Shane: Is the ‘Spread’ worth it?

By Shane from Centerpoint
If you’re the country’s number-one ranked wide receiver coming out of high school and you’re planning your post collegiate NFL future, why would you consider signing with a college football program that operates out of the “spread” offense? Most importantly, this offense will not prepare you for the League because the NFL simply does not utilize the system. Spending four years playing in the “spread” could actually damage your marketability, as well as eventually end up costing you a substantial amount of money when draft day rolls around.

In my opinion, college football programs that run “pro-style” systems have a decisive advantage when recruiting the best offensive players—due to the direct connection between their offensive philosophy and the NFL’s.

I find it hard to believe that programs tying to sell the advantages of the “spread” to potential players could really buy into the product they’re selling. I’m truly baffled by the thought that a player with NFL aspirations would choose to play in a “spread” system, especially when so many others offer a setup conducive to that player’s NFL future.

Face it, the “spread” offense is nothing more than a glorified high-school system that is often used because, if executed efficiently, it will allow a physically smaller team with less-talented athletes to compete with the powerhouse programs. Spreading the field usually works well in college, but the sheer speed of NFL defenses cancels any thought of using the system successfully against the elite defenses used in the professional ranks.

Actually, some college players who are currently considered to be the best in the nation at their positions may not be high on the NFL draft list, specifically due to the fact that their college team uses the “spread”. The league’s bias toward this type of offense could potentially have a negative effect on every player’s draft status.

The personnel requirements are totally different for a “pro-style” system. Professional quarterbacks must have the ability to play from under center, reading the field while dropping back. Most “spread” quarterbacks operate entirely from the shotgun, with almost no time spent perfecting the most important element to an NFL signal-caller’s success. Any quarterback who wants to prepare for the next level would be better suited to play for a school that runs a “pro-style” system.

The majority of an NFL lineman’s time is spent in a three-point stance. Drive–blocking for the running game is just as crucial as pass–blocking. It’s a fact that, in the “spread”, linemen are in a two-point stance consistently and almost never go to a three. Many college teams use the two-point method exclusively. Again, what “blue-chip” offensive tackle with designs on a long career in the pros would waste his time with a scheme that doesn’t fit NFL criteria?

One other distinct difference between “pro-style” and the “spread” involves the running back position. NFL–prototype backs are big, strong, hard runners that rely on hitting the holes direct to gain yardage. College “spread” backs don’t usually fit that mold because they use delays, lateral moves and also rely on misdirection to make their yards. Rarely does a great pro back originate from a “spread” offensive background.

College head-coaches who are keen enough to perceive the advantages of instituting a “pro-style” system have a tremendous opportunity to use that as a selling point for their football program.

Truthfully, the duration of the “spread” as an effective form of attack will fade as defensive coaches gain knowledge and perfect the tactics and techniques required to shut it down. This “gimmick” offense will eventually run its course, while the “pro-style” will exist forever.

Those college teams who choose to run the “spread” might win more games in the short term, but they will inevitably lose the best players over the long haul because of the system they operate.

Besides, everybody knows schemes don’t win championships in college or pro football—players do!