The key to success for Head Coach G.J. Kinne (left) and Offensive Coordinator Mack Leftwich (right) has been their ability to work together on offensive strategies and game plans.
Photos submitted by Texas State
Offensive synergy is the key for Kinne and Leftwich
Head Coach G.J. Kinne and Offensive Coordinator Mack Leftwich have perhaps one of the most unique and strongest connections between offensive play callers in the state.
In fact, the relationship between Kinne and Leftwich can be traced back to the 2010 college football season when Kinne was the starting quarterback for the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes.
“I was a sophomore in high school and my dad (Spencer Leftwich) was the offensive line coach at Tulsa,” Leftwich said. “That was during the 2010 season when Tulsa won 10 games, Kinne won C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and they won the Hawaii Bowl. There were some good memories out there with me and my brother being on the sidelines while running around being the ball boys and watching him throw touchdown passes. It was pretty cool to see how our paths cross once we got into coaching.”
That opportunity came during the 2022 season when Kinne was hired to be the head coach at Incarnate Word while Leftwich was promoted to offensive coordinator after being the quarterbacks coach for three years, helping develop the careers of Jon Copeland and Cam Ward.
It was Leftwich’s ability to connect the quarterbacks that impressed Kinne the most.
“He is a really good teacher,” Kinne said. “That is what stood out to me. He is very even keel though on gameday he will throw up some booms. He gets his guys to play very hard.”
“He coaches nothing but All-Americans which I like.”
Though both coaches are known for their abilities to connect with their players, the synergy between both Kinne and Leftwich is a key asset to their success both on the field and off the field.
“We just see things similarly,” Leftwich said. “We were both quarterbacks and we are on the same page all the time. Whenever he has an idea, it’s something I’ve been thinking about or vice versa. The way we see that game and our scope of it are very similar so it naturally works well together.”
When building the UIW offense that became the most prolific offensive attack in the nation last year, both Kinne and Leftwich worked during the offseason to figure out the perfect plan.
“Last year we went into the film room and built out what we wanted this thing to look like,” Kinne said. “We are not really this offense or that offense but we built that thing from the ground up … we see things very similarly so we are going to bounce ideas off one another. He might see this or I might see this and we will talk about it. That relationship has to be really good in order to work together especially when you have a head coach who used to call plays and someone like Mack who is now calling the plays.”
Though both coaches’ mentors have different philosophies, Leftwich was with now North Texas Head Coach Eric Morris, coming with the Air Raid passing attack, and Kinne with Central Florida Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s hurry up run-based attack, it was the run game that both Kinne and Leftwich agreed upon needed to happen.
“It’s something we both dabble in,” Leftwich said. “With the previous regime at UIW, we are an up-tempo offense to throw the ball. Kinne had been with Gus Malzahn in the past so he was familiar with the tempo aspect of things. Being an offensive lineman’s son, I definitely have an affinity for running the football. I believe if you want to play championship football, it comes with toughness and being able to run the ball when it’s fourth and one and we need a yard. We need to be a physical team.”
With an agreement on their strategy, it was now up to fitting their plan of attack around their players.
“So we saw eye to eye there; then we were, ‘How do we build this thing?’” Leftwich said. “We have a really good offensive line, good running backs who can make plays, and a quarterback who is dynamic so how do we build this thing around the run game. That led to the wide splits and the tempo which created problems for the defense which we wanted.”
Though Kinne had called plays in the past during his stints as offensive coordinator at both Hawaii and Central Florida, delegating the role to Leftwich allowed Kinne to help the team more.
“That part has been awesome, and it’s been really fun,” Kinne said. “It’s great for me to open up and have more of a hand in the defense, more hand in the special teams, the energy at practice, and all the small little details from the time and game management part on gameday. Mack has been huge for me and is a great friend and great coach.”
When coming up for a game plan for an opponent, the duo work side by side with the occasional off the script moments.
“We work together on all of that,” Kinne said. “We have a call sheet on gameday and he does a great job. Now there are things that do happen during the game and he might go off script and call some plays but he does a great job with that … So that part is going to happen but communication is the key which we do a great job with.”
Texas State will conclude their spring practice with the Maroon & Gold Spring Game April 22.