Munoz unplugged: New UL offensive coordinator opens up

Tim Buckley

His first full-time coaching title was “offensive coordinator,” in 2001 and 2002 at Anderson University, an NCAA Division III program in Indiana.

New UL offensive coordinator Jorge Munoz, right, talks with ex-Cajuns quarterback Terrance Broadway, left, before a spring practice in 2012. March 30, 2012

His next gig overseeing an offense came at FCS Eastern Illinois, where he was co-coordinator in 2006 and coordinator in 2007.

And from 2008-10 he called played plays as pass-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at UL under ex-coach Rickey Bustle.

That bundle of experience serves as a philosophical foundation for Jorge Munoz, who has been tapped to replace Jay Johnson – who left for Minnesota after five years – as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns.

UL's Munoz promoted to offensive coordinator

UL head coach Mark Hudspeth has made it clear what he wants from Munoz, an NAIA All-American quarterback at Bethany College who spent the last five seasons as UL’s receivers coach under Hudspeth.

“You know,” Hudspeth said Friday, “we’ve got just a stable full of talented, young wide receivers. We’ve got very athletic running backs. And we just want to utilize their abilities and do a better job of getting those guys the football in good matchups and in space.”

With that in mind, what follows is a series of questions for and answers from Munoz on just what he has in mind for UL’s offense in the 2016 season to come:

QUESTION: What is your offensive philosophy? Define it.

ANSWER: “Going back over the years, I think everywhere I’ve been, everywhere I’ve been in charge of an offense, my main thing is ‘Let’s identify who the playmakers are, let’s try to get them the ball, let’s see what our quarterback can handle and let’s keep the offensive frame within what you can handle.’

“My background is a spread guy. It’s a spread-you-out-to run-it type of philosophy. And if you (the opposing defense) is not gonna spread out with me, then we’re gonna throw it.

“We’re gonna do what it takes to win. We’re gonna do what it takes to move the ball, and do what it takes to score points.

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“If that means we’re gonna throw it 60 times a game, then that’s what we’ll do if that’s what you’re gonna allow us to do from a defensive standpoint. Or are you gonna force us to run the ball, because you’re committed to stopping the pass? (Then) we’re gonna run it 60 times a game.

“But, no matter what, my philosophy is the defense can’t stop both. They’ve got to commit. They have to commit to one or the other with the call.

“Now, they can stop both if they’re just physically more talented than we are. If their front four is better than our front five, then it (doesn’t) matter what we’re doing – because they’re gonna make it a long day for us.

“But assuming everything is equal, schematically they can’t stop both. So we’re gonna try to figure it out. We’re gonna try to put stress on them to stop one or the other, and hopefully we’re good enough to attack any phase of it.”

QUESTION: So with this group in particular, how important is it to take advantage of matchups? How much more do you try to spread the field vertically so that you can open up things on the edges for (running back Elijah) McGuire? And how specifically can you use (2014 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year) McGuire’s talents at next season?

ANSWER: “I think it’s gonna be easy to do that, because he (McGuire) can do these things. He can catch the ball extremely well. Unbelievable hands. He’s agile. So he’s fast.

“But probably a little bit more emphasis maybe that we can do this spring as far as route-running is concerned – some of things we’ve been having him (do) have been just been just kind wheel routes, and stuff like that, which we’ll still do that stuff – (is) maybe flexing him out.

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“Flexing him out to a slot receiver spot, or motion him out there and just maybe give him just a few more routes.

“I’m not saying we want him to learn the entire pass-route package, because there just is not enough practice time in the course of a day for him to get good at his run-game responsibilities, his steps, his timing with the quarterbacks, and also do the stuff that’s required to be a full-time receiver and all the things we’d be asking him to do – working on press releases, working on re-routes and all that stuff.

“So we’ve got to find some simple things we can do while he’s flexed out that are within the system that put him in a situation to get the ball.

“But I also tell people this, and this is not just for Eli but for any wideout or tight end: Once the ball is snapped and once you cross the line of scrimmage, I can’t guarantee anybody the ball. … Because I don’t know how the defense is gonna react.

“We have an idea. We have a game plan. We’re gonna put him in a spot where we think the ball can possibly go. But when the ball is snapped, I don’t know how they’re gonna act.

“What I can guarantee is touches behind the line of scrimmage. That means bubble screens, that means jailbreak-type screens, that means flare screens.

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“I can guarantee touches to Eli (McGuire), (slot receiver) Gary Haynes, all those type of guys, when the ball is behind the line of scrimmage. And what we will do is try to put them in a position so that they’ll be the first read or the second read once we go past the line of scrimmage.

“But, at the end of the day, you’re not guaranteed that. Percentages go down once they cross the line of scrimmage. They’re still gonna be the focal point, tough.

“Whether it’s them (McGuire or Haynes), or some other guys that step up – the Al Riles, the Gabe Fuselier; also some of the tight ends we’ve got, we’ve got Matt Barnes coming back (from knee reconstruction), Nick Byrne; our young receivers, JaMarcus Bradley, Keenan Barnes – whoever we feel the go-to guys are gonna be, we’re gonna put them in spots for them to be the first choice or the second choice.

“But, again, it’s still predicated on how the defense is gonna react. But through game-planning, hopefully, we’ll put them in the right spots, that we think, ‘OK, their top two coverages are A and B; well, we like these routes vs. A and B, so let’s put them in that spot. But if they go to coverage C, or D, well, they may not be getting the ball then.”

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QUESTION: Asking about tight end in particular, running back or Eli (McGuire) aside, obviously early on under Hudspeth with Ladarius (Green, now an NFL tight end with the San Diego Chargers), that allowed you to be way more vertical, and it opened up so much more on the outside, because you could just send your tight end straight down. So will there be more shades of that?

ANSWER: “Probably so. Probably so. But, again, it’s still predicated on what the defense is gonna give you.

“See, back then with Ladarius, we were a slower team. We just were. We weren’t able to establish the run as much as we did in (2013 and 2014).

“(In) 2013 and ’14 we could run on anybody. It didn’t matter what you had in front of us; we could established the run.

“In years ’11 and ’12, we just were not built that way just yet. We had to throw the ball downfield. So teams were playing us differently, as opposed to ’13 and ’14.

“(In) ’13 and ’14 we got a lot more heavy boxes. But even with the heavy boxes we had in ’13 and ’14, we were still able to establish the run game (with McGuire and Alonzo Harris, who played six NFL games with the Green Bay Packers last season).

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“(2015) was a little bit different (with McGuire, but not Harris). We couldn’t establish the run game, we weren’t able to stretch people vertically as much.

“And – just going back to my basic philosophy – if they’re gonna crowd the box on us, you’re gonna see a lot more vertical-style threats.

“Because where is that extra defender coming in? Is he coming in from the safety position? (If so) then we need to attack that area. Is he coming in from the outside linebacker position? Then we need to attack that area. Wherever that extra defender is showing up (from) is where I want to be able to attack.

“So, yeah, I do think maybe some more of the vertical game might come into more play a little bit. But also it might because that’s what my background is too, anyway.

“It’s just to force the ball down the field. It’s to get the ball to playmakers. And now, when you’ve got a guy who’s 6-6 in Ladarius Green, like we did back in the day – and even with the previous staff – we still featured Ladarius Green back then, because he was a big-time threat.

“Anytime you’ve got guys like that, it’s our job – it’s gonna be my job now, and our job as an offense – to get those guys the football, whether it is deep vertical routes, whether it is more of the quick game or whether it’s stuff behind the line of scrimmage.”

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