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Friday, May 22, 2009

Bear Bryant: spread offense innovator?

A reader passes along a video of Alabama's 36-6 victory over UCLA in the 1976 Liberty Bowl (known to Alabama fans as "Southern Discomfort"). In the clip, Bear Bryant dials up what looks like -- to modern viewers at least -- the "shovel option" made famous by Urban Meyer. I have discussed this play previously.

In Meyer's version, the quarterback begins to sprint out and reads the defensive end. If the end attacks him, he pitches or "shovels" it up to either a runningback, slot receiver, or H-back. If the end stays home the quarterback can simply continue around him, and often has a pitch read as a third option. The backside guard also pulls and leads. It's a great play; see the diagram and video below.

But the shovel play itself has been around for a long time. Compare the video of Florida this year with the video of Bryant's Crimson Tide below. All things are cyclical.

Note that in both the teams leave the playside defensive end unblocked. I can't tell if Bryant's quarterback is reading him or just baiting him, but in any event it works.


Mr.Murder said...

Tghe defense is always wrong. Funny I was told this would "never work" for split backs and the entire title game was in essence that play as a series with a few counter wrinkles thrown in on the reads to backside ends on the lead back's key.

Robert said...

I remember that bowl game well. It was freezing cold and the wind was howling. Bama won the toss and kicked off to get the wind!

kylem56 said...

The Bear was the greatest. Man I would have loved to have been alive back in his days! Great work Chris!

Bruce Paine said...

A touch before my time but you can see that Bear's guy does a better job pulling back and selling the bootleg pass option and gets the end to turn his shoulders to open up the inside pitch. Its a pretty good example of how a quarterback can nuance a play into working. Whether it was on purpose or not, that end is reading outside pitch/pass and has no chance at the play. A lot of small high schools here in southern Indiana have had good success running the inside pitch when they have undersized linemen.

Anonymous said...

the bear is dead. get over it.

Anonymous said...

So is Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, JFK, FDR, George Patton, Napolean, etc. Whats your point? Just because they're dead doesn't diminish what they accomplished in their lifetimes. You'll die one day too. Whats going to be your legacy?

Spread Offense said...

Really cool find! All good things come back in a different form or fashion.

Anonymous said...

"the bear is dead. get over it."

Jesus is dead. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

But have you won 6 national championships. ENOUGH SAID

Markus said...

And if the ball carrier drops the (forward) pitch, no problema.

By the way, isn't the guy taking the pitch future TE from the Brown, Ozzie Newsome?

A tight end taking the option pitch? Rrrrright.

Why does UCLA repeatedly forget to wear their away duds when their not the designated home team? The new NCAA rules in 2009 will apparently give UCLA the opportunity to wear their home baby-blue "pastels" more frequently in the future (assuming other team agrees). They should just schedule LSU into perpetuity.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure, but maybe one reason Tebow doesn't drop back more and sell the bootleg pass more is because he's got a running back option to the outside? I'm assuming he could potentially pitch to the outside RB as well, which draws the defense out.

In the Alabama play, the outside tailback is more of a lead blocker and the QB is definitely selling the pass more.

Mr.Murder said...

The halfback or slot counter is the bootleg replacement, this allows Tebow to keep the pass action infront of him.

They actually count it as the defense will be in position from working it all week and look to overload the point or work off it in series gives instead.

That way his vision window stays on the people in front of him.

Alex Gibbs said recently that QB are settlnig down at the back of a bootleg to stay in the traffic and lose at least one safety's vision of them.

To do that they probably need some other counter/constraint threat in place and the back on counter action or some type of screen should work.