A look at Dave Patenaude, Georgia Tech’s new offensive coordinator

Anthony Russo (15) of the Temple Owls celebrates with Ryquell Armstead (7) after his sixth touchdown against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium on Nov. 10, 2018 in Houston.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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Anthony Russo (15) of the Temple Owls celebrates with Ryquell Armstead (7) after his sixth touchdown against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium on Nov. 10, 2018 in Houston. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Credit: Tim Warner

Credit: Tim Warner

Dave Patenaude will come to Georgia Tech facing a daunting challenge as the Yellow Jackets’ new offensive coordinator. He’ll have to figure out how to take personnel recruited to play in coach Paul Johnson’s option scheme and find ways for them to fit and thrive in his spread scheme.

Beyond Geoff Collins, Johnson’s successor whose decision to bring Patenaude from Temple stands as the most critical measure of confidence in Patenaude’s ability to oversee such a transition, he has another supporter in his former boss, Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia.

“If the current personnel at a place like Tech is more oriented to the run, he’ll take advantage of that, and he will lever that into the ability to be able to throw more in a way that accents what they’re capable of doing,” Moglia told the AJC.

Patenaude was Moglia’s offensive coordinator from 2012-16, during which time the Chanticleers rose from averaging six wins in the previous four seasons (before Moglia’s hire) to 10.2 in Patenaude’s five seasons. The offense was no small part of the success, producing four finalists for the Walter Payton Award (FCS player of the year).

Moglia hailed him as an expert of the spread, a bright mind and a hardworking recruiter who took on a leadership role with his staff at the South Carolina school, which has transitioned to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference.

“He did a great job for us the last two years at Temple. I’m excited about the fast-paced, spread, pro-style offense that we’re going to run here at Georgia Tech,” Collins said in a statement about Patenaude. “With his experience, the transition is going to be awesome.”

Patenaude, a graduate of Central Connecticut State with 28 years of college coaching experience, showed his flexibility in 2016, his final season at Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers had graduated quarterback Alex Ross, a three-year starter and All-American from Buford High. Coastal Carolina went from a 55/45 run/pass ratio in Ross’ final year to 74/26 the next season. While the team’s yards-per-play average fell from 6.7 to 5.8, its third-down conversion rate rose from 43 to 47 percent and the offense scored nearly as many touchdowns (50 to 46). This was despite the fact that Patenaude had to use four different quarterbacks, including one drafted off of the baseball team.

Generally speaking, Moglia said, Patenaude didn’t bind himself to a particular strategy.

“I think going into every game, in his head, I don’t think he was thinking, ‘We’re going to throw, we’re going to run,’” Moglia said. “I think in his head he was prepared to do both, and if the opponent gave us something, he would take advantage of that.”

In the 2016 season, quarterback Tyler Keane threw 105 times in seven starts and 11 games (compared with Ross’ 346 attempts in 12 starts in 2015), but still completed 64 percent of his attempts and had a 10/2 touchdown/quarterback ratio.

“In his head, ideally he’d like to be able to have his quarterback be able to make a decision, both pre-snap and post-snap, with regards to adjustments to the coverage or the alignment that he might see,” Moglia said. “And if the kid’s not as comfortable in his offense yet, he’s not going to ask him to do that.”

At Temple, the offense operated out of the shotgun and used a variety of formation and position groupings. Temple used from two to four wide receivers. Patenaude had tight ends in a three-point stance on the line, flexed out in the slot and outside the offensive tackle as an H-back. Temple typically was in a one-back set, either beside or behind the quarterback.

“I would say he’s going to use formations to be able to see how the defenses would react to that, how they would align, how they would play us and see if that’s giving us a specific advantage, not unlikely many other coordinators,” Moglia said.

“You might run the same thing but show it with a different look and you’ll see something different each time from the defense – which of those defenses would be the way you’d want to attack it? That would be the way he’d look at his formations.”

Patenaude showed a taste for exotic formations. Against Navy, with the ball on the right hash near midfield, he lined up four offensive linemen on the left hash with one wide receiver behind them. The center was flanked by two tight ends and the quarterback was in shotgun with a back beside him. Another wide receiver was by the numbers on the right side. (On the play, a deep ball to the goal line was almost intercepted.)

The Owls were 50/50 run/pass in Patenaude’s (and Collins’) first year and 53/47 this past season. This season, Temple set a school scoring record with 454 points in 13 games (34.9 points per game), although 14 of the Owls’ 60 touchdowns were scored on either special teams or defense. Temple’s 69 plays of 20 yards or more tied for 31st nationally. Three players on offense were named all-conference.

Other numbers weren’t as flattering. By the measurement of the Fremeau Efficiency Index, Temple’s offense was 97th in 2017 and improved to 56th this season. (An optimist might note that few teams improved as much as Temple.) The Owls had up-and-down play from the quarterback spot and had 20 touchdown passes against 19 interceptions.

That said, Collins knows Patenaude and his capacity as an FBS coach better than anyone. His potential for early success at Tech will depend in no small part on Patenaude’s ability to produce points and yards with players not recruited to play in his scheme.

“Dave’s a good coach,” Moglia said. “A good coach is a good coach. That would be true at the FCS level, the group of five level, the power-five level.”

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