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.

23 Comments

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  1. 1
    Kenny

    I disagree with the idea that the spread will start coming to a demise anytime soon. The spread offense, which, can mean any number of different styles is probably one of the most unique and simple things to come into college football. The offense is obviously the most effective when you have a QB who can both run and pass. The only thing that will stop it from going to every school is the inability to have the type of playmaker at QB who can run the offense.

    As far as how effective the offense can be one only needs to look at last year’s UF team. The team had arguably one of the best offenses the SEC has seen in the last decade or so.

    It was more interesting that all the coaches that were qouted were coaches who were not planning on running the spread. Though, it should be pointed out that Weis tried it for one game before the offense became completely inept.

    To me it is just the best offense that takes advantage of the athletic QBs that are coming out of high school. I agree that traditional offenses will never go away, and you are definitely limited on running the offense based upon your QB.

    As an aside I do like how Saban usually matches the spread with the nickel defense. I think that negates a lot of the mismatches as opposed to running a 4 LB set that most teams seem to do.

  2. 2
    Coach Tony Franklin

    Blasphemy! Sheer utter BLASPHEMY. Im Tony Frnklin Damnit! And I am the King Guru of the Spread offense. I have an answer for every defensive situation in everygame, everytime. It doesnt matter if you stock the defensive line with giants with world class speed. It doesnt matter if you put linebaskers on the field who have never missed a tackle. It doesnt matter if you let the secondary carry shotguns! My spread is guaranteed to score 75+ points a game and at least 750 yards of offense. How? You want to know how? I’ll tell you how.
    If they stop you when you run to the left, RUN TO THT RIGHT DAMNIT! If they stop you when you run to the right, run to the middle, If they stop you when you run to the middle, air that sucker out! If they stop that, start chop blocking! And I mean anything and any one! Chopblock the lineman, chop block the linebackers, chop block the secondary, Hell chop block the damn cheerleaders and Eli Gold!
    Gouge ’em in the eyes, tie their shoelaces together…Win at all costs Because I dont feel like paying anyone a refund!
    Damnit Im Tony Franklin, I never lose (unless I feel sorry for the other team and let them win!)
    There is no “demise” to the spread offense! It will rule forever!
    Money back *guaranteed of you are not 100% satisfied.
    WHAT ARE YOU GUYS AT THE CAPSTONE REPORT TRYING TO DO, BANKRUPT ME……AGAIN?
    Im Tony Franklin Damnit!
    And by the way, this week if you buy “The Tony Franklin System” @ “TheTonyFranklinSystem.com” I will throw in an autographed picture of me…Tony Franklin looking as handsome as only Tony Franklin can look. Better hurry up, once the ladies here about this those pictures will go fast.

  3. 3
    tmc1

    I agree the “spread” will play itself out. The same philosophy CTT used about mismatches can be used against him. If the defense effectively attacks with stunts and overloads where there is a weakness, the spread usually becomes its on undoing.
    I know I am about to hear every theory on the spread the Auburn faithful have to offer. But the “spread” is not a mysterious cure-all for what is ailing an unproductive offense. And it doesnt make up for an inablitiy to execute. Lets face it, if your offense cannot sucessfully execute in something as simple as a I-formation, then by what miracle do you expect the offense to run something as complicated as a “spread” scheme? As a matter of fact it is absurd to think that any scheme will compensate a poor offense.
    And yes, some of these teams running the spread are scoring garish numbers, BUT…They dont do it against SEC teams. The defenses in this league are too fast.

    A few years ago in the Cotton bowl, Bama played a Texas Tech team that was scoring astronomical stats. I dont recall the score but Tech scored what? 10 points against a team that wasnt even the best defense in the conference?
    And also for every spread sucess story there is a school who didnt do so well with it. Why? because they didnt have the skill, talent, blocking, QB or speed to pull it off. I dont and wont buy into the hype. If your team cant execute, it doesnt matter what offense you are running.

  4. 4
    Kenny

    1. Florida had a historically great year as an offense last year in the SEC. 59 points against UT, 24 points against LSU, 30 against UGA, 45 against FSU, etc… The only team that actually shut them down was Auburn. You are right about one thing, to run the spread correctly you will need a good QB.

