OC Mike Bajakian: 'The Master Professor'

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Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is beginning his sixth year in the position under Butch Jones and their relationship has been at the core of an offensive reconstruction unveiled to rave reviews against Pitt.

CINCINNATI -- At his core, Bearcats offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian will always be a math teacher. Spending two years teaching high school never quite washes away even followed by 16 years of NFL and college coaching experience.

On the field, in the meeting room, the math teacher break out anywhere.
"Even in the quarterback room at times he'll step back and teach us an equation," QB Munchie Legaux said.

Like any good student, Legaux remembers the principle: F=mv2.

That's force equals mass times velocity squared. When calculating how to run over an opponent, these basic math and physics principles prove speed can overcome size. No opponent is too big to be pancaked.

"I always joke about vector analysis, results and forces," Bajakian said.

No, from the skinny frame and glasses to the math standup, Bajakian doesn't fight the image. In a room stuffed with bench press records and testosterone, he can't hide his personality.

"He's kind of like the master professor," Butch Jones said.

Jones knows better than anybody and that's why Bajakian sat as his offensive coordinator every season he's been a head coach - three at Central Michigan and now three at Cincinnati. The intense, football fire of Jones mesh with the professor's calculated approach to offensive football.

Thumbnail image for Butch Jones fist pump.jpg"We are a good balancing act on each other," said Jones, who offers periodic suggestions during the game but for the most part lets Bajakian call his plays. "I will come in with some ideas. He'll say, OK, if we are going to put something in we are going to have to take something out. Because we both believe in running an execution-based system and not a designer offense."

The result has been an offense that finished in the top quarter of college football four of his five seasons as an OC with Jones. Only once in the last five years have they been outside the top 40 nationally in points scored.

In no year has his presence and relationship with Jones been more important than this one. They lost Isaiah Pead, DJ Woods, starters on the offensive line and, most importantly, took on an inexperienced quarterback project for the first time in their tenure.

An offensive philosophy based on pinpointing playmakers was forced to search for new ones.

Yet, without Dan LeFevour or Zach Collaros leading the way, a fresh offensive group debuted Thursday functioning with explosiveness and versatility. UC averaged 7.86 yards per play, good for sixth in the country and a number that would have led college football a year ago. Six different players popped gains of 20 yards or more.

Behind Legaux, Ralph David Abernathy, George Winn and Kenbrell Thompkins was an offensive mind constructing the latest incarnation of this philosophy.

"He's a guru at what he does," said Legaux, who became the first UC quarterback in modern history to throw for 200 yards and rush for 100. "He knows offense, he knows football in and out. If I have a question he can answer whether it is fronts, coverages, quarterback play, he's willing to help me out with any situation."

Bajakian saw the offense he constructed with Jones evolve from what it started as six years ago - primarily due to six years spent featuring different personnel. At the base, he says, playing with great effort and great tempo will be what he hangs his hat on.

Those principles drew Bajakian and Jones to each other when they first met at high school camps in Michigan when Jones was an offensive coordinator at Central Michigan and Bajakian was an assistant under Lloyd Carr with the Wolverines.

Bajakian would go on to spend two years winning an NFC Championship with the Chicago Bears as an offensive quality control coach under Lovie Smith, but eventually matriculated back to Jones. Their relationship has been at the base of what's made his career -- and the UC offense - ascend.

"I knew he was a fiery coach, detail-oriented, football junkie, we had kind of hit it off from the start," Bajakian said.

He views himself in that same fashion - maybe minus the same type of vocal, outward fire. Without the continuity of Jones and Bajakian, along with longtime assistants like Don Mahoney (offensive line) and T.J. Weist (receivers), this new offense wouldn't enjoy the rapid turnaround showcased Thursday against Pitt.

"Even though our players haven't played a lot," Jones said, "they have been in the program so they understand the terminology, they understand the standard and expectations and the manner in which we are going to conduct our business day to day."

And they understand, in the offensive meeting room, never be surprised when "the master professor" tosses an equation on the board.

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