. Still, I figured these numbers will give us a pretty good glimpse into how often each team ran the football.

Let's start with KU's numbers. No Jayhawk team in the last 10 seasons has run the ball at least 60 percent of the time. The last time KU ran the ball 60 percent of its snaps was in 1999 (61.8 percent).

Kansas run percentage
2000 — 59.4 percent (4-7)
2001 — 59.7 percent (3-8)
2002 — 52.3 percent (2-10)
2003 — 54.3 percent (6-7)
2004 — 47.4 percent (4-7)
2005 — 51.8 percent (7-5)
2006 — 54.7 percent (6-6)
2007 — 51.8 percent (12-1)
2008 — 47.1 percent (8-5)
2009 — 42.8 percent (5-7)

It's interesting to see just how much KU went away from the running game in the last few seasons. The Jayhawks have seen their run percentage decline in each of the last three years.

So how do KU's run percentage numbers stack up against other Big 12 teams? Let's look.

Run percentage
Kansas State — 62.8 percent (6-6, 4-4)
Oklahoma State — 62.3 percent (9-4, 6-2)
Nebraska — 58.4 percent (10-4, 6-1 Big 12)
Iowa State — 57.6 percent (7-6, 3-5)
Texas A&M — 51.7 percent (6-7, 3-5)
Texas — 48.7 percent (13-1, 8-0)
Missouri — 48.7 percent (8-5, 4-4)
Oklahoma — 48.3 percent (8-5, 5-3)
Colorado — 44.5 percent (3-9, 2-6)
Baylor — 44.5 percent (4-8, 1-7)
Kansas — 42.8 percent (5-7, 1-7)
Texas Tech — 32.3 percent (9-4, 5-3)

Big 12 average — 50.0 percent (5,496 runs; 5,492 passes)

KU was next-to-last in the league in run percentage, leading only Texas Tech.

If KU would have run it 60 percent of the time last year, it would have been third in the conference behind Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Running it 60 percent of the time also would be 10 percent more than the league average.

So running it 60 percent of the time is crazy, right? Not if you take a look at the best teams from last year's final Associated Press Top 25.

AP Top 25 Run percentage
Alabama — 63.5 percent
Texas — 48.7 percent
Florida — 60.4 percent
Boise State — 52.3 percent
Ohio State — 64.1 percent
TCU — 64.6 percent
Iowa — 53.7 percent
Cincinnati — 43.3 percent
Penn State — 54.1 percent
Virginia Tech — 69.7 percent

Four of the top six teams — including the national champion, Alabama — ran the ball at least 60 percent of the time.

Honestly, that number shocked me.

So how close was Gill to hitting a 60 percent run percentage in Buffalo? Here are Buffalo's run percentages during Gill's four-year tenure.

Buffalo run percentage
2006 — 51.8 percent (2-10)
2007 — 52.8 percent (5-7)
2008 — 50.7 percent (8-6)
2009 — 51.9 percent (5-7)

The coach didn't come close to achieving his ideal 60/40 run-pass split with the Bulls. His team also didn't appear to become any more prone to the run later in his tenure.

Though it was a different era, perhaps Gill's run-first mentality came from his days playing quarterback at Nebraska.

Just for fun, here are his run percentages as a player at NU.

Nebraska run percentage
1980 — 80.9 percent (10-2)
1981 — 78.5 percent (9-3)
1982 — 78.1 percent (12-1)
1983 — 79.0 percent (12-1)

So what should we take from these numbers? I would say two things.

  1. KU will run the ball much more this year than it has in years past.

  2. That might not be a bad thing for Gill and the Jayhawks if they hope to someday build an elite team.

For more on the Jayhawks' recent running back surge, check out Matt Tait's "Tale of the Tait" blog.


Marcia Parsons 12 years, 1 month ago

While a coach may prefer a larger percentage of the run, isn't it possible that he has to adjust his plans because of his personnel?

rawkhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

it would also seem that successful teams would run more due to running the clock...

superhawk22 12 years, 1 month ago

The score and clock are going to dictate whether you run or pass as well. If you're down a couple TD's late in the third quarter you're going to be primarily passing the ball for the remainder of the game.

pitthawker 12 years, 1 month ago

He kind of touched on that...

"Gill did say that he would adjust his offensive philosophy to his talent, especially in his first year. That means KU still might rely some on the pass this year. "

MitchumMan 12 years, 1 month ago

It's obvious that many factors play into what percentage of run/pass a team has. Gill knows this, shortly talked about it, and said he will adjust accordingly. I still think our percetage will be around 50/50 this year. But the best thing about this year is, most defenses won't neccessarily know what's coming next. With our ball club last year, it was pretty obvious what was going happen on most plays.

Steven Mathew 12 years, 1 month ago

I'm kind of surprised Georgia Tech is not in the AP Top 25 run percentage. That caught my eye.

NebraskaJayhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

Good article, though I don't understand why this is a surprise to anyone that follows football in this day and age. If you can run the ball with a high percentile, it only shows you are controlling the game from an offensive point of view. The best teams run the ball and do it's been that way for a long time. It's not as flashy as throwing for 300+ yards every game, but there's less chance for a quarterback to have an off game if you are a run-oriented team. I'm very excited to hear that Gill wants to run the ball.

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