    2. That 2005 Alabama defense was the best defense in the SEC that year, and was ranked number 2 overall. The same team that beat TT. The defense would have been a lot better had the offense had a heartbeat after Prothro went down.

    Sometimes it is okay to be objective even against something that Auburn is doing. By the way, this does not mean that Auburn will be successful with this offense. They do not have the WRs specifically needed to run the full compliment of the spread.

    To me it just seems that the evolution of football is going to more athletic QBs. This does not mean pro-style offenses will become irrelevant. I just do not see some form of this offense going away anytime soon.

  5. 5
    Hunter Ford

    Does anybody still run the wishbone? Air Force? Isn’t it funny that the Air Force runs the wishbone?

    What will always win football games is a great running game, and a great defense. Teams that throw the ball a lot usually come up short when they are matched against a good defensive front and a team that runs the ball and keeps the other offense off the field.

    Anybody remember what Nebraska did to Florida in the late 1990s?

    by the way, I just looked at All-barn’s athletic page. Can you believe the Barners claim that Tuberville has won FIVE SEC West Titles. He has NOT! They take pride in saying they were SEC West CO-CHAMPS. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN SEC DIVISION CO-CHAMP. You either win the tie breaker or you don’t, you play in Atlanta or YOU DO NOT ….there is NO CO-CHAMP!

  6. 6
    Kenny

    Agreed, it always takes a complete team to be successful. That is the reason the UF did not come close to winning the East last year. They were completely devoid of a secondary.

    I am not sure why that would surprise you. This is the same team that claims the 2004 Sear’s Roebuck People’s National Championship. They even have the rings!

  7. 7
    capstonereport

    I don’t think the demise of the spread will happen a week from next Tuesday. I just thought it was interesting to hear how coaches think about the spread, and how to defend it.

    In fact, the spread has been around since the 1950’s. I don’t think it will ever die.

    But having so many teams jump on board means there will be more defenses ready to stop it.

  8. 8
    rhYno

    The spread offense will never die off, in my opinion. Defenses (especially in our conference) will simply adjust to it, which will force the coordinators to change their scheme, especially when the vast majority of the SEC swaps to the spread, if that day is to ever come.

  9. 9
    julio

    The spread will eventually evolve into something else. That’s been happening since the advent of the Notre Dame box, to the Wing T, etc. That’s what’s so great about the game. It keeps on changing. I do think you’re going to see the spread for quite a while longer, though.

    As to Auburn having success with it, I only know this. Auburn can’t do worse on offense than they have the last two years. As an AU fan, I’m a hell of a lot more concerned about losing Muschamp as a DC. AU has won 20 games over the last 2 years despite averaging about 18 points a game. Not a real big mystery that the defense has been the reason for the success. If the defense just maintains status quo, and the offense improves to around 24 points a game, better look out.

  10. 10
    Hamrick

    There’s no doubt the spread will fail for you guys. I don’t think it will live up to its hype in the first season, but if Franklin can transform both mediocre UK and TSU offenses into, there’s no doubt he can do it with the Tigers.

    But I actually thought Applewhite’s scheme was the spread. Obviously it wasn’t… Whatever happened with that?

  11. 11
    Kevin

    You bammers HOPE the spread is soon to see its demise…all evidence to the contrary.

    And Hunter: Auburn claiming “co-champs” of the SEC is certainly no worse than UAT claiming “12 NCs.” Especially when they come from dubious sources like the Football Almanac.

  12. 12
    AUTiger

    Really, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that coaches will make adjustments as needed. If Auburn and more schools are successful with the spread, then defenses will surely adjust, at which time the Auburn offense and others will make complimentary adjustments. I’m still waiting for the news flash on this one. Let me get this straight, because defensive coordinators will attempt to make adjustments, the spread is now facing demise? Uh, ok… And Hamrick, to say “There’s no doubt the spread will fail for you guys” is a pretty strong statement. Really, NO DOUBT? Based on what? I can understand words like “skepticism, questionable, or doubtful” but “no doubt” indicates to me that you are clearly not thinking with a critical mind. And whoever made the comment that Auburn will struggle if they couldn’t execute the power-I, doesn’t understand offensive schemes and likely doesn’t have a particularly well developed concept of college football. A hallmark of the spread offense is that it is simple, relative to the more complex offense (west coast) Auburn ran last year. Of course, “spread” has more letters in it than “I,” so it must be more confusing. My bad.

