What is a pro-spread offense?

Ian Boyd looks at the key elements that comprise a state of the art college offense these days, which he labels a “pro-spread”:

Pro-spread tactics generally work along these lines:

  • The goal is to break down defenses with dropback/progression passing.
  • The key to doing so is with receivers who can reliably get open in 1-on-1 matchups.
  • A deep threat is the most valuable piece, as in every offensive system, but then your “running back” or “run game” is often divided between the literal run game and then your possession receivers who do heavy work every week moving the chains.
  • Hybrid weapons, particularly at tight end, often do some of the heavy lifting by moving around to create distortions in the defense the quarterback can use to diagnose the structure and find the open man.

Given that last characteristic, I thought he’d spend some time talking about what Georgia did last season.  I mean, this kind of rings a bell:

The emergence of the RPO (run/pass option) has been key here. When you can pair a power run from 11 personnel with a fullback/tight end hybrid in the backfield and a vertical threat in the slot, you can really put safeties and defenses in a bind.

Defenses are getting wise to RPO football and run/pass conflicts though. What they don’t have great answers for is problems like “how do we cover Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney at the same time if the offense insists on throwing the ball to them regularly?

As I argued in the last post, dropback passing from the spread is a higher form of offense with fewer answers from defenses. If you can get a skilled quarterback on the same page with NFL caliber receivers and multiple hybrid weapons at tight end and running back, you can solve most anything the defense tries to do.

The catch is that building these offenses is very difficult. You need a left tackle, for one, to build your protections around so your five-man crew can keep the quarterback upright long enough to get to his second or third read.

A deep threat wide receiver is extremely valuable as well. There’s no better way to clear out space underneath for your timing or option routes than to hold at least one safety deep on a hash to prevent a one-throw score.

The hybrid tight end who’s a matchup problem in space is sort of akin to a star running back in a power run game. You want a volume chain-mover who can pick up first downs regularly. Overall you want two really high level passing targets and then a few others who can do something when the defense focuses elsewhere.

But, no, it’s all about you know who.

Alabama went all-in on sophomore Bryce Young last fall and were still pretty sporadic on offense until the end of the year when they started to put it together. Watching them in their close loss against Texas A&M I could seen signs they were close to breakthrough and made a note they might have the best team in the country by the playoffs. They did, obliterating Georgia in the SEC Championship game, but then they lost their NFL receivers and couldn’t get the ball across the finish line.

Can we go ahead and elect Metchie and Williams to the College Football Hall of Fame already?

Sigh.  Well, if you can get past that, there’s good stuff from Ian there, as usual.  Take a minute and read it.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

33 responses to “What is a pro-spread offense?

  1. Last time I looked Jameson Williams was on the field in January before he was injured in the game. They didn’t score a TD with him in the game and only scored a gift TD after he left the game.

    Liked by 11 people

  2. Russ

    Alabama was the best team in the country last season except when they weren’t.

    Liked by 14 people

    • 81Dog

      Alabama was a wet fart away from losing 4 games last year. Maybe ease up on how they were clearly the best team in the country. Results say otherwise. Suck it, Gumps.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. practicaldawg

    Alabama is so great that the nation should mourn any year they don’t win it all. Because that could only happen if they have inexplicable bad luck. Maybe all teams should have a moment of silence before opening kickoff next season so we can keep Alabama fans in our prayers.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. How did Mookie Williams do vs TAMU and the correct answer to Ian was Brock Bowers.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Dawgfan1995

    Reading his article, the reason he doesn’t cite to UGA 2021 is this:

    “Teams who want to win this way have to be all-in. You have to treat your quarterback like a pro quarterback, choosing him for his talent and then giving him the lion’s share of reps in practice so he can build the familiarity with protections, defense, and his receivers to handle a heavy load.”

    He can’t say that about a former walk-on who hasn’t yet won the Heisman, after all — he wasn’t “cho[sen] … for his talent” according to the recruitniks, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. biggusrickus

    And how does he explain the inability to score against LSU and Auburn, the latter being the last game of the regular season when they’d “put it together”?

    That inexplicable SEC Championship Game loss seems to be all anyone can see when it comes to Bama.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. whb209

    When I look at articles on O. I try to figure out how I would try to stop them. This guy answers my question. Put the QB on his ass before he can make 2 or 3 reads. Just do it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • biggusrickus

      Ian has always written interesting things about offense, even if he’s contemptuous of anything that isn’t a version of spread offense. What he tends to ignore is how rule changes made modern passing offenses viable. More than innovation in concepts, the clamping down on interference, hitting defenseless players and doing anything more than gently tackling the QB have made the passing game what it is in the NFL. Teams simply took advantage of the changes.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    When we were 12-13 and having pickup games in the pasture we played a pro-spread offense: everybody go long; maybe one of you will catch it. 🤞🏻

    Liked by 4 people


    HIGHlarious shit.


  10. ugafidelis

    How did Alabama’s offense do against Auburn?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. uga97

    Good article except “fullback”? Everytime these folks try to attempt to write about our beautiful, wonderful natty, these jackasses flattire & just somehow “forget” to mention that our Offense scored 23 points in the final 18 minutes of the game, (not including the pick 6) which makes 29 points. Guess they are just too scared to troll the Tide.


  12. rowedawg11

    I read that the British stated the other day they would have won the war had they not lost their two best receivers………

    Liked by 4 people

  13. MGW

    Once the talent in the sport gets further consolidated into a smaller handful of teams after the super conferences settle out, we won’t have to worry about all these different pesky offenses anymore. They’ll get nice and streamlined, just like the NFL.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tony BarnFart

    Ian, now do 13 personnel with:
    AD Mitchell


  15. PTC DAWG

    Speaking of Mookie & Wilson

    Liked by 3 people

  16. kingcmo2000

    Stetson is a fascinating case study. As the center of a modern offense the qb is more important than ever. That said, the game has evolved to so favor the passing game that you don’t have to have a magician at the position. Essentially the floor on an offense that has everything (skill players, o-line, scheme) with a game manager is so high that it can exceed an offense with an Uber talented QB missing some or all of those things. Stetson may not be an nfl prototype, but you may not need one to build an exceptional offense today.
    And I think stet is underrated. A very good player.

    Liked by 1 person