Stopping the spread: another necessity is the mother of invention tale.

Mark Schlabach’s piece yesterday tracing the evolution of the spread attack is a good read (it even gets the Smart Football seal of approval here), even if it doesn’t break a lot of new ground, as Heisman Pundit is happy to remind us.

It’s the last part that resonates in particular.

…  Spread offenses also have changed the ways teams are playing defense. Bigger safeties have become linebackers, and linebackers have become defensive ends. Defensive coordinators are trying to get as much speed on the field to slow down spread attacks.

“They’re putting five or six athletes out in space, and it’s forcing you to put athletes out in space,” Foster said. “Back when they played two tailbacks, you could put eight or nine guys in the box. Now they’re making it tougher to do that because of where they place their people.”

And until defenses catch up with spread offenses, college football teams will continue to light up their scoreboards.

“I think defenses will catch up with them,” Foster said. “We’re going to always try to devise ways to attack it. The spread just makes you defend the whole field, sideline to sideline and end zone to end zone.”

If you’re a Georgia fan, it’s interesting that Schlabach cites the ’05 West Virginia team and Colt Brennan’s season TD passing mark as two notable moments in the spread’s development, seeing as the Dawgs help cement Rodriguez’ reputation as an offensive genius in the earlier Sugar Bowl and exposed Hawaii’s offense as a paper tiger in the later one.

And along those lines, this David Hale article about Richt and Martinez looking at ways to generate a consistent pass rush with a defense that is lacking in its traditional strength at defensive end is definitely worth a read.

Essentially, they’ve decided to go the mad scientist route where they find the numbers.

… At linebacker, however, there is a wealth of riches, and playing time has become increasingly difficult to find. With so many teams adopting some form of the spread offense around college football, the nickel defense has become a standard alignment for defensive coaches. With the extra defensive back on the field, the strongside linebacker is reduced to bench duty, and in Georgia’s case, a normally productive player is rendered useless.

The solution was simple: cross training.

“The more that people spread, the less that you’re going to play the Sam linebacker, and we’ve got to get those Sam linebackers working,” head coach Mark Richt said.

The immediate short term benefit is increased competition for playing time, something that’s always the best motivator.

But I think there’s also a potential plus with this move on the recruiting front.

… The changes come late in the careers for Washington and Dewberry, but there’s a benefit to that, too, Dewberry said.

“I think it definitely will look good to the people at the next level,” Dewberry said. “If you’re going somewhere that runs like a 3-4, playing linebacker or D-end is like the same thing. It’s just good to know both, and it looks good to be able to say that you’ve played both.”

Now, if it just works.

Another place where it looks like Martinez is not adverse to experimentation is at the safety position, where he’s trying to figure out the best way to get Nick Williams (“He’s kind of a little bit of a jackal for us.”) on the field.

Mixing and matching personnel and coverages – you’ve got to do everything in your power as a defensive coordinator to shorten the decision making time the spread QB has to make a play.  It’s a small window that you have to try to close even further – just ask Tim Tebow (h/t Smart Football).

It’s all cyclical, right?  Somebody is going to build that better mousetrap eventually.  It might as well be in Athens, Georgia.


UPDATE: More necessity thoughts in this blog post of David’s.


UPDATE #2: Michael Elkon punctures HP’s self-congratulatory back patting.


UPDATE #3: South Carolina’s Ellis Johnson shares some thoughts about defending the spread.  I particularly like this quote:

Ellis Johnson: If the quarterback doesn’t run much and it’s never more than the quarterback and the running back in the backfield at the same time, it doesn’t present as many problems unless they’ve just got so many great athletes that you can’t match up. But you’ve got problems with any offense that has that many great athletes[Emphasis added.]

That’s one reason why I think Urban Meyer is shrewd.  He’s got an offensive system that he’s comfortable and successful running, but he’s running it in a tough defensive conference.  A scheme’s not enough and he knows better than to rest on his laurels as an offensive guru.  You’ve got to have those Jimmies and Joes to be a consistent powerhouse – a lesson which I expect Mullen and Malzahn to get some painful exposure to this season.



Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

4 responses to “Stopping the spread: another necessity is the mother of invention tale.

  1. digidy dawg

    The best way to defend the option is to have all the LB’s, & DB’s chase chickens in an open field. It worked for Rocky. That’s gotta be close to how it is to cover alot of these smaller faster wide reicevers & “athletes” that opposing coaches line up all over the field. Some of these teams that are using the spread so well are using more of these type of players that can do so many things other than just run, or catch. They’re hybrid’s like Piercey Harvey, so we need our own defensive equal.


  2. Pingback: Tuesday (7/21) reading « The Chapel Bell

    • digidy dawg

      Good article. A lot of good points made. It’s the evolution of the game. I really believe that CMR knows that this isn’t a fad & is recruiting more of the “athletes” & less of the one trick pony. Like the article said. Bigger safeties have become linebackers (maybe Ogletree), and linebackers have become defensive ends.


  3. 69Dawg

    Seemed to work real well in the spring game. LSU now has a pass rush DL of all DEs. I like the chicken chasing drill though it couldn’t hurt. If you can run press coverage on the spread WRs and throw them off their timing it should slow it down. Just line up and knock the snot out of the WR so he’s too busy trying to find his teeth to worry about a pass route.