  13. 13
    tmc1

    As far as the comment about about me not understanding offensive schemes and not having a “particularly developed concept of college football”. Let me be clear, I played football at both levels. I know what I am saying because I have played both offenses and I can assure you, the “spread” is much more complex than the “I”. You might need to step back from the Auburn blogs and talk to a few coaches. And for God’s sake stop believing all the hype, I’ll bet you have the AB rocker, and everything that Ron Popiel ever shilled laying around your house.
    Tou see, the common party line with Auburn fans is to blame Al Borge’s and his complicated offense.
    Bullshit.
    Al Borge’s offense was just fine back in 2004 when Auburn had the skill and talent to run it. Doesnt that give you a clue as to the quality of Auburn’s athletes these days?
    Simply put, Auburn is not as good a team as they were in 2004, and installing a complex read offense with a new starting QB is …. unrealistic at best. (Much the same way as thinking a no huddle offense is suddenly going to increase the offensive stamina to cover the 33% increase in production necessary to pull it off.) While I may not understand every intricacy of offensive football, I do understand human limitations.

    These “pie in the sky” schemes sound almost magical on paper, dont they?
    But if you will look around you will see that alot of other schools at different levels have bought into the hype only to find out they still had the same fundamental problems as before.

  14. 14
    2008seven

    When Auburn goes Spread Formation/I formation in the same series. Teams are going to freak! They won’t know what to do.

  15. 15
    mike

    Cap-

    Why do you think so many programs are going to the spread offense?

    Also, do you think your opinion of the spread would be different if let’s say Al Borges were still at Auburn?

  16. 16
    capstonereport

    I think programs are picking it because it has a good track record attacking defenses. I think it has some very good attributes at forcing personnel decisions, and taking defenses out of their comfort zones.

    However, back when Alabama was going to hire Rodrigeuz, I was troubled about the spread. I wrote then that I don’t believe you can run in the SEC without a dedicated blocking back.

    So, I have a track record with concerns about the spread.

    It doesn’t mean the spread isn’t a good thing for Auburn or other teams. Just that it is different.

    I like to think of the spread like a four guard lineup in basketball. It has some great advantages, but some disadvantages too. And as more teams run it, the disadvantages grow.

  17. 17
    tideindenial

    It is true with any offense that players make it go. Tmc1 is totally wrong that the spread is more complicated than the spread. It is complex in that many formations can be used but the terminology is easier.

    The teams that are most successfull with the spread do it on the premise with fast skill players and as Rodriguez emphasizes…the offense is in great condition because the avg time between a play is 15 seconds. And defenses show signs of stopping it…then before you know it a back breaks a run across the crease for 70 yards. The spread with great athletes is tougher to defend than a I formation with great athletes

    The X factor is that the spread wears down a defense much like a press defense in basketball. Tmc1..if you played football…doesnt show brotha..ask some Kodi Burns which was tougher to learn, west coast or spread. AU will do fine but in the end with the spread or not…Defense still wins championships.

    As far as Weis…he needs to stay away from the table and set a good example for his players as far as discipline. Weis isnt going to make it at Notre Dame

  18. 18
    tideindenial

    If more teams run the spread..it becomes less effective. What is the reasoning behind that capstonereport. Almost every team ran the I..its still about players but the spread with good skill players can beat a good defense. West VA made Oklahoma look like a high school team. And the spread can be finesse or physical….and I do believe AU will be damn physical with their o-line and great rbs.

  19. 19
    Petey Ballgame

    It’s like a rock,paper, scissors game. Rock is no weaker than paper, it just works against something different. You have to know when to call rock and when to call paper and have the personnel to do a little bit of everything.

  20. 20
    007

    Wow, Kevin! Maybe you should re-examine your facts and sources before claiming Alabama’s titles are illegitimate. I swear you Barnies stoop even lower than expected at times. This is hilarious hearing a FAN of a team who only has half of one question the credibility of another team’s unanimous titles. I find it funny that this has gone unnoticed for so many years, up until the new millenium. It only goes to show you lack the proper college football historical knowledge and you should be ashamed of that…

    I’m providing you morons with a detailed list containing all of Alabama’s claimed and unclaimed titles. I’m also providing you with a few flaws in your short history as well!

