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WWJD #45: UNLV’s Offense is Ready To Go-Go

Franchise Sports Media


This year UNLV’s offense will have a different look than what Rebels fans have seen, maybe ever. Let’s take a deep dive into the Go-Go Offense and its mastermind, Brennan Marion.

UNLV’s Offense is ready to Go-Go under Brennan Marion.

WWJD Brennan Marion
Photo credit: John Rivera/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

When UNLV head football coach Barry Odom tabbed Texas passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach  Brennan Marion to replace Bobby Petrino after his brief stay with the Rebels as offensive coordinator, I got excited. I am familiar with coach Marion’s “Go-Go offense” and the stress it puts on opposing defenses. I know the journey coach Marion has taken to be in the position he is now in and how his hire was more exciting than Petrino’s to those who follow college football closely.

Rebels Head Coach Barry Odom recently talked about Coach Petrino’s quick exit from UNLV in an interview with The Athletic.

I [told Petrino], ‘Well, you’ve got a job [at UNLV],‘” Odom said. “But it was something he couldn’t turn down. I wasn’t happy about it, but what can you do? So, I got a piece of paper and went to the next candidate and tried to get him hired and here as fast as possible. So we did. I did not want to lose coaches, especially really good ones, guys who are great mentors and teachers and leaders of men who are important in the community.

We’ve got Brennan Marion, and he’ll do a great job,Odom added. “I wish Bobby and all those guys [at Texas A&M] the best.

Brennan Marion moved around, A LOT as a youth. His first memory is playing football in his grandfather’s backyard. He has sacrificed his personal and professional life. He has persevered as a youth, as a player, and in his coaching career. He has earned it every step of the way, taking the long road less traveled in a very short time.


WWJD Brennan Marion
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics


Coach Marion described getting the call from Coach Odom and accepting the Rebels’ offensive coordinator position.

“I was excited since we have connected over the years, and I knew if got a head coaching job, I didn’t think he was a guy that was afraid to give me a chance or scared to give me an opportunity. It’s big from that standpoint because, if we’re being honest, there aren’t that many black offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches right now.” Marion said. “If you look at Coach Odom’s track record with the offensive guys that he’s had, like Josh Heupel and those guys at Missouri, he’s hired some innovators, guys who thought different, and who thought outside the box. He hasn’t been afraid to let them do their thing, so that gives me the confidence to go out there and do my thing. He expects you to do it big.” 

Rebels fans want to know who Brennan Marion is. What made him Coach Odom’s choice to run the Rebels‘ offense? What is the “Go-Go offense,” and what can Rebels fans expect to see from the offense under coach Marion?

In order to understand the offense, you must understand its orchestrator and creator. What does he look for in players, and how do they fit in the offense? What made him tweak and create such a unique offense? Why was UNLV the best fit for him now? How has his journey prepared him for this opportunity, what makes him tick, and what transformed him as a man?

Brennan Marion’s Go-Go Offense is a high-powered offense that scores a lot of points fast. 

Who is Brennan Marrion?

Who is Rebels offensive coordinator Brennan Marion?

WWJD Brennan Marion
Photo Credit: Tulsa World

Rebels fans may have seen a coach roaming the sidelines wearing a cowboy hat during the spring game, on social media, or if they attended a UNLV practice. “Who is that with the cowboy hat?” or “Why is he wearing a cowboy hat?” are typical questions. To get that answer, you must first get to know Brennan Marion.

Marion was born in Hampton, Virginia, the hometown of NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. Marion lettered in football, basketball, and track and field at Greensburg-Salem High School in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. But Greensburg-Salem was the first high school that Marion was at for more than one year. He went to just one camp (Penn St.) as a junior and was moved to the group where “the dudes” were after showing he was one of the top performers there.

As a senior, Marion had 23 receptions for 400 yards and four touchdowns, but the scholarship offers didn’t come pouring in. His only offer was a partial scholarship to Temple University, partly due to poor SAT scores. So he made a decision that helped transform his life, he would go the junior college route.

