Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Spread Offense

Yesterday I attended my first Division II football game as SBU beat up on Harding, 43-31.
I was expecting to see sort of a high school game with better athletes. I expected some veer, some option-heavy attacks, and very run-oriented offense.

Instead, both teams played the spread offense* and it was quite entertaining. Almost every snap was in the shotgun, and almost every run play was a shotgun draw.
Basically, the QB was the most talented athlete on both teams and he had the choice every play of throwing it or carrying it. Running backs were used primarily as blockers and tight ends were primarily pass-catchers, if in the game at all.

So, not only is seemingly every Division-1 team playing a spread, so are D-II teams. Are high school teams switching over as well?

The "purist" in me misses smashmouth football. Line it up in an I formation, overpower your opponent up front. Make it a battle for the clock. Instead, Harding has a 1st-and-goal at the 1 yard line and line up in the shotgun. (The snap went over QB's head and they lost 25 yards on the play, settling for a field goal).

The spread has different variations, but used to be considered a gimmick offense. Hal Mumme/Mike Leach made Valdosta St. the D-2 powerhouse it is today with the BYU spread and continue to use it at D-1.

Urban Meyer runs a spread that includes a whole host of gimmicks successfully at Florida.

Rich Rodriguez used his version of the spread to re-make West Virginia a powerhouse, before turning Michigan into a horrible team with it this season.

Navy runs a weird spread option/run package with great success. It's like the veer on steroids.

Even Tennessee has gone to a full spread offense this season. Coach Fulmer showed he can change with the times.

Ohio State is one of the few teams left that play the old way, and they paid for it last night.

You can still see the Power-I and physical run-oriented offenses in the NFL, which is partly why it's more boring to watch than college, the variety of plays/packages are a lot smaller.

If done well--with good defense!-- the spread is a great way to equalize the advantage a more physical opponent can have on you. I guess players like it more because they like to run and make big plays. It's a flashy WR's game these days.

* there may be much debate about what the spread is/isn't and which teams are running a spread. Phil Fulmer says they now run a spread at Tennessee, though some may disagree with him. What I saw last night was undoubtedly a spread.

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