The spread is what happens when spring practice isn’t man enough.

Chris Brown links to this fascinating history of spring football by Sports Illustrated.  There’s a quote from Bobby Bowden that caught my eye.  It’s about one major development which occurred in the wake of the practice restrictions the NCAA put in place in the late ’90s:

… The limit on the number of full-contact days unintentionally helped bring about an offensive revolution. With power-running programs unable to practice as they had before, coaches put players in pads and shorts and spread them across the field, working on one-on-one drills and operating in space. The result: a proliferation of the spread offense, run in some form by dozens of teams.

“You can coach the spread all year round,” says Bowden. “That rule of limiting contact in spring practice absolutely led to a shift in what offenses you see in college football today.”

Honestly, that never occurred to me before, but I can see a certain logic to it.  What do y’all think about that?

(By the way, the answer to Chris’ question in his header is “because we can”.  Just sayin’.)


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

11 responses to “The spread is what happens when spring practice isn’t man enough.

  1. Didn’t visit the link, but based on the quote it makes perfect sense. I’ll even take it a step further and say that with the recent court cases and the hyper-concern for head injuries, all we may see soon is spread type offenses.


  2. HK

    I miss widespread power offenses in college football.

    There’s nothing quite like the sight of a well blocked toss sweep coming around the corner with a couple of monsters leading the way, or a big running fullback busting through the line untouched and hitting the second level at full speed.

    Those inspire fear in a defense. Not just fear of the offense getting a first down, but fear of true punishment; knowing that even if you make the stop, its going to hurt.


  3. Will Trane

    Chris Brown. An authority on football. The man woke up one morning and decided to relate it to the seasons of the year. Such is the mind set of many sports writers. Too damn bad there is not spring writing sessions for these guys.
    Look Chris, what is happening with guys leaving and coming in? Do you want to take a peek at them 30 days before you open with say Bama, USC, UGA…why hell no, stupid. Coaches want to see certain things in the spring and see where they will be in the fall when their season starts. And to quote Bowden, whose offensive guru resides in Athens is not much better. Bowden would not know a spread offense looks like…well, I take that back. He was in the stands at Colquitt County High School season before last. He damn sure saw one that night. Most would agree that the spread started at the high school level in Texas. Wonder what Spurrier would say about his run and gun. But at UGA they long for the days of an I back along with a cart and whip.
    Chris, explain what NASCAR, the Diamond Dawgs, MLB do in the off season. That is right. Hand me the ball coach so I can do a little throwing before we play next week. Or lets take that car off the rig…you mean the one we ran last fall…does the battery work.
    Chris Brown…a man for all seaons…right now it is spring…Chris go to the campus in Athens and check at the eye candy. Spring…well turkey season opens in a few days. Hope like hell I do not see any like Chris Brown.


    • I have no idea what you are trying to say in this comment, but I think I can safely say I don’t think you read my full article. The article, in any event, was less concerned with why have practice or why the spread as simply a look at some of the history of spring practice and its evolution and possible effects. Keep in mind that if coaches could they’d probably just have football practice year round. Because they can’t, one of the questions then is why the spring? Like many things, it seems to have just began randomly and has been that way ever since.


  4. heyberto

    Reading this reminded me of the evolution of NFL offenses described in Michael Lewis’ book The Blind Side (if you only saw the movie, do yourself a favor and read the book). Using Michael’s logic and applying it to College Football, I always thought these atypical offenses (like the spread) emerged because it made up for a lack of personnel. I suppose Bowden’s comments put that thought in a new light. I do think it’s probably a combination of both in terms of what spurned the shift, but I do think it got crazy enough that people started running it just because it was there. The pinnacle of the spread was with Urban Meyer at Florida… he took an offense he and his staff understood and applied at a place where there was no talent deficiency and wreaked havoc with it for awhile. That was when it seemed to take off. I’m not sure anyone ran it as effectively as Urban did at Florida.


  5. Every time I come up with a new theory as to why the spread has proliferated so much more in college than the pro’s, I put that theory to smart coaches who come back with “No, it’s because NFL coaches are stubborn.”

    The non-contact thing can be filed under “Hypothesis 12: Less Practice Time Means Everyone Functions on the One-Thing-Plus-Constraints Principle.” It’s also dipping into the “Hypothesis 211: What’s a Spread? I’m a Spread! Everything’s a Spread Spread” thing, since Bowden seems to just be talking about receiver alignment, not the Zone Read, and if you don’t think the NFL is all about Ace and No-Back spread formations and passing 45 times a game you haven’t watched the NFL in awhile.


  6. 69Dawg

    Wow way to over analyze something. I agree with Coach Bowden. College football has under gone a massive change in my lifetime from 3 yards and a cloud of dust to the eleven man version of 7 on 7. You can’t perfect a running game without the OL blocking and blocking means hitting and colleges are limited by NCAA rule. Just heard on Mike & Mike that the Pro’s are starting to go more to the passing spread O because of the rules against hitting. Now the guys can go across the middle without the fear of being paralyzed. Soon we will see 7 on 7 flag football as the only form of American football allowed.


  7. Cojones

    Everyone should read all of the SI article before reading Brown and you would realize that you don’t have to bash the guy. He plagiaristically gave a paraphrased synopsis in a review of a good article by Lars Anderson. Read SI and then read Brown.


  8. I am a long time Bobby Bowden Fan & I tend to agree with his comments.
    Still I prefer the line them up & play power football concept.
    I think Richt & Bobo really prefer that also.