“Me and my mom kinda moved around a lot. From sixth grade to twelfth grade, I went to a new school every year, and some years I went to two schools in a year. And what really gave me confidence was in my 11th-grade year, I got to go to a camp at Penn St. At first, I was with the general campers. Still, they moved me up to be with the top group, and all the coaches were saying, ‘Man, you’re a guy. You’re good,’ but honestly, my grades weren’t great. I didn’t have the proper classes and those things. Marion recalled.

“So I went to Greensburg my senior year. The story, when you read it, says I went to Greensburg for four years, but I only went there for my Senior year. We went to the second round of the playoffs in football, lost in the semi-finals in basketball, and I made All-Conference in football, basketball, and track.

That was actually my first year playing a full year in each of those sports. So I had some confidence that I could do that, and that was also the first year I really locked in and really focused on school,  having a safe environment where there weren’t dangerous things going on around me. We weren’t living in the projects. We were living in a nice place. So I thought if I could get to junior college where one of my boys was going to school (in California) if I could get out there and get in a good environment, I could play like I know I could, I can go D-1 because I had seen myself compete and beat other really good players where I grew up (in Pittsburgh).”

Marion began his college career at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California. That season he played out of position at tight end and halfback. After the season ended, he decided to move on and ended up at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. Marion led all California junior college receivers with 1,196 yards and 16 touchdowns and earned Junior College All-America honors.

Unlike other parts of the country, California doesn’t have dorm rooms or scholarships for athletes, and Marion didn’t have a place to stay, so he was sleeping in cars and at the team facility. He did all he could to keep his dream alive and wasn’t deterred by the obstacles he had to overcome. He was determined to live out his dream.

“The first year of junior college, I had nowhere to live. I was homeless. I was living, like, six guys in a studio apartment, barely eating. I mean, eating once every two days, like a real meal, so it was a real struggle.” Marion said. “Then, the second year, it was kinda the same thing, but I had made up my mind that I was not going back home until I could tell my family that I got a division-one scholarship.

My brother had told me something. He said, ‘Adversity just makes the story better. You have to win anyways.’ So I stopped complaining. I stopped calling back home, stopped asking people for help, and I put my head down and went to work. Ultimately, I was the number one junior college receiver in the country as far as stats. I had offers from Cal, Arizona State, and a couple of other schools, but those were the ones that recruited me the hardest.”  

His production on the field caught the eye of few schools, but Tulsa head coach Todd Graham offered Marion a scholarship to play under his offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, and their receiver coach, Mike Norvell. It was a chance for Marion to get on the field quickly and in an aggressive offense that could highlight his skill set.

Man, I saw the hunger in them, that same hunger I had,” Marion said. “They were the white version of me, and I thought to myself, ‘I like these dudes. I like their mindset. It’s us against the world.’ They would tell me that I was going to be an All-American and go to the NFL, and that’s a major reason why I chose to go to Tulsa.”  


WWJD Brennan Marion
Photo Credit: David Crenshaw/AP

In Marion’s first season at the Tulsa, he led the nation in yards per reception at 31.9, breaking an FBS record in the process. Marion finished the season with 39 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named Conference USA Newcomer of the Year. He was a second-team All-Conference USA selection and was part of just the third team in FBS history to have three 1,000-yard receivers. He had a high draft grade and considered declaring for the NFL draft, but he decided against it and came back for his senior year.

Marion played 13 games, finishing with 43 receptions for 1,112 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior season. He earned first-team All-Conference USA honors, leading the nation in yards per reception for the second consecutive season. But he suffered a torn left ACL on Tulsa’s final offensive play of the Conference USA Championship Game, forcing him to miss the GMAC Bowl, any postseason all-star games, and the ability to work out at the NFL Combine.

“As a Junior, I could have left and gone to the NFL draft. I had a crazy year where I averaged like 30-something years per coach. NFL scouts were coming to see me & telling me to declare early, that I would go fairly high, like the second or third round. That was before they even saw me do anything as far as route running or anything, Marion said.

