If South Carolina fans watching Super Bowl LII were wondering what all the talk about “RPOs” meant, they should have no fear. The Gamecocks new quarterbacks coach is well-versed in the concept.
RPOs are run-pass option plays in which the quarterback makes the decision either before the snap or immediately afterward about whether to run or throw out of the same play call. The concept has swept college football in recent years, and the Eagles used RPOs masterfully in their 41-33 victory against New England.
“I think us and Auburn were really the first schools in the SEC to start doing the RPOs,” former Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace told The State newspaper.
Wallace and Dan Werner arrived in Oxford, Miss., for the 2012 season, Wallace as a transfer quarterback from East Mississippi Community College and Werner as the Rebels quarterbacks coach.
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“Once they hired coach Werner and I kind of looked at his track record and the things that he did at Miami, the quarterbacks he has coached, I was signing up to play for him, for sure,” Wallace said.
Werner, who was hired in January to coach South Carolina’s quarterbacks, was hired by the Rebels out of the North Delta School, and immediately started immersing himself with Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze in early RPO designs, Wallace said.
“I think he adapted to that and kind of put that in his repertoire,” Wallace said. “He’s a pro-style guy, that’s his background, but he really came in and adjusted to the RPO game.”
Werner spent last season as an offensive analyst at Alabama, and one of his chief roles was helping the Crimson Tide incorporate RPOs into their offensive system, Wallace said.
Wallace played for Werner from 2012-2015. In that time, he set the Ole Miss career records for total offensive yards (10,478), 300-yard passing games (11), completion percentage (63.0) and pass efficiency (140.8), and he was 24-15 as a starter.
“He’s a developer of quarterbacks,” Wallace said. “He improved me so much in the time we were together. He’s been around some really good ball and won a lot of games. I just think of him as somebody who can really develop quarterbacks and somebody I really look up to in that area.”
Werner will bring a mellow approach to the practice field, Wallace said. That will be a change from former USC offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper, who could be fiery on the practice field.
“He’s not a yeller,” Wallace said of Werner. “He’s not a screamer, but he gets the point across the way it needs to be gotten across. I think that he definitely is very demanding, but at the same time, he’s not a guy that’s going to raise his voice and yell at you. He’s going to ask you, ‘What’d you see? Let’s talk through it.’ I’m glad I got a chance to play for a coach like that.”
Werner has not spoken to the media since being hired. South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp generally makes his assistant coaches available for interviews twice per year. In addition to Wallace, Werner has coached Chad Kelly and Ken Dorsey (while at assistant at Miami). He has worked with Steve Walsh, Gino Torretta and Craig Erickson.
Wallace, who is now the quarterbacks coach at East Mississippi, has spoken to Werner since he took the USC job but didn’t ask the coach what he thought of Gamecocks returning starter Jake Bentley. He does know what Bentley should think of Werner, though.
“I know that Jake should be excited about who he gets to be in the meeting room with every day,” Wallace said. “I think he’s going to take his game to another level. He’s already a great quarterback, and if he just listens to Dan, I think he’s going to have a really good season next year and be really efficient.”