Here’s another good piece from David Wunderlich, this time on how Dan Mullen looks to be returning to his offensive roots this year with Florida.
Dan Mullen comes from the modern spread-to-run school. It’s a large and decentralized movement with almost as many subgroups as it has practitioners. Depending on how it’s defined, it can include anyone from the usual suspects of Rich Rodriguez and Urban Meyer to Bill Snyder and even Paul Johnson.
We don’t have to guess at the principles of the philosophical line that Mullen descends from. In 2003 an awkward, Utah polo shirt-wearing Mullen filmed a tutorial DVD for Coaches Choice that the company has since uploaded to YouTube.
The initial introduction is no different than what you might hear from anyone in decades past detailing the point of spreading the field. “The theory behind our spread offense,” he explains, “is that we want to attack defenses and make them have to defend the entire field.” Through one sentence, the scheme is indistinguishable from, say, the West Coast Offense.
The distinctive parts come in when Mullen takes just one step beyond that. “Our ultimate goal in having a successful passing attack is to allow the defense to spread out so we’re able to run the ball,” he says in the passing game portion. In the segment on rushing, he says the offense is option-based and that three, four, and five-wide receiver sets are a “deception” designed to make defenses think the Utes are “a pass-oriented team”.
All well and good, but, as David notes, there’s a catch these days.
To combat the zone read option of offenses like Mullen’s specifically, defenses developed what’s called the scrape exchange. The unblocked defensive end will go after the running back every time, and a middle or outside linebacker will “scrape” around the end of the line to pick up the quarterback option. There are ways for offenses to then adjust to that and for defenses to respond and so on, but the plain vanilla zone read doesn’t work as well as it used to if the defense anticipates it properly.
Defenses also began employing different kinds of players who must do more than defenders of the past did. Florida under Todd Grantham uses the Star position, which is like a nickel cornerback who can at times function as a safety or even a linebacker. Other defenses will employ a Spur, which is a heavier position that’s more just a safety/linebacker hybrid. A Spur does less in coverage but must do more against the run than a Star does.
In other words, defenses won’t be caught off guard by Florida going back to the future with a mobile quarterback in the Emory Jones Era.
He thinks Mullen will have a few new tricks up his sleeve, tricks he’s learned over the past season with the Trask, pass-oriented scheme he ran to combat that. The only thing about that is Emory Jones ain’t Kyle Trask.