“There’s such a thing as a ‘college football offense’: 90% of America runs 60% of the same plays.”

Boy, you should take the time to read this.  It’s one of the best things Bill Connelly has written.

Although, tying back into this post from yesterday, I’d like to say Bill may be a little premature with his intro.

It had to be LSU that landed the final blow.

You knew the battle was almost over when Nick Saban’s Alabama changed its stripes, opened up its offense and kept winning. When the Los Angeles Rams nearly won the Super Bowl with a quarterback from an Air Raid offense, then the Kansas City Chiefs did win one with an even better Air Raider, the ref had to think seriously about stopping the fight. But when LSU not only adopted a spread identity in 2019, but then proceeded to put together maybe the best offensive season in the history of college football, the fight was done.

The spread offense revolution is over. The spread won.

The Tigers had come to personify Big Burly Manball more than anyone. They were the school of workhorse backs and impossibly physical defenses. They beat Alabama in 2011 while scoring six points in regulation, after all. But after a couple of aborted modernization attempts, head coach Ed Orgeron put together the perfect mix of personnel to operate a devastating, innovative spread offense.

I hope there’s a blow still to be landed in Athens, Georgia.

The funny thing is that Smart seems to have absorbed the lesson on defense already.

Good defense is all about multiplicity

Today, offense comes down to reads and conflict. How much can your quarterback process both before the snap and directly after? How well can your structure isolate specific defenders and make them guess wrong? That makes it tricky for a defense to scout opponents in the traditional way.

“People always try to take away whatever a team does best,” Heacock said. “Well, the hardest part now is when they’re in these offenses, what are they running the most of? That’s hard to decipher. They’re so based on what you’re doing, and what they do best in one game might not be what they do best in another. I think it used to be, a team lines up, and, ‘Hey, they’re a power team, a tight end run team, an inside zone team.'” And now they’re just designed to do whatever you’re not set up to stop.

Heacock set up his Iowa State defense, then, to show as little as possible. He crafted a unique version of the 3-3-5 defense, with a tight front three and eight players who swarm to the ball. In a way, they do what offenses have long sought out to do — create space for their runners. Their effect is to prevent big plays and force offenses to tolerate going five yards at a time. “I’d never heard of doing this, to be honest,” Heacock said. “We just tried to do what we could do in the conference we were playing in with the guys that we had. But when you look out there on offense, everything looks the same. That’s where you’re trying to get an advantage.”

Other defenses have gone in a different direction. If the spread offense is about getting defenses to declare themselves, declare the thing offenses are least interested in doing. “Someone told me a long time ago,” Diaz said, “one way to take away the triple option is to take away the option. You tell them what you want them to do and then force them to do it.”

You can do that in part with the alignment of your players. You also can do it by convincing the quarterback he sees something he doesn’t.

“Give ’em as many false reads as you can give ’em,” Steele said.

Read the whole thing.



Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

13 responses to ““There’s such a thing as a ‘college football offense’: 90% of America runs 60% of the same plays.”

  1. spur21

    I think Kirby has a top five defensive mind. With that being said I would expect him to look at the teams that give him fits and share that information with with his OC. I don’t get why he doesn’t tell them – look this offense is hard to stop why don’t we give it a shot.

    He recruits at a level not matched by most so why doesn’t he use the tools in his overflowing tool box?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kirby just needs to give us an offense that our defense can be proud of.

      I look at last year and chalk up the South Carolina loss to what we didn’t do. Take care of the football and cash in on opportunities when they were there. With execution, we beat them by 3 TDs. The problem was South Carolina showed others the defensive blueprint. The LSU loss was a different animal. We didn’t execute on either side of the ball. We let Burrow make plays with his feet to extend plays by playing off (the exact same thing we did in the 1st half of the Rose Bowl). We were absolutely awful on offense. We let the game get out of hand.

      I trust Kirby has learned from his mistakes.


  2. You can’t tell me what to do!

    Fine, I’ll read it.


  3. mddawg

    I really enjoyed the article. And I’m really glad that RichRod referred to it as “the year we won the Sugar Bowl” and not “the year we beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl”.


  4. One issue that permeates elite level football is defense wins…offense lights up the score board…given how many times the HC from the New England teams visits Athens town, one would think conversation between HC’s goes on and that Kirb’s would sponge some/alot of that experience, not just play calling but staffing, managing…the one thing i don’t get with coaching is the idea of putting the breaks on the “O” with a 20, 30, 40 point lead, the 2nd team, 3rd team and such needs the reps from the play book just like the 1st teamers do….


  5. Otto

    I have been saying the problem with manball isn’t that it doesn’t work it is that the team needs to go more retro with the addition of a FB to bring back the I formation. The NFL is now using FB more and as such wouldn’t be college gimmick offense to make 2nd tier programs a thorn in the side of contenders but could actually be used as a tool to recruit players to a NFL ready skillset/scheme.


  6. Milton Dawg

    If any of you haven’t seen “Detail From The Mind of Nick Saban” through ESPN breaking down Joe Burrow before the draft, it is a fascinating watch. I caught it early one weekend morning before anyone but me in the house was awake. Yes, Nick is as dry as always. But listening to him describe the plays he looks at in detail is a master’s course in offense from a defensive mind’s perspective and what the addition of Brady to LSU meant. We’ve all read how LSU basically had very few offensive looks, but how they exploited defenses amazing. When I was reading the article above and it talked about forcing defenses to “declare” that was one thing that Nick constantly referred to in the show. If you can find the show and stream it, it is well worth the time. Be forewarned, you’ll be even less impressed with the offensive staff at Georgia in 2019 than you already are.


    • Lutz Dawg

      Great post. i watched the show and thought the exact same thing. Saban is very bland: but i really enjoyed listening to him break down each play. I’m with you….LSU made teams declare what they were going to do defensively and then Burrow could dissect them. It’s a great watch.


  7. Is this what I’m seeing (defenses turning the tables on the O), when it appears like they (and we did this) throw 10 guys right up to the line of scrimmage, none appearing to have any tell on what they’re about to do once the ball is snapped ?


  8. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    “It had to be LSU that landed the final blow.”

    It ain’t the final blow. The game continually evolves. If you start with Hal Mumme in 1997, and go forward to LSU in 2019 it only took 22 years to land the ‘final’ blow.

    EE is right: the offense needs to be good enough for the defense to be proud of it. It needs to be good enough to score or at the very least maintain possession long enough to give the D a blow. No three and outs is important; all the 3 and outs in the LSU game had our D gassed.

    The good news is that CKS has shown he knows the problem and is taking steps to solve it. The even better news is that his D has a clue about how to defend the offense. I sure hope there is a season this year.


    • Hobnail_Boot

      I’d mostly scrubbed the 2019 SECCG from my memory but now I’m having nightmares of dropped passes.


  9. Mayor

    Damn good article!