“But Tulsa was hard to leave because that was the first place it felt like family. Oklahoma people are some of the nicest people and are loving & caring. I mean, they would just bring me dinner, random people, and it was hard for me to leave because, being a city kid, you’re taught that everyone is hustlin’. They have an angle, always trying to get over on you. But then you just have genuinely nice people around you. I was like, I’m staying.”   

In his two seasons playing FBS college football, Marion set the single-season NCAA FBS yards-per-catch record in a single season at 31.9, and during his FBS career, he averaged 28.7 yards per reception on 83 catches. That broke Wesley Walker’s record for average per reception for a player with at least 75 career receptions. Marion was eligible to be selected in the 2009 NFL Draft but went undrafted and signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent.


But after sitting out a season to rehab his knee, during training camp with the Dolphins, Marion re-tore his ACL in his left knee. He was placed on injured reserve and essentially ended his NFL career before it got started.


Photo Credit: Brennan Marion

“It was the weirdest thing. I was the most publicized rookie on the team. Sports Illustrated, NBC World News Tonight, ESPN First Take, and it’s like I’m a starter. I’m running with the 1’s and 2’s, I’m starting on all special teams, and I’m the #2 X receiver behind Ted Ginn Jr. Bill Parcells, who was the head coach, told me I made the team, man, I’m GOOD, and then bomb, I tear my ACL again in training camp.” Marion said. “You know, it was weird to know…like it was like getting to the show, and I know that I’m good, but I am not allowed to dance. But ultimately, God had a different plan for me.  

While rehabbing his knee, he decided to coach the season at James Logan High School in the Bay Area. After that season, the NFL lockout happened, and Marion went to the CFL, where he was scheduled to play for the Montreal Alouettes, but he again tore his ACL. It was at that time, lying on a hospital bed, he decided to make the jump full-time into coaching.

Marion began his career as a wide receivers coach at West Valley College in Saratoga, California. After a season there, he moved on to a private, non-profit school, The Harker School in San Jose, California, in the same position. He then became the head coach at St. Patrick-St.Vincent High School in Vallejo, California. In his first year, he led the Bruins to a first-round home playoff loss just one year after the team finished with a 1–9 record.

Marion resigned and moved back to Pennsylvania to take another head coaching position at Waynesboro Area Senior High School in 2014. He led the Indians to their first winning season and divisional title in 22 years. His Indians squad also won “Team of the Year” as selected by a local TV station, WHAG-TV.

During Marion’s brief tenure at Waynesboro High School, he developed the “Go-Go offense,” which incorporates principles of old-school triple-option offenses with modern spread concepts.

“My mom can tell you that I’ve been drawing plays every day since I was nine years old. I used to get kicked out of class because I was drawing football playing in school. So, I’ve always been drawing up plays. Growing up in Pittsburgh, and having a pretty mom, a lot of Steelers wanted to date her. So we would go to training camp, and I would sit there with players after practice talking football and drawing up plays.” Marion said.

“When I was a kid, I used to knock on my friend’s doors in the morning and get them outside to play. I would have plays, who would get the ball, who would be the quarterback. I would have all that ready, and even with Coach Malzahn and Coach Norvell, I would call plays in the game as a receiver. Like I would tell them, this is what’s open, this is what we need to call, and it wouldn’t just be for me to get the ball, it would be for us to score.”

After the 2014 season, Marion moved on to Arizona State as an Offensive quality control assistant, then in 2015, moved on to Oklahoma Baptist as the running back coach.

“Well, my thought was I’m going to go make this happen. That was the biggest leap of faith, besides going to junior college, in my life. It was a crucial time in my life. I was out of NFL money. I was kind of broke. My family situation was great, football really wasn’t going great, and everything was in flux. It was jumping in the water with no floaty on, and I was hoping I could swim.” Marion said. 


WWJD Brennan Marion
Photo Credit: Terrance Williams/AP

But in 2017, Marion got a big break when Howard University hired him as their Offensive Coordinator & quarterbacks coach. In his first game as Howard’s offensive coordinator, Marion’s offense helped the FCS Bison defeat UNLV in the largest point-spread upset in college football history (the Bison were 45-point underdogs).

