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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.


Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years ago

Newell, it's UNL not NU. You look like a moron when you call it NU. Any midwesterner giggled at reading NU, please tuck in your stupid.

newmedia 8 years ago

Hope they find a line that can block or a lot of the running may be for their lives !!

1983Hawk 8 years ago

Fascinating blog, Jesse. Nice work!

Graczyk 8 years ago

To zstoltenberg's rude comment, all Newell has to say is "documentation." It's like the forum equivalent of "scoreboard." pwned.

fabian_zimbabwe 8 years ago

Um, I grew up in Lincoln, and it's definitely NU when referencing the football program (as Newell has correctrly cited in this article). No one has ever called the team UNL. Looks like the real "moron" has been exposed, eh?

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