The AJC had a gotcha! piece this past weekend on Urban Meyer keeping his playbook open for visiting coaching staffs to peruse during the college football offseason. Not surprising, really--most coaching staffs use the offseason as a kind of endless professional seminar, visiting other schools from the midgets of the mid-majors to the titans of the megaconferences to exchange ideas, crib notes on other schemes, and to dissect the new hotness in strategy while taking what they can back home to implement with their own teams. Testimony to the braininess of football as a game in general may be found here--how many other professions travel as far and wide as coaches do to learn better ways to do their job, much less figure out what other people are doing? Jewel thieves don't put this kind of energy and detail into their work.
Kiss our ass, Sanjay Gupta: Neurosurgeons ain't got shit on football coaches.
This attention, effort, and damage done to the arteries in the form of fast-food dinners on the road has to be spent carefully, of course; competition means that as you're out destroying the menu at the Eat 'N Park in Morgantown your adversaries could be doing the same in Gainesville, picking up the finer points of Urban Meyer's variant of the spread. Picking carefully seems to be something that everyone does all at once, though, since there seems to be one or two places each offseason that coaches migrate to, like pudgy birds flocking to different watering holes. There are no secrets in coaching, only consensus on what's working and what isn't.
Which begs the question: why are coachbirds still flocking to Gainesville to peep Urban Meyer's offense after a 50th place finish in D-1 offense last year?
For those of us who parsed every play of the 2005 season like the lines of Finnegan's Wake, the question's a perfectly valid one, since the hullabaloo surrounding the spread option collapsed in a pile of long, meaningless drives and three and outs ending with five-yard curls a yard shy of the first down marker. 28.4 points a game does not make happy in a football tribe that views 40 points a game as "just getting started," as Paul Westerdawg is all too happy to point out. In fact, [NAME REDACTED]'s offenses did substantially better than Meyer's did in year one, numbers that will likely force Gator fans to grab their ass in pain at the memory of teams that scored 35 and watched leads die in the fourth quarter.
Scored points. Lost games. Got better and better.
We wanted to rebut Paul by reading the fine print of the statistics, but the only thing we can say for sure concerns turnover margin and time of possession, which both rose significantly under Meyer, with turnover margin rising to a +18, good for third in the nation behind USC and TCU.
The rest is true and indefensible--for the most part, they were mediocre and it showed.
And yet...they still come. Why? Because incorporating elements of the spread can take an offense and provide an instant Viagra dose to yardage and scoring. Looking at the top twenty offenses in the nation, most of them are NOT in fact spread offenses. They may use elements thereof, sure, and that's where the coaching visits come in; but the real import of the system comes with the tinkering the scheme allows coordinators to do with the pieces they have. It's been particularly useful for programs looking to take a square peg qb with some legs and give them a hole to fill, giving them run/pass options in a simple framework even the hoariest of coaches can work with in game situations. It's as if coordinators everywhere all get the same spam email:
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Old coaching dogs get new life--with Spreadzyte!
Unlike spam, the results seem to hint at some validity here. The prime beneficiaries of spreaducation from 2005: Texas, Oregon, and Penn State, all teams that took elements of the spread option--particularly the qb read option--and incorporated them into existing offenses. Penn State's may be the best example of what we're talking about here, since the Paleolithic Galen Hall (who may or may not be the original Galen, father of pharmacy) learned new tricks to turn Michael Robinson from a scattershot former wideout into a db-maiming terror. The same may be said of Vince Young, too; in fact, as Young got more freedom to run he seemed to become more accurate throwing the ball, another dividend we'd happily attribute to the installation of certain elements of the spread.
The great irony with Meyer and with fellow spread godfather Rich Rodriguez this year is that they both have to now retune their still-buzzworthy schemes in the face of evolving personnel and opposing defenses. West Virginia will now face stacked defenses 24-7 after their great coming-out party in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia (there, wait, now...yeah, that knife's been firmly twisted, Georgia fans. You're welcome--feel free to mention Alabama, 31-3 anytime you like.) Pat White's going to have to pass more, which should be fine since Rodriguez also coached another would be scatback at qb who evolved into an avenging terror of a pass/run threat, Woody Dantzler, our all-time East Coast backyard football qb.
Woody Dantzler rocked your ass.
Florida has already had to rescheme after last year's shocking discovery that Chris Leak weeps at the thought of goes down in a solid gust of wind strongly dislikes running anything resembling an option or qb draw. Chances are that given the retooled Gator offense is on four games worth of tape now, the rescheming will continue, albeit on a small scale now that Chris Leak seems to know his ass from an option pitch now. In terms of results, Florida's got little to lean on, spread-wise; in terms of potential, the scheme's adherents provide the best testimony for its potential efficiency, even with the contact-averse Leak at the helm.
And it was just year one--we'll gladly set off alarm bells if the sloth offense creeps into year two. Georgia's offense in year five of the Richt era, by the way? Just five slots up from Florida's at number 45 nationally, and that's with all-gene pool wonder D.J. Shockley at qb. In terms of the SEC, both Meyer and Richt (a former boy genius OC himself at FSU) are chasing Al Borges for the status of being points machines in the SEC.