By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)
The end of the offseason is an exciting time in the CFSL. In addition to the Newcomer, Senior, and Military games, each Athletic Director participates in the annual Playbook Draft. For newer fans of the league, each team must select both an offense and a defense. The teams are selected in an order decided by both previous experience and standings. New for this season, the order was decided per AD instead of by the school. Thus, new schools such as Kentucky and USC got to pick later than in the previous formula. With that all in mind, let’s look at what each team decided to take in terms of direction for Season 19.
Pick 1 – Pittsburgh – Clemson (Pistol) – 4-2-5
Since the CFSL began the Revamped era in Season 11, Clemson has been taken every season. This is the second time in three seasons the playbook has been taken 1st overall. Clemson took the Clemson playbook 1st overall in Season 17 as well. The Pistol playbook is able to support both heavy passing and heavy running, allowing a team to show different looks each week. For a Pittsburgh squad looking to break in a new starting QB in Ohio State transfer Andrei Belov, having the option to test out both paths of offense is a huge plus.
Pick 2 – Ohio State – Colorado (Multiple) – 3-4
Colorado is easily the most popular multiple-style playbook, always being a lock for a high pick in the draft. Since Season 12, the playbook has been taken every season except Season 16. This also is the highest selection of the playbook since Ohio State took the playbook 1st overall in Season 13. As we will see, the multiple styles of offense have been increasing in popularity in the CFSL the last few seasons, a trend following Michigan and Illinois finding success with the style. In addition, Ohio State chose the 3-4 defense. That makes the Buckeyes the only 3-4 defense in the CFSL and only one of three teams using a three-man front.
Pick 3 – Auburn – California (Air Raid) – 4-2-5
The Air Raid remains one of the most popular playbook styles in the CFSL year after year. Auburn becomes the first team in the draft to take a playbook in the style. California has been selected every season since Season 12, and almost always in the Top 10 of the draft. This is the highest selection for California since Season 16 when Oklahoma also took the playbook 3rd. Auburn also chose the 4-2-5 for their defensive scheme here.
Pick 4 – Clemson – Miami (Pro Style) – 4-2-5
For the first time ever, the Miami playbook is selected as the first Pro Style offense in the Playbook Draft. Miami has only been selected twice in the Revamped era, by Florida State in Season 18 and Florida in Season 15. Alabama also switched to this playbook in Season 12. Clemson AD Loki Gunderson clearly saw potential in Florida State’s offense last season and is hoping to replicate some of that magic in his own offense for the Tigers.
Pick 5 – Colorado – USC (Pro Style) – 3-3-5
Speaking of the Pro Style, Colorado’s debut season will have them be the second of four teams in the Pro Style this season. While the style isn’t the most popular, there has been an increase in teams trying it out in the last few seasons. Known as one of the more difficult playbooks to master, clearly, both the Tigers and Buffalos have an idea of the offense they want to build. For Colorado, they get a USC book with a reputation for greatness. Florida State famously used this playbook in their legendary championship run, and teams have been chasing that glory ever since. The playbook has been used in some form each season of the CFSL Revamped era as well. Colorado is also the only team running the 3-3-5 defense this season in the CFSL.
Pick 6 – Baylor – Nevada (Pistol) – 4-2-5
If Clemson taking Miami was the first big surprise of this season’s Playbook Draft, Baylor selecting Nevada is our first big throwback selection of the draft. Taken #1 overall by Tennessee in Season 15, the playbook has long been seen as a high-potential offense. However, no one quite has been able to find success in the CFSL with it in the Revamped era. Baylor and AD Braden Berry debut into the CFSL taking the playbook and hoping to make a splash with the offense.
Pick 7 – Cincinnati – Virginia Tech (Multiple) – 4-3
Over the past few seasons, even more so than the Pro Style offense, the Multiple offense has seen a renaissance from multiple teams in the CFSL. This in large part has been led by teams such as Michigan selecting the Virginia Tech playbook and seeing success. In Michigan’s case, it was a National Championship appearance two seasons ago. Last season Michigan switched out of the Virginia Tech playbook for the first time in Michigan AD Aaron Ike’s career, having taken it three seasons in a row previously. Now, before Michigan has the chance to take the playbook again, new Cincinnati AD Ryan Recca has snatched the playbook here. There is a track record of success for the playbook, and the Bearcats will also be the first team to take the popular 4-3 defensive style as well.
Pick 8 – Tennessee – Missouri (Spread) – 4-2-5
Without a doubt, Missouri is the most popular playbook in CFSL history. Selected every season, including a notable selection by Season 16 National Champion Kentucky, the playbook is a favorite among many coaches in the CFSL. With that said, now Tennessee reenters the CFSL and under new AD CJ Furman having selected the most popular playbook on offense and arguably the most popular defensive style as well. Of course, the obvious downside is with the most popular playbooks, opposing teams are much more familiar with game-planning against the Volunteers compared to other teams. However, as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke.
