Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
After dinner tonight Coaches Hot Seat listened to a presentation on the Spread Offense, how it developed, what is the state of the Spread Offense today and where is the Spread Offense going in the future, were the main topics of discussion.
The Spread Offense has very quickly become a force in the game of college football because it both allows the QB on the field to make decisions while the play is unfolding, and when the Spread Offense is run effectively it gets a team’s playmakers into open spaces on the run and away from defenders. The main thing driving college football teams to convert to the Spread Offense is the advantage that is gained over a defense when a big chunk of the field has to be covered on every play. The Spread Offense works best when a QB can both run and pass the ball effectively, because a good passing QB in the Spread can increase the number of players that start off or are moving away from the line of scrimmage at the snap. There are between 5 and 10 different Spread Offenses that are being run across the country in college football today, and Spread Offenses will continue to evolve as individual coaches put their personal mark on it.
The most interesting part of the discussion on the Spread Offense for us was where the Spread is going into the future and the impact the NFL will have on how many teams move to the Spread Offense in college football over the next 5 years. To date, no QB playing in the Spread Offense in college has transitioned to a successful career in the NFL, but there have been a number of very athletic QBs that have done well in the pros over the years. For us in California, two QBs come immediately to mind that help tell the tale of how the Spread will develop, and those QBs would be a former San Francisco 49er, Steve Young, and current 49er, Alex Smith. Bill Walsh developed an offense with the San Francisco 49ers that allowed Steve Young to get out of the pocket and use his athletic ability, much like some of the things that Norm Chow tried to do with Vince Young at the Tennessee Titans. If Steve Young could turn back the clock, and the last time we saw him in the Bay area he looked in pretty good shape, Young would be an ideal QB for many of the Spread Offenses that are now being run in college. Imagining Steve Young playing out of the shotgun with a legitimate opportunity to run or throw the ball on each play boggles the mind, and even though Steve made some nice coin when he was with the 49ers, he would be the toast of college football if he could play today (sorry Tim Tebow!). The second QB in this discussion is currently on the 49ers roster and that is Alex Smith. Smith was the No.1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and he has up to this point been a tremendous disappointment to anyone that is being honest about his play. All of us have seen Alex Smith play in person in games and a few of us have seen him in practice, and his biggest problem is that he not a very accurate passer of the football. We have gone back and looked at tapes of when he played for Urban Meyer at Utah, and he was rarely called on to make the kind of passes that are required in the NFL, and that inability to make those passes might very well end his pro career prematurely. If Alex Smith does not make it in the NFL, his failure might very well impact how NFL teams will approach drafting college QBs that are running the Spread Offense, unless they can prove that they can throw the football accurately both out of the pocket and on the run. Steve Young could throw the ball very accurately on the run, and pretty good from the pocket when he could see his receivers, and looking forward how college QBs that run the Spread Offense develop might very well determine if the Spread Offense becomes the norm for the vast majority of college teams.
If the NFL does begin to have a backlash about drafting college QBs that are running the Spread Offense, then that will definitely have an impact on how both current college QBs view the Spread, and more importantly how up-and-coming recruits view signing with a school that exclusively runs the Spread Offense. Colleges that decide to stick with a “pro-style” offense might just find themselves in a very strong position in the coming years as both the demand for “pro-style” QBs increases in the NFL, and top QB recruits look to play football at colleges that give them an opportunity to be picked high in the NFL draft. The next 3 to 4 years may very well determine which direction the Spread Offense will go in the game of college football, because there are several high profile QBs working within a Spread Offense right now, including: Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Chase Daniel, Pat White, Todd Reesing, Juice Williams, and a few others. If any of these Spread Offense QBs can get themselves drafted high by an NFL team and then become one of the top QBs in the League, then the Spread Offense may very well become the norm for college football. On the other hand, if QBs that run the Spread Offense continue to struggle in the NFL, that will have to put pressure on college football programs that want to recruit the top QBs coming out of high school to adopt at least a modified Spread Offense that allows for some throwing out of the pocket and on the run. Of course, there will be plenty of college programs that will never have NFL-level QBs, but will still be able to win a lot of football games, titles, and championships, and the issue of getting a QB in the NFL will not be an issue for those teams at all.