    Remember, prior to the AP/UPI title era, the Rose Bowl was deemed the heavyweight bowl and the winner was considered “Champions of the Universe.” This is why, EVERY TEAM WHO WON THE ROSE BOWL PRIOR TO THE AP/UPI TITLE ERA CLAIMED A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FOR THE SEASON. Those polls were only who they considered national champions for certain seasons, and half of them selected their champions, YEARS AFTER THE GAME WAS PLAYED. Polls didn’t matter back then… Did your facts not tell you that?

    Here’s a look at ALL of our claimed and unclaimed national championships:

    1925: Rose Bowl 10-0

    1926: Rose Bowl 9-0-1 (Tie game with Stanford)

    1930: Rose Bowl 10-0-0

    1934: Rose Bowl 10-0

    The AP/UPI titles are now in effect and whoever they voted number 1 at the regular season’s end was the national champions for the season.

    1961: AP/UPI

    1964: AP/UPI

    1965: AP

    1973: UPI

    1978: AP

    1979: AP

    1992: AP

    If you claim AP/UPI titles are “illegitimate” then you are truly an idiot. I bet you also claim the BCS title is illegitimate as well? And if you have a problem with Alabama finishing ahead of a USC team that defeated them in one particular season, then maybe you should take that up with the AP/UPI title association. When they find out you’re an Alabama Polytechnic Institute fan, I’m sure they’ll laugh and simply hang the phone up on you. Keep in mind Alabama wasn’t the only team in history to finish ahead, in the AP and UPI polls, of teams who defeated them back then. Even in modern times, what about a 2006 Florida team who won the championship and finished ahead of an API team who defeated them? Or an LSU team who won the championship, finishing ahead of Arkansas and Kentucky, who both defeated LSU that season?

    Also, if you have a problem with Alabama being voted champions, during seasons of which they lost their bowl games, well keep in mind YOU GUYS DIDN’T EVEN PLAY IN A BOWL GAME IN 1957! You know why? Obviously not, so I’ll break it down for you. Before the 1980s, bowls were considered “exhibition games” and the champion was selected AT THE END OF THE SEASON — NOT AFTER THE BOWL GAME!

    Illegitimate Unclaimed Titles:

    1936: Alabama finishes the season 8-0-1, but didn’t claim a National Title because we finished the season ranked 4th in the AP/UPI.

    1937: Alabama finishes the season 9-1, losing to USC in the Rose Bowl and ending the season ranked 4th in the AP/UPI.

    1945: Alabama finished the season 10-0, blowing out USC in the Rose Bowl, but didn’t claim a title because we finished the season ranked number 2, behind number 1, Army. Some argue that the 1945 team may have been Bama’s greatest of all time. The bias officially comes into affect once again!

    1962: Alabama finished the season 10-1 with a Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, but didn’t claim a title because we finished the season ranked fifth in AP/UPI.

    1966 (See the new novel, “The Missing Ring”): The most controversial season in all of collegiate football. This is where the Northern/Western States’ bias towards the Southern States plays yet another huge roll in college football. Alabama was aiming for their third straight National Championship season. Ending the previous season ranked number 1, Alabama was questionably preseason ranked “3rd” in 1966. In the other major poll, the AP poll, Alabama started the season ranked first, but was questionable moved to third at the season’s end?!?!?! At the season’s end, we finished undefeated, destroying Nebraska in the Orange Bowl 34-7. However, first ranked Notre Dame and second ranked Michigan State intentionally played to a 10-10 tie in their final game against each other in the last game of the regular season. Instead of Alabama moving to first place, we were oddly held at third. The Southern nation always felt (and some still do) that this was done intentionally to keep a Southern team from winning their third consecutive title. In addition, a quick review of the results from BAMA’s ’66 season shows a team that by far outclassed all of the competition it faced. Bama manhandled every opponent only giving up a total of 37 points all season long while shutting out the 7 of the 11 of the opponents they played. Fortunately, at least one well known individual of that time also felt that BAMA was a deserving team that year. Vince Lombardi , after winning the Super Bowl, was asked if the Packers had removed all doubt as to who was the best football team in the wrrld. Lombardi replied, “Well, I don’t know. We haven’t played Alabama yet!!”

