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Monday, July 20, 2009

ESPN actually does pretty decent job discussing the spread

ESPN's Mark Schlabach has a piece up today on the rise and ubiquity of the spread offense, and it is probably one of the better pieces I've seen from them on it. Now, Schlabach does seem to draw a line from Mouse Davis of run & shoot fame through current spreads like Urban Meyer's, but he doesn't carry this too far:

Even now, Davis wonders why it took college football coaches so long to adopt the principles of his offense, which was predicated on spreading a defense so wide that it created vertical seams for both runs and passes.

"I think it took coaches a while to find out how really tough it is to defend four-wide and how difficult it is to defend with either run or pass," Davis said. "The spread offense is now more of an option orientation by a lot of teams. A lot of them are running our same routes, but they don't read them as much. A lot of them are more run-oriented."

In many ways, the spread offense is still evolving. Coaches often see something they like from another coach's offense, then add their own wrinkles, plays and formations.

"You steal what you steal and put your own stuff in it," Davis said. "It's all interwoven some way."

When Rich Rodriguez took his spread offense from West Virginia to Michigan, a reporter from a Detroit newspaper called Davis. Rodriguez had told the reporter that he'd stolen much of his offense from Davis.

"He didn't get his stuff from me," Davis told the reporter. "I don't know where he got it from, but he got it from somebody else."

There are plenty of versions of the spread offense to imitate. The spread offenses at schools such as Texas Tech, Missouri and Tulsa are built around high-percentage passing games and often rely on quarterbacks and coaches to make the right decisions at the line of scrimmage. Spread offenses run by teams such as Michigan and Oregon are run-oriented attacks built around slot receivers, tailbacks and dual-threat quarterbacks.

"The bottom line is every spread offense is different," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said last year. "Florida's spread offense is different than Missouri, and Missouri's is different than what Kansas is trying to do."

I think that's right: we have had spread rumblings for at least half a century if not further back -- from Dutch Meyer's TCU spread, Tiger Ellison's and later Mouse Davis's run & shoot, the Jack Neuimeier/Jack Elway (and John Elway) one-back spread, to the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach Airraid, and the assorted spread-to-runs of Rodriguez/Meyer/Walker et al. -- but there was, for a time, an almost complete banishing of the spread from college ball, and the spread's return has resulted in the (re)birth of a thousand offenses, each with their own spin on an old concept.

And this diversity, even within the spread, is one of the reasons that college football is so fun. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp echoes what said earlier when contrasting college offenses from those in the pros:

"The hardest thing for your kids is to adjust every week," Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. "Back in 1985, every team lined up with two backs. Now everybody is running something different. That's why you see a lot of points scored now."


JasonC said...

I don't know if you saw one of the comments to Mark's column, but it reminded me of an article you posted a few weeks ago. Here is the comment:

brothere727 says:
July 21, 2009, 3:22 AM ET
College football has always been about gimmick offenses and a majority of them don't or will never translate to pro football it's nothing new. Since the Atlanta Falcons last ran the run and shoot in the mid 90's no gimmick offense has been run in the Pros, they may take bits and pieces here and there (most recently "The Wildcat") but overall it can't be used as the basis of an offense.

True to form 'gimmick' is used in a condescending way.

Ted Seay said...

Chris: Yet again great stuff.

...although Russell didn't invent the spread either. In Rockne's 1925 book Coaching there is a diagram of a direct snap spread Bunch formation...