01.Nov.2009 Spread Offense
The spread offense is the scheme of the present and future. What most people don’t realize is that it’s also an offense of the past, dating back to TCU’s Dutch Meyer’s book entitled “Spread Formation Football” written in 1954. If you want to include option offenses into the definition of spread, and my belief is that you should, as Georgia Tech runs this version of the spread to this day, it dates back even further. Many fans call the spread a gimmick, believing it a sexy trend concocted by Urban Meyer in his days with Utah. But the fact of the matter is that the spread has been around at least half a century. What is new is that coaches of the past ten years are understanding the mismatches they can create using the spread, and so it is quickly replacing the pro-style offense as the preferred formation of (modern) college football. Looking at the AP top 25, twelve of those teams run the spread and thirteen run a pro-style offense. Teams like Ohio State have a hybrid, mainly due to personnel (i.e. Pryor), so really it’s split down the middle right now. Also, TCU isn’t officially listed as a spread offense, but from what I’ve seen they run a “spread pass” much like Texas.
Interestingly, there’s only one team running a pro-style offense in the top 5 and that’s Alabama. The other four run some version of a spread offense. If you expand the analysis to the top 10, six of those teams run a spread, but don’t be surprised if that number is seven after the BCS rankings are released tomorrow, as Penn State is #11 in the AP but could easily be in the top 10 BCS rankings. Georgia Tech runs the most unique version, with the triple option. They are the only BCS team running that offense, and it is highly effective. 48 of 120 DI schools run the spread at least 75% of the time. Just glancing at the top 25, it seems the coaches with NFL experience have been most resistant to implementing the spread. Nick Saban (Miami Dolphins), Mike Riley (Chargers), Dave Wannstedt (Dolphins et al), Pete Carroll (Jets, Patriots), Charlie Weiss (Patriots), Les Miles (Cowboys), etc. It’s interesting. Coincidence?
Anyway, I looked into this because the Duck’s spread option impresses me. It seems unstoppable so long as the QB has good speed. Beaver fans deal with the Duck’s prolific offense by throwing pejoratives to the wind, calling it a one-trick pony, a gimmick, a fluke etc. I don’t see it that way. I see it as a great way to create mismatches, and mismatches lead to touchdowns. As far as the spread not preparing athletes for the pros: I don’t think it’s Oregon’s or Oregon State’s job to be an NFL factory. Their job is to field the best teams they can at their level of competition. I’d love to see the Beavers implement the spread into their offense. With Sean Canfield behind center you can’t do that, but with Ryan Katz…maybe. We’ve seen the Wildcat, so the old, conservative Riley is opening his mind to some modern possibilities. I mean come on, if Joe Paterno can embrace the spread anyone can. The idea here is to bridge the gap. If a staff doesn’t have an uber-recruiter who can land elite athletes in Corvallis, then that talent deficit has to be made up for somehow. Bringing your “lunch pail” and hiring excellent position coaches (sans Keith Heywood) only goes so far; out-scheming (aka out-thinking) the opponent is a much better way to approach this particular problem.