Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chalkboard Tuesday: Spread Offense Basics

This version of Chalkboard Tuesday brings you the basics of the spread offense.  When BC begins its new head coach search, the spread offense controversy will almost surely be rehashed.  Most of the recent national champions have run some version of the spread offense, and some coaches on BC's radar, including Dan Mullen and Kevin Sumlin, are innovators of the trend.  For a complete list of NCAA teams that run the spread, click here.

The basic idea of the spread offense is to stretch the defense horizontally (from sideline to sideline) so that the offense can attack vertically.  The offense best accomplishes this by trotting out three, four, or five wide receivers at a time, which could put as many as eight defenders on the line of scrimmage before the play starts.  This opens up vertical seams on the field of play, which are vulnerable to both the run and pass attack.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the spread offense is that the playing calling is always pass-heavy.  While there are certainly some versions of the spread, such as Mike Leach's Air Raid, that are very pass heavy, the basic spread package is a run-first offense, which helps further open the vertical pass seams.  Spread offenses usually utilize the quarterback as a runner, much like BC did with Josh Bordner last week (think Tim Tebow).  In most systems, it is ideal to have a dual threat QB. 

To make things even more complicated for the defense, these running plays are typically accompanied by trap and pull blocking techniques.  Trap and pull blocking sounds a lot more complicated than it is.  Basically, the idea is to rearrange the offensive linemen to maximize their effect on the field.  For example, on a run to the strong side of the offense, the linemen on the weak side are pretty much useless if they remain stationary.  Instead, the weak side guard can "pull," or run behind the offensive line towards the strong side, until he finds an unfortunate LB to take on, thus springing the runner past the first would-be tackler.  One of the other advantages of the spread, in terms of the offensive line, is that the big uglies aren't expected to hold their blocks as long, because theoretically the ball comes out of the QB's hand quicker. 

The possibilities for a spread offense in the passing attack are pretty much endless.  The spread can run all of your basic routes, but with more guys, making things more complex for the defense.  Again, the point here is to open up the vertical seams, which leads to a pretty exciting brand of football.

So what do you think Super Fans?  Bring a spread specialist to Chestnut Hill?


  1. Mike C. has chimed in that "Chris Crane, although not a dual threat, was relatively successful with the bread and butter of the spread; simple read and zone option plays."

  2. That takes me back to the (now) glorious days of Chris Crane chants.

    "Chris Crane Managin' the Game
    15 yards...that's enough!"

  3. the spread is also a nice way to increase the talent level of the players that are already on the team. your individuals do not need to be superstars to run the system well...though superstars would be fun too. No one guy, especially the QB needs to be dominant. they don't need the rocket arm and precision accuracy. I like the idea for BC. especially with Montel, a runner who doesn't need a FB.

  4. As an insomniac, I watched late-night games from Hawaii using the June Jones version of the spread with considerable success over the years. His successor kept a lot of the same offense.

    The spread allows smaller, more mobile players to compete and surprise more traditional teams.

    Of course, I would love to see somebody run a single-wing. Princeton was the last major college program to use it. The "Wildcat" is a pale imitation of the single wing. The problem is finding a center skilled enough to manage the snaps and blocking.


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