Monday, July 28, 2008

If We Aren't the Spread....

Then what are we??

Coach Wulff made waves last week at the snooze-fest known as media day (and let's face it, there wasn't a whole lot of compelling stuff to come out of last Thursday, was there? Team looks good, worked hard all off-season, so-and-so is coming back from injury, blah blah blah). But the most talked-about nugget from Wulff was the mention that we aren't exactly a spread offense, but more a shotgun offense but with multiple looks, including the QB under center.

One of the most hailed things to come out of Wulff when he took the job was that he was installing a no-huddle, shotgun, spread offense. At least that's what everyone heard when he took the job....or was it?

The reality is, when Wulff took the job and was at the podium, he said no-huddle, he said shotgun, but he never actually spoke the words "spread". Why? Because his offense isn't the true definition of what that offense really is regarded around the NCAA landscape these days. A lot of people, including myself, instantly thought spread when we heard no-huddle shotgun, but that doesn't exactly fit what many people define a spread offense.

To see where I'm going with this, it's important to at least acknowledge what the hell the spread offense actually is defined these days. For a lot of teams out there have adopted different strategies and labeled it a form of the spread offense. Loosely put, the spread is basically "spreading" out your skill position players, getting them in one-on-one situations with the defense and getting your play-makers out in space. The general idea, offensively, is to create favorable match-ups. Spread out the defense, hit the mismatch and have some fun. That's what we see all over the country, and it's done in a variety of ways.

Texas Tech and Arizona have their version of the offense, where they aren't shy about at least chucking it 50 times a game. The run has very little to do with what they are trying to accomplish. But West Virginia calls itself the spread, yet they do it in a much more of a running style designed around the QB's legs. Kansas is in the shotgun read-option offense and was much more balanced in their scheme last year, as was Oklahoma State, where they strive for the 50-50 balance of run-to-pass ratio.

But I think what Wulff is getting at in terms of "don't call it the spread" is that we aren't going to be exclusively a spread, READ-OPTION offense that is all the rage right now. Don't think West Virginia or Okie State or even Oregon when you think our offense this year, because that isn't what we are going to see.

To keep it simple, a key idea of the spread read-option is to start the offensive play with the QB in a "read option" mode. The QB has a running back with him in the shotgun, gets the snap, and immediately keys on the defensive end on the side of the field where the running back has set up. Then the play goes from there based on what the defensive end is doing. If the end charges hard upfield, the QB can fake the hand-off and keep it himself (we saw a lot of this out of Jake Locker and UW last year in the Apple Cup, and you see it all the time with Tim Tebow at Florida). But if the d-end stays home, then the QB can choose to hand the ball off to the back and the play just goes from there. Or, the QB can fake the hand-off, and pull it out of there and throw the ball.

The trick here though is that it isn't the old wishbone option offense we used to see out of Oregon State, Oklahoma, or even the Rypien-Porter-Mayes offense of days gone by. Instead of everyone bunched up at the line and sometimes three backs in the backfield, it's a modern flare to it with WR's from sideline to sideline. The extra dimension of throwing the ball to multiple WR's is a big part of what the offense can do, making it a complete headache to defend beyond the old-school option.

The best example you will ever find is what Oregon did to UW last year. Dennis Dixon was in the zone that day, as the Duck O went for an unreal 465 yards RUSHING, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on 62 total rushing attempts. It was a clinic. In the shotgun, Dixon would get the snap and make his read. Either hand it to Stewart, keep the ball himself, or, uh-oh, he could pull it out of there and throw it to WR's running wide open, all game long. UW's EJ Savannah said after the game that not only could they not attack the Ducks and they were on their heels all game long, but half the time they had trouble figuring out who even had the football. It was a sight to behold.




Why profile this? Because this is NOT exactly the new WSU offense. Don't picture Gary Rogers doing things that Dennis Dixon did in that clip. This is an example of what is really thought of as the spread, read-option offense that is the rage today. But will we show some of the same sort of things? Occasionally, yes, we'll do some things that look like the read-option. But it is not exclusively the read-option spread compared to what others are running.

