“I always felt like if they’re going to give you 53½ yards, you play with it…”

Here’s a really good piece on the strategy behind what Art Briles and Bob Stitt do on offense with what the article calls the “super-spread”.

The super-spread relies on simple math. If a cornerback is defending a athletic wide receiver in a confined area, the receiver will struggle to get open. But the more of the field the cornerback has to defend, the more successful the receiver is going to be.

Let’s say a defense is in man coverage and a corner is trying to defend a receiver that’s lined up five yards wider than normal. If that receiver gets targeted on a crossing route 5 yards downfield, and he has covered 15 yards laterally, the area under the route is 37.5 square yards. But if the receiver is lined up 5 yards wider and gets to the same spot, the cornerback has to cover 50 square yards. Sometimes the receiver won’t get to that same point, but there is more space to work with underneath the route before things get crowded.

Similarly, if the defense is in zone — let’s say cover four quarters, with three linebackers covering across the middle and four defensive backs lined up roughly 7 yards off the line of scrimmage — and two receivers are lined up 5 yards wider than normal, each of the three linebackers have to account for 3.3 yards more, width-wise. If the zone is roughly 5 yards deep, that’s 16.5 more square yards per zone.

That works particularly well when teams need to neutralize talent discrepancies, as was the case in Montana’s first game of the season — Stitt’s first game with the Grizzlies and first at the FCS level — against top-ranked North Dakota State. Though as Briles has shown through Baylor’s rise, having more talented players is no detriment; it just makes the offense that much more effective. Despite having inferior players who were being introduced to a new system, Montana neutralized the Bison defense. After giving up just 280 yards per game last year, NDSU gave up 544 yards.

North Dakota State’s defenders play well against the run and well against the pass, but it is almost impossible for them to play well against both, simultaneously. With the field spread so wide, it is impossible for teams to play zone effectively against a super-spread offense, so teams often opt to play the pass, spreading their defenses out to match the opposing offense. That means many defenses will only put five players in the box to rush the passer and defend the middle of the field.

“It’s an offensive line coach’s dream to get a five-man box,” Stitt said. “If you do the right things in the spread, you’re going to (get a five-man box).”

I said during the Montana-NDS game that in a few years, I could see a Stitt-coached Vanderbilt driving Nick Saban crazy.

5 Comments

Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

5 responses to ““I always felt like if they’re going to give you 53½ yards, you play with it…”

  1. Uglydawg

    Interesting..but there are downsides to having so much room…the widouts are wider-out…so the QB must throw a longer ball…and the opportunity for him to throw is pic-6 is more. Timing must be very good. Like most offensive schemes..you have to get the exact players to run it well.
    But the point that you use the whole field to your advantage is a great one.
    I would also point out that if the defensive backs are pulled out wide enough, they are effectively blocked from stopping anything up the gut or quickly over the middle.

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  2. Macallanlover

    Good analysis, but the ability to have a QB that is both a great runner, and a solid passer, plus having really good wide outs is a tough combination to put together. The increasing number of HS offenses to draw from is feeding the success at the collegiate level so we now see more ranked teams.

    UGA is one of the schools who get more potential NFL candidates because the spread offense doesn’t prepare them for the “money shot” but it is getting tougher to have to defend the two different types of offenses you find during a season, plus the myriad of variations of them.

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  3. Jp

    Paul Johnson has been doing this since 1985 double slots no tights . The defense can only line up a couple of ways because the must play the width of the field. Even sos has adopted this with sc after getting Elliot to coach his o line from app st. Spread concepts are here to stay , it helps your power run look at Ohio st. Angles are created .

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  4. W Cobb Dawg

    I suppose that’s the mathematical way of explaining what would normally be considered plain old common sense. I think the biggest earth-moving news is the O takes the initiative and attacks, rather than taking what the D gives.

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