After watching a highlight film tonight of clips of the Spread Offense at West Virginia (Rodriguez), Florida, Missouri, Illinois, Clemson, Wake Forest, Kansas, Washington, and even Chris Ault’s Pistol-Offense at Nevada, the Spread Offense to us looks like it is just terribly hard to defend for any team that does not have either very fast or very good (both preferred) defensive players. We also watched some clips of the wishbone under Bryant at Alabama, Switzer at Oklahoma, and Pat Dye at Auburn, and the similarities in the decision making for the QBs in the wishbone and the Spread Offense are striking. The big, big difference is that the QB got hit a lot in the wishbone, and in the best Spread Offenses that we have seen, the QB is not getting hit on a regular basis, which certainly has to help with injury issues.
The biggest things we took away from the Spread Offense Presentation:
1. Giving power to the QB so he can make decisions on the field as the play unfolds and getting playmakers into open spaces on the move and away from defenders are the best things about the Spread Offense.
2. A QB that can both run (and take a hit) and throw the ball both out of the pocket and on the run (accurately) is very tough to stop in the Spread Offense.
3. The future of the Spread Offense is tied to how QBs in college that operate out of the Spread Offense do when they get to the NFL. Only the very top programs will be affected by Spread Offense QBs not doing well in the pros, but certainly top high-school passing QBs will not want to run the Spread Offense in college anytime soon. If they did, they might be tossing away a career in the NFL and millions of dollars.
We will have more on this tomorrow night when we discuss various defenses that are now being utilized in college football, but it is possible to stop the Spread Offense, and it begins with hitting or getting very close to hitting (by applying pressure) the Spread QB on every play. No QB, even Tim Tebow likes to get hit on every play, and we believe the best way to put pressure on an offense is to apply direct pressure to the QB. A good or great QB will beat a pressure defense some times, but the risk is often worth it, because once a QB has been hit a couple of times, the decision-making of that QB degrades a good bit. A second major component in stopping the Spread Offense is mature linebackers that can both keep an eye on the QB and defend the run, both up the middle and down the line of scrimmage. There are just not that many linebackers in college that have both the speed and the maturity to completely and correctly defend the Spread Offense, and that is why the Spread will continue to grow until defenses catch up with it.
Lastly, if we at Coaches Hot Seat took over a major college football program today we would lean towards running a Spread-Type Offense that put the QB into the shotgun position, that included the option-play up and down the line of scrimmage (including misdirection and reverses), and something that spread the field out so that a 50 by at least 30 yard box would have to be defended on every play. We are not quite sure if there are any advantages to putting the QB under center anymore, because the speed of the defensive lineman are so great in the college game today, that the QB is just losing a second or two when he is trying to get away from center to execute the play. The draw can still be run from the shotgun, and a tough QB can always go under center to run the QB sneak, so yes, we would put out QB in the shotgun, spread the defense out as much as possible and attack, and attack, and attack until the defense got tired of the attacking and just gave up. As San Francisco Bay area residents we would also include the Al Davis special in the playbook, the long bomb play with our fastest receivers, which is play that we don’t see much in college football, or even in the pros anymore. It is almost just worth to run the long pass a couple of times each game so that the cornerbacks are aware that the play exists, and are not always biting on the shorter routes. We all remember Jim Plunkett with the Raiders effectively running the “bomb” on many occasions, and it is interesting that so few teams really try to “stretch” the field with the long pass anymore.
More on defenses tomorrow, and where that side of the ball is going. Lots of golf on Thursday, boating and skiing on the docket for Friday, followed by a beach party on Friday night. We are having way too much fun, and the weather is……Perfect! – Lake Tahoe Weather Forecast
Almost a Full Moon over Lake Tahoe tonight and with the telescope out we could even see Jupiter and a handful of its moons just to west of our Moon for most of the night. They are the two brightest objects in the sky, probably in the southern sky if you are standing in the United States, and they both move together across the night sky. Should be an awesome Full Moon on Saturday, August 16 over Lake Tahoe!