Pick 9 – Syracuse – Florida Atlantic (Spead) – 4-2-5
The run on spread playbooks and the 4-2-5 defenses continue as another expansion team heads in that direction for their first season in the CFSL. However, Syracuse chose to take a much less well-known playbook in FAU compared to other picks around this one. This playbook was never selected in the Revamped era until Season 17 when NIU, also under Andrew Brandt, switched into the playbook midseason. Thus, while Brandt has an idea of what he is getting into, the rest of the league has relatively less experience facing the playbook.
Pick 10 – USC – Arkansas State (Multiple) – 4-3
USC AD Jacob Cobb is another AD at the head of a returning team into the CFSL this season. USC has a long history in the CFSL, and with that includes some multiple-style playbooks as well. Arkansas State has a history in this league, having been chosen now in four of the last five seasons. Most recently, Notre Dame took the playbook last season under Dustin Hall. With their biggest rivals familiar with the playbook, this sets up another wrinkle to one of the best rivalries in the CFSL.
Pick 11 – Washington – Michigan (Multiple) – 4-2-5
Not since Miami in Season 15 has someone taken the Michigan playbook. A well-thought-of playbook, the Michigan playbook is maybe a more run-heavy variant of the Virginia Tech and Colorado books that are popular in the play style. However, as with most Multiple style playbooks, the pro of the style is the versatility in the offense. With an expansion team entering Season 19, Washington AD Michael Jones is counting on that versatility as Washington rejoins the CFSL.
Pick 12 – Penn State – Georgia (Pro Style) – 4-2-5
This is another mild surprise as we get towards the middle of the playbook draft. Georgia is a Pro Style scheme that has not been selected since Michigan took the playbook in the Season 13 Playbook Draft. Put simply, while the Pro Style offense can be one of the most difficult to gameplan against, it also is one of the more difficult schemes to plan your offense around. Penn State AD TJ Smith is experienced in the CFSL, having previously coached one of the greatest offenses ever in Florida. With this pick, however, he is making the risky bet he can get his team into shape and run this difficult offense well. It is one of the most fascinating playbook bets made in this season’s playbook draft.
Pick 13 – Georgia – Houston (Air Raid) – 4-2-5
Georgia AD Gene Pettijohn takes the Houston playbook here, the first selection of Houston since Missouri took it initially in Season 13. Most recently, we saw this playbook when Kentucky switched to it last season during their midseason push to the playoffs. Notably, Georgia is among four teams in the SEC taking an Air Raid playbook. That doesn’t even count historically pass-heavy teams such as Florida, Alabama, and even Tennessee. Needless to say, if you are looking for passing yards, the SEC might be your conference in Season 19.
Pick 14 – Miami – Vanderbilt (Multiple) – 4-3
Among the coaches who play in the Multiple scheme, Vanderbilt has always been an under-the-radar contender for being picked. Not tested in-game action until Season 16 when Illinois switched into the playbook midseason, notably, Oklahoma took the playbook for the first time in the initial draft last season. No longer a surprise when taken, if Miami can find some success with it under new AD George Yost, expect more teams to start showing interest in the playbook going forward.
Pick 15 – Alabama – South Carolina (Multiple) – 4-3 Multiple
This is another departure from the norm historically. After being pass-heavy the past few seasons, returning AD David Ware is taking Alabama into the Multiple style for Season 19. The only other time in the Revamped era when the playbook has been used was when Miami switched to the playbook in Season 13. Playbooks returning from Season 13 seem to be a theme in this draft, anecdotally. Alabama is also one of two teams using the 4-3 Multiple defensive style this season.
Pick 16 – Oregon – Texas Tech (Air Raid) – 3-3-5
Oregon was a late pick this season in the draft. The coaching staff elected to go heavy with the passing game, selecting the Texas Tech playbook. Known as one of the heaviest passing playbooks around, the team certainly will be putting on a big show each week. Washington in Season 15 used the playbook to set multiple single-game records in the passing category. Oregon also is one of the few teams in the 3-3-5 defense this season as well.
Pick 17 – Kentucky – SMU (Air Raid) – 4-2-5
Kentucky is another team with a returning AD. Devan Davis made himself into a Hall of Fame name with the Wildcats and now returns to where he started as Kentucky looks to continue that championship legacy. The Wildcats take SMU, another pass-heavy Air Raid. One of the absolute best Air Raid playbooks, the fact the SMU playbook fell this far is a huge coup for the staff in Lexington.
Pick 18 – LSU – Old Dominion (Air Raid) – 4-2-5
Speaking of Kentucky, LSU returns to the CFSL with a bunch of Kentucky connections, including AD Derek Hawkins. You can bet if Kentucky passed on SMU, LSU would likely take it here. Instead, LSU with their great recruiting class takes an Air Raid playbook with almost no real game experience in the CFSL yet. Still, given the pedigree of the coaching staff in the new-look LSU, you can bet there is a solid pass-heavy plan coming out of Baton Rouge this season.
Pick 19 – Boise State – UNLV (Spread) – 3-4 Multiple
As we get later into this draft, there is more room for surprise picks in playbook choices. UNLV and the 3-4 Multiple defense certainly qualify for the Broncos. While the playbooks have been switched into as recently as Seasons 11,12, and 16, this is the first time the playbook has been initially selected. The staff in Boise likely is looking for similar spread schemes to recent seasons. Boise State is also the only CFSL team to take the 3-4 Multiple defense this season.
