01.Nov.2009 Spread Offense

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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.

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  • beavfan4 says:
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    Amen

    I also think itd be cool to see Jordan Poyer play some qb in the wildcat formation as he was all state as one in high school

  • Anthony says:
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    God, I’d love to see Oregon State start using the spread. It seems like we have the speed on offense to be able to do something like that. As you mention, since Riley has opened up to the “Wild Beaver” (what ever, I still call it wildcat) perhaps it’ll be only a year or two more before he starts using more option.

    If you look at their (OSU) formations, they spread times side-line to side-line very often, they just don’t run the option part. Hopefully that’ll change.

  • OSBeavs says:
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    I think the greatest advantage of the spread is that the QB is not simply a middle man. Against the pro, the defense has 11 men to defend 10 because the quarterback is simply a middle man. On occasion a QB will run in a pro style O but they aren’t that effective. I still believe that the pro style can be effective but the issue is that all eleven players have to be talented and play at their best ability. The spread O is much more like basketball, a couple really good players and a bunch of role players and your team can be great.

    With that said, I think a good defense can stop the spread. I have a few ideas about how it can be done, I wonder if it is consistent with how current d coordinators are trying to stop it but I don’t think it is. It starts with a solid d that doesn’t pursue upfield. The second piece is that the linebackers must be able to tackle one on one. After that the run component must be taken away first, NOT the pass. The zone read play that Oregon runs destroys teams. To simplify the scheme the linebackers must be assigned to “spy” either the qb or rb. The passing game would be managed the same way so that someone spies the qb so that he can’t run it. This still assumes that one on one tackling occurs. I think the biggest issue with defenses right now is that they tackle poorly. Fix that piece and the spread can be stopped just like any other offense.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      You nailed it with the 11 on 11 vs 11 on 10 comment. That’s what I was getting at, and we all know that’s the advantage, but your comment is succinct and describes it as elementary as it should be.

      I think your “tackle poorly” comment is pretty spot on, too. Even the Trojans were going for the hit. Also, Masoli kept decoying by slowing down, they’d let up, and then he’d go full speed. They fell for that at least 3 times and it tacked on about 60 extra yards. I’d like to see a replay of the Boise game and see their tackling compared to USC. Boise, being less talented, have to play sound fundamentals (i.e. tackling) where as USC doesn’t. Anyone Tivo both these games? If so give us a run down. It would be interesting to watch in retrospect.

      Though, honestly, I think the Beavers defense has more problems than just tackling.

      • OSBeavs says:
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        Our defense lacks a lot of fundamentals. I think that these players have the tools but they go for the big play and miss the fundamentals. I do believe though if the first person tackles well and wraps up a runner in the spread. The clean up tacklers can make it really hurt with big hits. The spread players tend to be a little bit smaller (ever notice how gangly Oregon’s players are?) and a big hit can really hurt them.

      • OSBeavs says:
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        By the way thank you for the compliments Angry.

  • GreatWhiteHunter says:
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    I would be happy if we just learned how to DEFEND the spread let alone implement in on offense!

  • G Joubert says:
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    The term “spread offense” covers a lot. You pretty much say so yourself, tracing it back and including the option into it. Hey, technically speaking, even the wishbone is a spread offense. So in that sense Jerry Pettibone ran a spread offense at OSU. So if you’re wanting more of a spread offense you have to define what kind of spread offense. The one at UO seems to basically come down to two features: (1) stretch the field from sideline to sideline, and (2) involve the QB much more as another running threat. UO is right out front about the fact that nowadays when they recruit QBs they are looking for ones who can run and pass. Both. Having a rocket arm all by itself isn’t enough. They have to be a running threat too. So clearly then to run that spread you’ve got to have the right personnel.

    The Beavs tended more towards a spread offense with Lyle Moevao at QB. Moevao could do that way, Canfield can’t.

    But what happened to Moevao? For that matter, what happened to Dennis Dixon? What happened to the Ducks when Dixon went down? What has happened to Jake Locker a couple of times and counting? It’s been known for a long time, probably as long as they’ve been playing the game, that having a QB who could run was a powerful weapon. But the fact is that QBs tend to get hurt running the spread and/or when they run. What would happen to the Ducks and their prospects if Masoli went down right now? Is Costa as capable as Masoli at running this offense? If you’re going to build your whole offense around the spread and the talents of the QB, then you better have a backup QB with the same sort of skillset. So you need to have TWO such OBs on your depth chart, if not even. more than two.

    One big reason why offenses gravitated toward pro-style offense featuring QBs who either just handed the football off to a running back or dropped back and passed the ball was to protect him from injury. Simple as that.

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