The spread’s coming demise

The spread is the hot thing in college football, but like any fad it will implode under its own weight.

While Tommy Tuberville was visiting soldiers in the Middle East, he and other coaches held discussions with the soldiers about college coaching. There’s a great piece up by Ivan Maisel regarding the discussions. One element of the discussion was on the spread.

Here are a few lessons from the coaches.

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First, as I’ve said all things in football are cyclical.

Weis: I think that football is cyclical. That means both offensively and defensively, when in Rome, do what the Romans do. I think that’s true on offense and defense. Whatever’s working. We’re a bunch of copycats now.

And as more teams run the spread, defenses have to adjust.

Richt: Some of the things that defensive coaches are talking about and thinking about are just trying to change personnel a little bit. Making sure your front four can run. A lot of people have had that philosophy for years. If you’ve gonna play in a league where everybody’s going to pound the ball down after down, you better have some big strong interior defensive linemen and your middle linebacker better be a big, thick joker that can take on a fullback and knock him back.

But if all of a sudden those guys get spread out and there are some really quick cats running around there, you want to have some defenders running around, too. I think people will even get to run more light defensive personnel, their quicker, faster guys that can keep up with that.

Here’s another comment about the need for speed.

Shannon: … Like Coach Richt said, you got to get speed guys that can run. Like every coach on this (dais), we want guys 6-foot-3, 6-4 that can run 4.3, 4.4.

Speed kills. We all know that is really the secret to stopping any offensive philosophy. Want to beat the option? Have fast, disciplined defenders. Want to stop the I-formation have big, strong and fast players. But Richt’s response gives an important clue to how defenses will approach this—lighter, more flexible players. Think light infantry instead of heavily-armored hoplites.

And what happens when defenses go light?

Siedlecki: I’m the contrarian in the group. The last two years, we have the best tailback in the league. We gave him the ball 400 times last year. It’s kind of worked to our advantage. What Mark’s saying, defenses are standing more guys up, getting more guys with speed that can spread out and line up with all these teams. It’s kind of worked to our advantage that we’re at the other end of the spectrum right now.

As more defenses adjust to stop the spread, it will give more opportunities for traditional I-formation or similar attacks to exploit the lighter middle.

Football is all about one thing. This:

Tuberville: … Get them in certain situations where you might get a mismatch.

Offense is all about creating mismatches. When defenses move to lighter configurations, you’ll see a return to power running attacks to exploit weakness in the middle of the field.

And that will create copycats like Weis said. And a new trend begins.

Football is all about trends. While some trends are timeless (ie: faster, stronger, etc.), the philosophies change with whatever works. As everyone migrates to the spread, it sows the seeds of its own demise—like a star collapsing under its own weight.