As you can see in the following clips in a game between EWU and BYU last year, you begin to understand what Wulff was getting at by describing the multiple approach. There are plays that show EWU doing all sorts of different things. Shotgun with read-option fakes or handoffs, yes, absolutely. But we also see the QB under center with one back, sometimes with double-tight ends, WR motion, the whole thing. There is even a play where the WR goes in motion and takes a handoff from the QB at around the 5:18 mark of the tape (might we see that out of Gibson this year??).



In the second half, you see more of the same, with more shotgun formations with two backs and some more WR motion. And as a bonus, if you like games played in the snow? Check out things beginning at the 6-minute mark. BRRRRRR!



I guess the point of all this is to understand what people think of as the spread, and what we are actually going to see. With Wulff and Todd Sturdy and the rest, anything and everything goes. As Wulff and Sturdy have said all along, expect a balanced attack out of a no-huddle scheme, with multiple formations. In the end, it will not be predictable, it will not be stale, and I think we can all be assured that it is going to be very entertaining to watch!

Now will it work? Hard to say. The no-huddle, multiple attack sounds good, but, we're not the first team in the Pac-10 to do it. Oregon for example runs a lot of no-huddle. So while the Pac-10 will be seeing some things that are fresh from WSU as we distance ourselves from the Erickson-Price one-back attack, it won't be as if we are doing things that nobody has ever seen before. And you can have the greatest offensive scheme of all-time, but, if you don't have the playmakers to go with it???......Well, you know.

Not a whole lot happening in Cougar Nation this week. It should be pretty quiet, but of course, things get rolling next week. We'll stay on top of the news, and our own Rooster might have something coming in the next few days, but this is another quiet time. Enjoy your Monday, and as always, GO COUGS.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What i love about the spread is the ability to change the table on the defense. teams that send the house and attack on defense have to change their ways against a great spread option offense. when you have these great athletes used to flying up the field and attacking the qb suddenly having to think instead of react it makes them a few steps slower and they are out of their game. make a blitzing outside linebacker suddenly thinking about his checks as in who has the damn ball or if he has to retreat into pass coverage and it is a whole different game. The dawgs are still looking for their jocks after that humiliation vs the quacks.

Sedihawk said...

The read-option spread with a capable QB is the current thing that makes defensive coordinators toss-n-turn at night. Check back at what Okie State was doing last year with Zac Robinson and you can bet Ball and Sears are sweating the opener right about now. Defenses will catch up eventually, I mean they always have in the past, but right now this scheme is generally ahead of the defenses.

The hard part is what you say anonymous, the confusion over who has the ball. It is hard for a player to attack if they have to think first. So you have the danger of your defensive players standing around in a brain-lock while the opposing team slices and dices you (Oregon at UW last year). But if a defensive coordinator throws their hands up in the air and says screw it, blitz from every angle and we'll create pressure, well, you are just leaving yourself some huge holes that a QB with a brain will pick apart in the read option. But Oregon showed last year that it isn't ALL about the scheme alone. You have the talent to go with it, and if you do you can be unstoppable (look at what they did to Michigan, WSU, and UW). But if you don't have the right QB, it can be an adventure (see Oregon after they lost their last 3 games without Dixon).

Brinkhater said...

The pick thrown at the 3:06 mark on the second video is the EXACT type of throw that Rogers needs to avoid if we are going to sniff mediocrity (which would mean CRUSHING expectations).

If he can avoid throwing THAT pass, we'll be fine.

But can he?

Great, great post, Hawk.

Anonymous said...

How about the first play on the first clip? Fake handoff that turns into a dying quail in the flat run back all the way. I lost count of how many int's the QB threw. I gave up. That QB sure looked, brink-like to me. Yuck-city. I can't wait to see Rogers. And whore-a-GUN, holy christ what a show. UW sucked on defense anyway but they looked like Alicia Silverstone in that movie - CLUE-LESS. What an awful defense.