Pick 20 – North Carolina – Baylor (Spread) – 4-2-5
Speaking of the spread offense, here is one of the most popular ones around. It is really interesting Boise State was looking for a spread, but let Baylor fall past them. In theory, it is the gain of North Carolina AD Daniel Gunn as he snatches one of the better-regarded playbooks around. Baylor has a history of going much higher in this draft, including 1st overall as recently as Season 16. By that metric, getting it at Pick 21 is a relative bargain for the staff in Chapel Hill.
Pick 21 – Illinois – Tulane (Pro Style) – 4-2-5
Illinois has a recent history with the Colorado and Clemson playbooks under AD Will Stephens. However, after a great season, the team fell all the way to pick 22 in this season’s playbook draft. Thus, those popular playbooks were well gone for the first time ever in the team’s history. Stephens and his staff switched accordingly, taking the Tulane playbook. Ohio State was the first team ever in the Revamped era of the CFSL to take Tulane last season. This marks the second season in a row the playbook was drafted initially.
Pick 22 – Michigan – TCU (Spread) – 4-3
For the first time since he took over, Michigan AD Aaron Ike was forced to take a playbook besides Virginia Tech in the draft. With VT going to Cincinnati at Pick 8, Michigan switched playbook styles and went with TCU in spread. This is the first time the playbook has been chosen initially in the Revamped era, and the first time the playbook has been used since rival Ohio State switched to the playbook in Season 12. Michigan will also be sticking with the 4-3 defense for the 4th season in a row as well.
Pick 23 – West Virginia – ECU (Air Raid) – 4-3 Multiple
West Virginia selects another Air Raid offense, a season after a playoff run in the pro-style of Western Michigan. The Mountaineers also join Alabama as the only two teams to select the 4-3 Multiple defensive scheme this season. As for the ECU playbook, this is the first selection initially of the playbook of the Revamped Era. It was last seen in Season 13 when FSU switched to it. It is an Air Raid similar to BYU with lots of spread-out options to pass. Look for a unique take on the Air Raid in Morgantown this season.
Pick 24 – Oklahoma State – Kansas State (Multiple) – 4-2-5
How do you keep momentum in chasing a dynasty? Well, switch it up and go into left field of course! All jokes aside, Kansas State being selected here certainly was an eyebrow-raiser from AD Adam Smith. Kansas State has never been seen in the Revamped era of the CFSL. The last selection in the Playbook Draft for KSU came in Season 10 for Clemson. Clearly, this has been an ace up the sleeve of the staff in Stillwater. Considering the last few seasons have seen Oklahoma State pick at the back of the draft order, this is a strategy to get around the fact many of the more popular playbook picks are unreachable at this spot.
Pick 25 – Florida – Boise State (Multiple) – 4-3
Very similar to the strategy of Oklahoma State, Florida also selects a playbook here that has not been used in the Revamped era of the CFSL. Florida AD Justyn Veneklasen has historically been one of the biggest proponents of air raid in the CFSL. The fact he is switching over to the multiple style is less a sign he wants to pass and more likely a sign he thinks others might be catching on to his air raid ways. For example, this season six teams are taking the style, including four fellow SEC teams. This is also another example of the growing popularity of the Multiple style in the last few seasons as well.
Pick 26 – Florida State – Memphis (Spread) – 4-3
Staying in the Sunshine State for this selection, the Seminoles sought another spread style to stay on course for Season 19. Memphis is another well-regarded playbook that fell much farther than it probably should have. And Florida State AD Tom Pence is one of the best in the business when it comes to game-planning, especially among active ADs. This marks the fourth time in the Revamped era the Memphis playbook has been selected, including the third season in a row. Florida State notably also stays away from the pro-style despite a history with it, possibly due to the rising popularity this season of said pro-style.
Pick 27 – Notre Dame – Fresno State (Spread) – 4-2-5
If Florida and Oklahoma State are near the back of the draft taking shots for new playbooks to blaze a trail, Notre Dame is the team patiently waiting for a high-powered offense other teams overlook. Fresno State is legendary in this league, and Notre Dame historically is one of the teams that enjoys going into the spread offensive family. Notre Dame AD Dustin Hall returns and takes an offense many teams enjoy, but only a few have mastered.
Pick 28 – Texas – Duke (Spread) – 4-2-5
Texas AD Justin Duke selects Duke and continues a streak of spread playbooks to finish the Season 19 CFSL Playbook Draft. While Duke has not been initially selected in the draft since Season 11, this will be the third season in a row someone uses said playbook. Texas has enjoyed a few seasons of success in spread or similar schemes for offense, and now they will try to take that next step from contender to champion using a book in a similar offense.
Playbooks Still Available
As with each of these articles, I also take a look at playbooks still available to be picked up midseason. As usual, a team may switch playbooks up to 24 hours after their game finishes if they so wish. This season has a few notables that went unchosen. Playbooks that jump out as possible midseason switch candidates include the popular Arizona, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Toledo, and Utah playbooks. With many great choices to choose from, don’t be surprised if a team or three start the switching game early this season.