“The game starts up front.”

The Wiz links to this Berry Tramel column that suggests that the value of offensive line play has decreased in this era of spread attacks.

… Look at Mike Leach’s vaunted spread offense. It’s not predicated on forming a Berlin Wall to keep out the infidels. Tech moves the ball by its formation spreading defenses, its receivers finding open seams and its heady quarterbacks firing quick passes.

That’s not to say Tech’s linemen get sand kicked in their face. Leach doesn’t trot out the first five guys who drive in from Abilene. But the Secret Service mentality — five dead-quiet ruffians who will fight to the death to keep the barbarians at the gate — is not necessary in Lubbock. Just get in the way for one one-thousand, two one-thousand, bam! The ball is airborne.

Oklahoma State doesn’t use Leach’s offense, but it’s the same effect. Spread the field, build more lanes on the freeway, and traffic isn’t nearly as congested. OSU creates run-game space with its spread.

It’s a personnel-driven tactic.

“What offenses have found, when you’re running two-back (non-spread), it goes back to personnel,” said State offensive line coach Joe Wickline. “What you can get on the bus.”

But since teams decided to quit losing games before they started, outmanned offenses can spread out, making defenses line up sideline to sideline, and create gaps.

“When you get enough of that going on, then you hand it off and run right down the middle,” Wickline said. “That gives defenses problems. Are you going to defend the core or defend the flat?”

Interestingly enough, this doesn’t seem to have affected these offenses in the areas you might anticipate.  Oklahoma State was a more than respectable 17th nationally in red zone offense last season; Texas Tech ranked 27th.  (Georgia was 49th.)  The top five teams in 3rd down efficiency all ran some version of the spread.  And OSU was fifth in the country in 4th down efficiency.



Filed under College Football, Strategery And Mechanics

4 responses to ““The game starts up front.”

  1. Joe

    Oklahoma State has a top 10 draft pick at offensive tackle, Okung.

    I thought UF’s offensive line was their greatest strength last year.

    OL and DL play are still the most important parts of the game.


  2. Chris

    Agree with Joe on this one. Last year, UF’s OL was a major story…sort of like the 2 QB system…when UGA ran Shock & Greene out there it was “If you use 2 QB’s then you don’t have 1” Well, we found out how off the mark that observation was/is. Strength in the OL = possession time and the ability to wear down Defenses with long drives. It’s that simple.


  3. It’s interesting that a columnist for an Oklahoma-centric publication would write about how offensive line play is overrated with OU having only about 25 starts on the line returning this year.


  4. joe

    Lets consider WHO those teams in the Big 12 were playing and the type of defenses they played. TT was taken to the woodshed by OU and their OL was completely dominated by the OU DL.