“You triggered me when you brought up the weather in that game. There was a kid named Aaron Hutchins on that team, and a week and a half earlier, he lost his mom. If you remember, we were down two touchdowns in the second half, and I couldn’t figure out what to call because UNLV was getting after us.

We were huddled up on the sideline, and I looked at Hutch, and I said, ‘Man, your mom ain’t gonna let us lose!’ Marion recalled. “He just looked at me, we started to tear up, and we got in the huddle, and I told them, ‘We are in Vegas, let’s put on a show. Hutch’s mom ain’t gonna let us lose,’ and we drove down and scored, and the rest of the game, every time UNLV had the ball, it was rainy and windy. But when we got the ball, there was no rain and no wind.”  

In 2019, he followed head coach Mike London from Howard to the College of William and Mary, where he began serving as offensive coordinator. Marion resigned from his position at William & Mary to serve as the wide receivers coach on Todd Graham’s inaugural staff at Hawaii for the 2020 season.

People don’t understand, like I always tell these guys, I’m so hard on the guys that GA and QC for me because they don’t understand that every day, every person you meet, it’s the interview. They don’t know every handshake, the way you conduct yourself, the way that you coach players, all your interactions, you never know who is watching.” Marion said. “Like Mike London, who I got set up through his son Brandon who I played with in Miami, while I was at Waynesboro, and he was the Virginia head coach, had a 7on7 camp, and I emailed him and was like I know my teams not good, but can we come and compete. He said Ok, but put us in the lower bracket and see what happens. 

“Well, we got to the championship against Dematha, a powerhouse. We were playing big dogs, like real teams, and beating them. Keep in mind we were an 0-10 team, and they got 30 D-1 guys, and I got little guys from a farm. That’s how  I got the OC job at Howard. He (Coach London) was like, ‘I want you to run that same exact offense you was running with the 7on7 team at my camp.’ I was just running our plays from our games. I didn’t have a 7on7 offense.” 

In 2021, Marion joined the staff at Pittsburgh as the wide receivers coach. Coach Marion was instrumental in the development of Jordan Addison. That season Addison led all of college football in touchdown receptions with 17 during the 2021 regular season while catching 100 passes for 1,593 yards. He earned consensus All-American honors and won the 2021 Fred Biletnikoff Award (the Nation’s top wide receiver).

Later that year, Marion left Pittsburgh to head over to the University of Texas, where he was named passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach for their head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Now you know all about Brennan Marion, so it’s time to learn about his “Go-Go offense” and how it was blended to make one of college football’s most explosive offenses.

Brennan Marion has thrived as a coach even after having to overcome adversity as a player. 

Time to break down the Go-Go Offense

What is the Go-Go offense? 

WWJD Brennan Marion
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Sports Now

A simple way to describe the “Go-Go offense” is it’s an offense marrying the old-school triple-option run games with modern-day spread concepts. But if you let Coach Marion describe it, he would say, “It’s violent and vertical. That’s the most simplistic way that I can put it. Score touchdowns and make big plays.” 

The “Go-Go offense” is based out of a two-running back set — 20 or 21 personnel (2 running backs and 0 tight ends or two running backs and one tight end, respectively). Unlike most 20 and 21-personnel teams, Coach Marion’s offense does not use a fullback to block and a halfback to run. Both running backs have the opportunity to block or get the ball.

Make no mistake about it. Coach Marion’s philosophy is to be a power-run team. They also will utilize RPOs (run/pass option plays) in the short passing game and stretch the defense down the field with a vertical passing game.

The “Go-Go offense” has three basic principles from an outside view.


  1. Play with selflessness

In the “Go-Go offense,” the star player will not always get the ball. That would defeat the purpose of having two running backs in the backfield. Similar to NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson’s famous “Triangle Offense,” the ball should always go to the open man, while all of his teammates set him up for success in their own way.

For instance, if the defense is keying in on your running back in the run game, the quarterback has to recognize it and get the ball to another playmaker or take it himself.

There is only one ball. Whoever ends up with it when the play unfolds, all ten other players must show they want their teammate to succeed as if they had the ball themselves. Football is the ultimate team game. For Coach Marion, teammates, their love for each other, and their love for the game of football have to be a priority number one for every member of the UNLV offense.


