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Published: Saturday, 4/16/2005

New UT coordinator to fine-tune offense

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

John Shannon is too smart to try to re-invent the wheel. He might grease it a bit, or try a minor adjustment here and there, but he won't change something that is definitely not broken.

When Shannon was named the offensive coordinator for the University of Toledo football team earlier this spring, he inherited the most potent offense in school history, and one of the most productive in the nation.

He also inherited an experienced quarterback in Bruce Gradkowski, who will enter his senior season in the fall with two full years at the helm of the spread offense on his resume. Shannon also inherited some talented young receivers, a sound running game, and an all-conference tight end.

"We're not coming in here to bust this thing open, we're just trying to tweak it and make improvements with what we have," Shannon said. "Our big thing is just getting the right players in the right positions and giving them a chance to win the football game."

Before coming to Toledo in 2003 as the Rockets' wide receivers' coach, Shannon had spent 18 of his 27 years in the profession as a coordinator. In his most recent stint, he was the offensive coordinator at Troy State for the 2001 and 2002 seasons. He was also offensive coordinator at Jackson State (1994-2000) and Pacific (1989-91).

"Offensively, I feel like the building blocks have been set in place here over the past four seasons," UT coach Tom Amstutz said, "and John Shannon is the perfect guy to take us up to another plateau."

In a stint at Maryland, Shannon worked with former UT offensive coordinator Rob Spence, who during his four seasons with the Rockets tutored three quarterbacks in the spread offense, and all three broke the Mid-American Conference record for completion percentage.

In that span, Toledo has gone 36-15 and finished in the top 13 in the nation in total offense every year.

"We're going to take the base offense, the system that we know, and then try and get it operating at a high level with the new guys we have coming in," Shannon said.

"Then we'll mix in some new ideas."

Shannon, 50, said he has been a believer in the spread offense for the last 16 years. He has been in the no-huddle offense that the Rockets employ for that same time period.

"I'd be lost trying to get guys in a huddle," Shannon said. "When I coached out in California, at that time, if you didn't know how to run a spread offense, throw the football, throw the screen game, run the football out of a one-back, run it out of the shotgun - then you weren't going to survive."

Shannon, who will be at the controls when the Rockets' offense takes on the defense in this evening's Blue and Gold Spring Game at the Glass Bowl, said one of his highest priorities over the last month has been to keep the intensity level at a fever pitch, and not allow the defending MAC champions to get lax in their approach to running the spread.

"We have an offensive scheme that means each and every year we have to go find our offensive identity," Shannon said.

"At the same time, the biggest challenge is just staying high energy, staying high focus, and just bringing kids along every single year.

"We're always trying to develop a number one at each position, or improve the number one who is there, and then improve your depth down the line."

The format for this evening's game calls for the UT defense to be spotted a 20-point lead, and then play two 10-minute quarters in the first half and two nine-minute quarters in the second half, with a running clock.

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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