COLUMBIA - John Kadlec has seen many Missouri offenses, but nothing quite like this one. Beginning in 1947, Kadlec, 78, was an offensive and defensive lineman for MU coach Don Faurot. He earned all-conference honors in 1950 and became an assistant coach under Frank Broyles, Dan Devine and Al Onofrio.
Now a radio color analyst, he has observed MU's offensive evolution. He remembers when, in a bygone era, Memorial Stadium served as the site of a power-rushing scheme. Now it's home to one of the nation's most prolific passing attacks.
at No. 5 Missouri (3-0)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
JACKED: Follow the game online with Jacked, a second-screen Web platform found at ColumbiaMissourian.com. Track statistics as they happen, chat with a Missourian reporter covering the game, view photos, video and links to other media, all while the game is being played.
"We had some good offenses in the glory days of Dan Devine, but I think this is the greatest offense I've seen at Missouri," Kadlec said. "It has more speed. It's more exciting."
"I think our speed is so much better than last year and in previous years. It's probably the fastest team we've ever had," he said.
Former MU players such as Kadlec have watched the offense's development. Entering Saturday, MU boasts the country's top-scoring offense (57.7 points per game). Quarterback Chase Daniel has the nation's sixth best passing total (973) and has more touchdowns (seven) than incompletions (six) over the past two games. MU's offense has become a topic of national discussion, and those with ties to the program reflect upon its transformation.
In 1941, Faurot developed the rush-centric Split-T formation. It created greater space between offensive linemen and split a wide receiver to the sideline. That season, MU finished 8-2 and appeared in the Sugar Bowl. Momentum continued. The following year, MU went 8-3-1 and repeated as Big Eight Conference champions, marking the first time the Tigers won consecutive conference crowns since 1924 and 1925.
Coaches took note of Faurot's success. Bud Wilkinson introduced the Split-T to Oklahoma when he became head coach in 1947. Beginning in 1953, the Sooners won an NCAA-record 47 consecutive games. During the 1950s, national powers such as Texas, Michigan, Alabama and Notre Dame adopted the formation. Missouri's influence revolutionized the sport.
"I think the whole game has changed," said former offensive end Danny LaRose, who played from 1958-60 and finished eighth in the 1960 Heisman Trophy voting. "It's wide open. I was the leading receiver at Missouri back in those days, with 13 catches. Missouri's receivers catch 13 passes in the first half (now)."
"It changes so much. From the days when we played at Missouri, Don Faurot developed the Split-T offense, which was new and innovative. By the time we were playing, it was completely different than what he developed. Now they're going through change, and it's a completely different way," he said.
Former quarterback Terry McMillan sees similarities between his offense and the 2008 version. In 1969, McMillan led a unit that established numerous MU offensive records, including the most points scored in a game with 69 against Kansas in the regular-season finale. Last week, MU matched the total in a victory over Nevada.
Despite advancements over time, he said certain traits remain. Players have become faster. Conditioning has improved. But ambition hasn't wavered.
"You have to have speed, and you have to have desire," said McMillan, who played from 1966-69. "Both teams - the team I played on and the team now - have that. They have a great deal of confidence, but they're not cocky. I never thought we'd get to a point where all of college football abandoned the run and (would) throw the ball so much out of that quick spread offense without a huddle."
Some anticipate weaknesses in MU's offense will be exposed during the Big 12 Conference season. They say the reliance on brief scoring drives will lead to extra pressure on the defense as the fall progresses. Through three games, 15 scoring drives have occurred in seven plays or fewer.
They also point to depth. Last year in the Big 12 championship game, Oklahoma proved MU's spread could be neutralized with a physical defensive line and secondary. Oklahoma defensive backs jammed Missouri wide receivers and disrupted timing routes. Former players said defenses that can match MU's speed such as Oklahoma's and Texas' might cause problems.
"We're going to score a lot of points, but our defense is going to be on the field a lot longer than anybody else's," said former quarterback Corby Jones, who played from 1995-98. "Because we're going to score so quick and (since) we don't have an element of ball control or haven't seen one yet, we're going to have to play keepaway when we start playing teams that can actually score the same way we can. Then it's going to be whoever can run the ball the best."
Said former tight end Kellen Winslow, who played from 1976-78: "People will know when Missouri has arrived as a perennial top-10, top-15 program when they beat Oklahoma and Texas. Right now, Oklahoma and Texas have more athletes. I'm not saying anything people don't already know. It's a depth issue."
Yet such questions seemingly have been reserved for a later time. Last week, Daniel passed his predecessor, Brad Smith, to become MU's all-time leading passer with 9,153 yards. Some pundits consider him to be a Heisman Trophy front-runner, along with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.
It's an era of offensive abundance in Columbia. And those closest to the bounty enjoy it most.
"It means so much to the University of Missouri, so much to the state of Missouri, so much to Columbia," Kadlec said. "The other night on ESPN, they were talking about Missouri for about 15 seconds. We don't have the money to purchase all the time they have mentioned Missouri."