2. Play fast

As the name would suggest, the “Go-Go offense” has to be fast-paced, creating an extra level of chaos for the defense, thus giving the offense another upper hand. By playing fast, Coach Marion is also trying to give his offense more possessions.

Coach Marion’s former offensive coordinator at Tulsa and current UCF head coach Gus Malzahn incorporates a similar fast-paced scheme. Lincoln Riley, Mike Gundy, Chip Kelly, and Lane Kiffin are a few other well-known head coaches who use this strategy. Kelly brought it to the NFL (with Philadelphia and San Francisco) with some success, but it remains a prevalent strategy in college football today.

“I LOVE Al Davis. The Raiders are my second favorite organization behind the Steelers because I’m all about the vertical attack.” Marion said. “But not just vertical in the standpoint of throwing the deep, but vertical in the way we run the ball downhill. I like violent players because if you’re playing violent, that means you’re playing fast, you’re playing hard, you’re playing aggressive.”

“So that’s one of the things I always teach or coach. I always think that we play offense with a defensive mentality. So when I say we play violent, it means we aren’t playing passive. I watch offenses sometimes, and they are just so scheme oriented that there is no violence in what they do, there is no aggression, and I don’t think you can have somebody trying to beat your ass on the other side of the ball when you play fineness. That’s not how it works.”   


3. Create mismatches with exotic formations

Giving the defense different formations than they are accustomed to seeing week-in and week-out creates yet another form of confusion for a defense. Creating that potential confusion also causes mismatches. Using different formations yet running the same plays also helps the offense. Instead of learning a multitude of plays to keep defenses guessing, the offense can learn fewer plays and run them out of these “exotic” formations.

Coach Marion says he can run any running play from his staple shotgun — FAR/NEAR formation, as well as out of the Pistol — stack formation. That is extremely valuable for the sake of not tipping your plays to the defense pre-snap.

Those are the basic principles of the “Go-Go offense.

So now, what’s the deal with the cowboy hat

So what’s with the cowboy hat Brennan Marion wears?

WWJD Brennan Marion and Jordan Addison
Photo Credit: Brennan Marion

Now it’s time to get to the cowboy hat. You don’t see too many coaches rocking a cowboy hat on the sideline on the West Coast. I asked Coach Marion when he started to wear it and what was the meaning behind it.

I own a ranch. You didn’t know that?Marion said. “When I was younger, I would go back to Virginia and spend some of the summer with my grandmother. I was in Virginia, where was no running water, and I had to use an outhouse. We had to get water from the well, heat the water on the stove and have to do all that stuff just to take a bath. I used to catch catfish and snakes with my hands in the woods. So, I used to tell myself if I get a lump sum of money, I’m going to get a ranch.”

“When I was at Tulsa, we would work on the oil fields on the ranches in the summer. And they told me the story about black cowboys, like Bill Pickett, who started the rodeo. So I always thought that if I get some real money, I’m going to buy a ranch, and now I have a ranch in Pennsylvania.” Marion continued. “But, I never wore cowboy hats until I got to Texas, but I always wore cowboy boots.” 

So can we expect to see him rocking it on the sidelines during games?

Naw, I’ll wear it in the warm up’s, then take it off for the game because of the headset and all that. But when I’m a head coach, I’m going to get a Garth Brooks mic and wear it!!

Brennan Marion is one of the brightest young minds in all football, regardless of the level. Credit Barry Odom for having the vision and foresight to hire him. The Rebels are lucky to have him in the building. Not only is his scheme new and exciting, but the energy he brings as a coach and a recruiter is being felt already and has UNLV players and recruits energized and amped up to #BEaREBEL.

If you are a Rebels fan, you should be excited about the type of offense that can potentially put up over 500 yards and over 35 points per game.

UNLV offensive coordinator Brennan Marion is one of the brightest young minds in all of college football.

You can purchase your 2023 UNLV Football Tickets by clicking HERE or at www.unlvtickets.com.


-Joe Arrigo   Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter and Instagram: @JoeArrigoFSM

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