    1974: Alabama finished the season ranked fifth in AP/UPI, as well as lost their bowl game against Notre Dame.

    1975: Alabama finished the season 11-1 with a 13-6 victory over Penn State in the Sugar Bowl, but did not claim a title because they finished the season ranked third in AP/UPI.

    1977: Alabama finished the season ranked 11-1 with a 35-6 Sugar Bowl victory over Ohio State, but did not claim a title because we finished the season ranked second in AP/UPI.

    Proud Alabama Tech Accomplishments:

    1957: The only legit title they have. Despite the fact that they finished the regular season 10-0, while on probation, they finished that season ranked number 1 in the AP poll.

    1983: Auburn’s only loss was to the Texas Longhorns, but they did in fact defeat Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. But they didn’t claim a title because they finished that season ranked third behind Miami and Nebraska. If they say they deserve the title this year, then so does Alabama for the 1975, 1977 seasons in which we finished 11-1 with a Sugar Bowl victory as well, but did not claim the title because we didn’t finish that season ranked first in the country. Not to mention the 1966 Sugar Bowl victory in which we finished the season undefeated with a Sugar Bowl victory, but was denied the title because we finished third.

    1993: Auburn finished the season “undefeated.” However, they did not compete in the SEC Championship or bowl game. They finished the season ranked “fourth, ” but shouldn’t have even been considered in the rankings due to it being unfair to the other teams that they did not play in a bowl game while the others did. That’s like when Alabama finished the refular season undefeated in 1994 (the very next season), but lost to Florida in the SEC Championship game by ONE point — and defeated tOSU in the championship game. So in another words, we were ONE POINT AWAY from a perfect season. Since this is the case, we finished fourth in 1994, winning all of our regular season games. Therefore, we should “claim” the 1994 season as an “undefeated” season as well!

    I’ll mention 2004, though nobody voted them champions, other than the Opelika/Awbarn Farmer’s Market poll. Auburn did in fact finish the season undefeated. But a lackluster performance against an Alabama team who limped into the game with what little key starters they had. And being one questionable call away from losing to LSU, which they won by one point, hindered them from consideration. A win is a win, indeed, but, unlike Auburn, normal people are going to look into the details. Plus, you ran your mouth to capacity about USC and Oklahoma who were both MORE DESERVING than you guys were. Not to mention the close call over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl closed that case. Not to mention THE SAME USC TEAM obliterated THE SAME A-T TEAM THE TWO PREVIOUS SEASONS PRIOR TO 2004.. Seriously, who throws a National Championship parade and orders National Championship rings for a team that didn’t even play for the BCS title?

    Also, l’ve noticed Auburn’s claimed SEC West titles when they didn’t even play in the championship games because of tie-breakers.

    What about their six SEC titles – Prior to 1992, the first year in which the SEC Championship game was played?

    1988: They shared a title with LSU, but LSU finished the season WITH MORE SEC WINS THAN AL-TECH.

    1989: They shared a title with Alabama, WHO FINISHED THE SEASON WITH MORE SEC WINS THAN AL-TECH!

    Thus being said, you should get your facts straight and examine the flaws of your very own program, rather than the untruthful flaws of your cross state superior. However, I do hope whoever came up with that little notion did receive a free degree in a major subject down at Tech.

  21. 21
    007

    The main difference between Tony boy and Fatty Al is in 2004, Fatty was loaded with an experienced and senior led offense going against more inexperienced SEC teams. After the departure of his key players in 2005, his offense fell apart and never managed to pick up the pieces.

    The same will happen to Tony, that is if he ever manages to get his offense off of the ground.

    For Fatty Al’s sake, I only wish Alabama had every player starting that was out injured. Nothing would’ve come as anymore pleasing than ruining the closest they’d ever came to a historically monumental season.

  22. 22
    BamaFanInNYC

    As long as true champions exist (Alabama), jealousy will always follow closely behind (Alabama PolyTECHnic Institute). Just as Georgia Tech is to Georgia; Vanderbilt is to Tennessee; Miami is to Florida; Cal is to USC.

    If we haven’t learned to live with those second rate rednecks, and stomach their nonsense thus far, we never will.

  23. 23
    UGA in T-town

    lol NYBama fan, Aubums are the lowest fans known to mankind. Their actions are way worse than Georgia Tech fans.

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