Water Valley, Brad Embry “stealing” from Oklahoma and Lincoln Riley’s offense

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, August 7, 2019

If you’re going to emulate someone, why not try and emulate the college football team that’s produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners?

Brad Embry and Water Valley are certainly not trying to be Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners, but taking notes from the best at what they do is simply intelligent. Riley has coached the last two Heisman winners and No. 1 picks in each of the last two NFL Drafts. And really, the skill sets of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray cross over well to what the Blue Devils are trying to do in 2019.

“I looked at Oklahoma’s offense a lot this summer. Obviously, they’ve had really good players, but a lot of people have really good players,” Embry said. “I knew they were really cutting edge and innovative and I know they’ve had a mobile quarterback the last few years and have been really, really good. So we stole a little something.”

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Water Valley opened the year with Blayne Clark at quarterback. Clark is a more cerebral, pocket passer. With just a handful of games remaining, they made the switch to Jacob Truss at quarterback. Truss, like Mayfield and Murray, is quite mobile. But at the time of the transition, Water Valley never really had time to change their entire offense to revolve around what their quarterback does best. This offseason they made the time.

Statistically, the last three seasons have seen Oklahoma produce three of the top four quarterbacking seasons in college football history. Water Valley doesn’t exactly want to be the most explosive passing offense in 3A football – they’re still going to be a run first team. But some of the quarterbacking concepts Lincoln Riley installs are what they’re looking to steal.

Specifically, Embry said he looked at a lot of Oklahoma’s play-action game and how they get the quarterback out of the pocket. He calls it a “full play action,” but essentially it’s just a run-fake where guards on the offensive line are pulling as if they would on a run play. With a quarterback like Jacob Truss, that threat to run opens up so much for the passing game.

“It’s so much easier when your quarterback can move. You look at everyone in college football and the NFL now, those mobile quarterbacks put the defense in such a bind,” Embry said. “If you have a quarterback that stands in the pocket and throws the ball, it’s almost like you have to be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, or you have to be able to run.”

The nice thing about the Oklahoma offense in particular is that it mirrors a lot of what Water Valley already did. Nearly all plays are run out of 11 personnel – one running back, one tight end and three receivers on the field.

Ultimately, Embry is really just excited to have a guy under center that’s a treat to run the ball. In high school football, you don’t have your players 40 hours a week. Time to teach an offense and simply the mental capacity of a high school kid to process an offense is tough. Being a more cerebral, pocket passer takes more of that time in the film room. Simply put, having a mobile quarterback is simpler.

Embry isn’t just picking from Oklahoma or colleges, he watches as much film as he can, from high schools to the NFL. And why not?

“It’s something different every year. I love to look at college film and I love to look at high school film,” Embry said. “Sometimes we’ll play someone and I’ll think ‘dang, that’s tough to stop.’ So I’ll write it down and take notes. I might not use it next year but I’ll have it in the future.”

In 2018, Truss didn’t transition into the full-time starting quarterback role until the final month of the season. Over the final two games of the year, including the state championship game victory, he completed 76-percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and just one interception, all while averaging nearly 80 yards on the ground. Now, with an offense being developed around what the senior does best, 2019 could be an explosive year offensively for the Water Valley quarterback.


Nathanael Gabler covers Ole Miss and high school sports for the Oxford Eagle. You can reach him at nathanael.gabler@oxfordeagle.com with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter.