Urban Meyer/Scott Frost -A Journey from Power Spread to PS2020

Posted: November 10, 2018 in All Things Power Spread
M Associated Press
Elsie Stromberg/The World-Herald

A Journey indeed. Urban Meyer made a big splash on the football scene at the turn of the millenium as Bowling Green’s Head Coach by using an evolved ideology both on and off the field. Power Spread. Scott Frost makes up part of that new breed of Coaches as he’s taking PS to a new level in exploration and execution. PS2020. These coaches met on the field for the first time last Saturday which took me on my own little journey. PS to PS2020.

The Coaches – A Mini PS History

Urban Meyer was one of the PS Triumvirate which also included Gus Malzahn and Art Briles. Power Spread had been a long time in the making. Starting with Rusty Russell’s Spread Formations and Jet Sweeps of the 1920s, the game “spread” from the intricate play designs of Frances Schmidt to the calculated systems of his protege Sid Gillman. Bill Walsh further defined this West Coast System, while Glen “Tiger” Ellison evolved Spread Formation Football (Dutch Meyer – protege of both Russell and Schmidt) into the Run & Shoot. Hal Mumme combined both of these ideas into the Air Raid. Howard Griffith, Manny Matsakis and Rich Rodriguez found ways to combine both the Power and Spread of the game into early Power Spread Schemes in the 90s. These coaches and many others paved the way for Meyer and the PS Triumverate of the New Millenium. 

Since then Mike Leach took the Air Raid to new heights while Chip Kelly did the same with Power Spread. The combo of both of these “spread” offenses produced a pre-cursor of Power Spread Air Raid or PSAR by Tony Franklin, then a full blast PSAR system by Dana Hogorsen. Bill Belichick brought Spread ideas to the NFL(some directly from Urban!), while Jim Harbaugh was the first to truly synthesize a ProPS Offense. Andy Reid and Doug Pederson are now leading a slew of NFL coaches in synthesizing many PS Concepts on both Offense and Defense in the NFL. Sean McVey introduced a form of ProPSAR in 2017, which other NFL Teams are incorporating this year. 

Meanwhile, a host of College Coaches are synthesizing all of the above into a new form of Power Spread. PS2020. PS Concepts in all 3 phases of the game as well as recruiting and other off the field activities. Scott Frost is one of the leaders of this new evolution of PS Coaches.  Older coaches have either evolved or gotten out of the way. Even a dinosaur like Nick Saban has gone 100% Power Spread with incredible results. It’s within this exciting evolutionary mix that I embarked on my own tiny journey of PS Football. 

Nebraska at Ohio State – November 3rd, 2018

I had this game on my Calendar. I’ve been following Frost for a while. Love his PS2020 Attitude and Schemes. I knew his team is still far away from their best, but was curious how they would play in these schemes and energy versus a PS monster in OSU. 

The 2 weeks preceding the game I had some exciting emails with certain people of import on what I thought the Buckeyes could do to remedy their run game and defensive ills. I felt the Defense was a work in progress, but getting closer. In his press conference after the Purdue game, DC Greg Schiano echoed those same sentiments. With Greg’s schemes, there’s always a question of adding more variety to the aggression, but I feel that’s something we will see as he grows more confident in his young players.

As for the offense I really felt Urban needed to simplify and get back to his roots. Spread to run. The Power side of Power Spread has always been his MO. Maybe run Martell at QB some, get the ball out of Haskins hands quickly to athletes wide and in space, then pound the middle.  Watching the game live I didn’t see Martell in the game, but I saw a lot of spreading the field to hammer the middle. I loved it!

I also saw the brilliance of Frost – his schemes on both Offense and Defense. The energy with which his team played. Even late in the game after they fell behind. I didn’t see the Nebraska “Bear0” defense that Urban mentioned, but I saw an aggressive Defense that mixed blitzes and coverage. Nebraska made a ton of mistakes, but Frost definitely has them headed in the right direction.  Big win for the Buckeyes.

What I heard in the post game interview with Urban I was very surprised. He mentioned the Bear0 Defense again. He also mentioned playing a Pro-Style scheme and just pounding the ball up the middle even if his Offense was outnumbered in the Box. I didn’t see any of this!? It started me on an analytical journey of the entire game throughout this past week. The following is the chronological discoveries I made in studying this game.

The Analysis

At first I was just wanted to take a quick review of the game to see if I missed some Bear Defense or Pro Offense. The further I delved into the game the more I was intrigued. While I definitely didn’t see much evidence of either a Bear D or Pro O I did see a lot of interesting schemes and concepts. I expected that from a Frost led team, but Urban is also working hard to evolve his Power Spread, while still keeping his original power/team ideology that makes his Power Spread unique to him.

Fourteen videos and an article later and I think I have reached a conclusion. The videos are purely a representation of my experience of analyzing this game. It really felt like a little journey. This was not meant as a critical review. I ask questions, because I have questions. I explore, because I love to explore. Both of these coaching staffs are the top in their business with a lot of experience behind them. But no matter how critical I may come off, it is the journey and experience that excites me – not the critique. Evolving is fun – let’s do it together.

By the way, all these videos and more can be found at PowerSpread YouTube. Here we go…

Urban Meyer – A Pro-Style Offense??

This is Part 1 of what Urban Meyer said after the game. That Ohio State is a “Pro-Style” team. Who’s he kidding? I say that with some humor, but seriously, this is Power Spread all the way. Later in the 2nd Half we will see some Pro PS elements, but most Pro Teams do not run the No Huddle on every play and rarely run Tempo. They also go from under center a lot and run from Bunch Sets mixed with Passing Spreads. It’s all very distinctive and very different than from what OSU runs. 

Below is a reply from Ross Fulton on my comments that OSU does not run a Pro-Style Offense. I love Ross’ work and highly recommend him to anyone who wants to dig in deeper with the nuts and bolts of these Power Spread schemes. I also may have come off a bit harsh with my Tweet. Ross may be right about Meyer’s thinking. If he is, then I think this is a term Urban should drop from his vocabulary when dealing with the media. It’s way too loose, imo, to equate any of this to a “pro” style of football. Even ProPS, which is a term that only I’m using at the moment.  

But I also question whether Ross is correct in this term Pro-Style simply being used by Urban to describe a situation where he’s not using the QB as a running threat. I think there is a psychological basis behind everything Urban does. I think he’s putting it out there for everyone to hear. #1 his team. #2 all the other teams. ALABAMA IS NOT THE ONLY PRO TEAM OUT THERE! My team powerful too and will run you over if you sleep on us!

Whatever Urban is really thinking when he says Pro-Style and promotes the idea of overpowering other teams – we will never know for sure – but it will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out as the season moves along. Especially if OSU somehow gets into the playoffs at the end of the year. 

Urban Meyer – Power Spread All The Way!

What’s not in doubt for me is that OSU is 100% a Power Spread Team with very little that is “Pro” about it.

This video shows OSU’s 3rd Offensive Series of the game. Their 1st Drive was full of Power run plays. The 2nd Drive introduced Spread passing plays. We were stopped on 4th&1 during on Drive 1. Touchdown on Drive 2. This 3rd Drive was a classic combo of power + spread runs combined with the pass. Urban Meyer Power Spread 101.

With either simple Read Options or the threat of RO or RPO out of the Pistol, the Defense was concerned with the feet and arm of QB Haskins. It did not matter whether these plays were direct handoffs or options. While it’s true that Haskins has not been a top runner from the QB position this year, he’s still a big threat throwing on the run or keeping the D honest with some up field running. He commands attention and that is the basic premise of Urban Meyer’s PS Football. Open up the field-space to let the athletes do their thing! It’s a Team Oriented, Power Version of Power Spread – but one of the original ideologies of this kind of football.

What Bear Zero?

This is Part 2 of Urban Meyer’s post game comments. Nebraska plays a Bear Zero Defense. He said this during the week before the game as well. I really didn’t see it.

For me the Bear Defense hearkens back to the Bear Defenses under Buddy Ryan. What is also called the 46 for his pivotal S/LB Hybrid player Doug Plank who wore #46. I explain it more in the video but these defenses are super aggressive with 8 men in the box and press coverage. While the exact scheme played by Buddy is no longer relevant, the concept of aggressive run and blitz pressure from 6 on the Line of Scrimmage and 8 in the Box is still what I know as Bear. Nebraska didn’t run anything like this. At least this game.

The Zero part of this scheme means Cover 0. No Safety help. Not only did Nebraska usually run a Cover 1 or 2 (1 or 2 Deep Safeties) they also mixed in some Quarters coverage along with Cover 3. Very rarely were they Cover 0. 

Another big part of Bear Defense is the NT and 2 DEs covering the C and 2 Gs – in other words plugging the middle run. Again, Nebraska sometimes had a NT and 1 DE over a G – but never had the whole interior line covered. 

The only thing Bear about this Defense is some of the press coverage used. And sometimes 8 in the Box when OSU showed heavy jumbo sets or tight spread sets.  But again, as with the use of Pro-Style, this is a very liberal take by Meyer. This was nothing like Buddy’s old Bear scheme nor the modern Bear Scheme of today.

I will have to review some previous Husker games to see if it was something they were running earlier in the year. But I can tell you for this game they were running a 3-4 Hybrid with a Mix of Coverage Shells + Press/Man. Most of the time they had 6 in the box with one of the outside LBs out on the Slot WR as a LB/NB Hybrid.

OSU 100% Power Spread

This video shows OSU on a 3rd&2 at the 12:49 mark of the 2nd Qtr. THIS is the first sign of any kind of Bear Defense from the Huskers. They were loaded some in the box, but mainly because OSU employed a TIGHT spread set. OSU ran a simple play action quick pass that the WR dropped. Great call that should have been a 1st down, but not the “pounding” that Urban said he did versus a loaded box. We mixed it up, pass/run, wide/middle, the whole 1st Half. Mainly versus 6 in the box. Power Spread.

BTW, all the talk that we were not running RPOs (RunPassOption) really needed to be a non factor in the discussion. First of all, Nebraska didn’t know that and were many times chasing our QB around and opening big holes for our RBs anyway. Secondly, RPOs are a recent staple of ProPS and now the college game as well. Power Spread was flourishing long before the RPO with simple RO or Pistol schemes. If anything, I feel less RPOs harken back to PS 101. What Urban started with. Not Pro. Power Spread. RPOs are a great addition to Power Spread, but a non factor as an overall ideology for an Offense or Team. Especially a team in College with so much freedom of scheme at its disposal. 

OSU PS versus Nebraska 3-4 Hybrid Mixed Coverage

My journey at this point of the game had me really fired up that I really wasn’t seeing pro or bear – I was watching PS vs a 3-4 Hybrid. To be honest, I don’t see the benefit in a Bear DScheme versus PS Offenses anyway. It’s too over aggressive. This 3-4 Hybrid of Nebraska had more variety and blitzed judiciously while mixing a lot in coverage. Moving from Cover 2 to 1 or 3. Some press. Some man. Blitzing from anywhere at anytime, but rarely bringing the house. The DScheme and play calling definitely made it tough for QB Haskins of OSU. And for a while the run game, which didn’t flourish until late when the Husker Defense was fatiguing. 

In the video, I actually erred in over focusing on the lack of a Bear D. I missed commenting on our new Pistol Run Scheme to add more Power to Urban’s PS. For sure it worked a lot better in the 2nd Half for 2 reasons. First, the Oline was coming off the ball with more attitude the 2nd Half. here it looks like they are zone blocking. Not the case in the 2nd Half. Also, the Husker D had much better energy the 1st Half. Came down some mentally, physically, then emotionally. But to their credit, didn’t give up one bit!

Finally, I also feel somewhat foolish for ranting so much about Haskins abilities versus zone coverages. I still say he’s very good for a college QB at reading Defenses and could be a great one, but he struggled some with the tough DScheme of Nebraska. He really struggled with his Hot Reads. When there is a blitz, the QB is supposed to go right to the spot from which the Blitzer attacked. Many times the play was there but either the WR or Haskins was slow to read the play. The very next play after this video, Haskins ignored his Hot Read, held the ball too long, and got crushed, turning the ball over. I’m show the staff will work on this with him. MSU’s DScheme may not be as hard to read, but Michigan’s DC Brown is top notch and loves to mix blitzes.

The Simple Genius that is Power Spread by Scott Frost

I mentioned in the video that Frost’s big influences were Tom Osborne and Chip Kelly late. This is true, but I forgot to mention a big one – Bill Walsh- who was Frost’s first influence. Walsh was a genius. He studied the game with unique perspective from his early days. He ended up furthering the Gillman approach to find ways to use all the field in a simple ordered pattern. Osborne was another smart man, great at understanding the mix of Power Running with the Pass. Kelly of course is the PS Guru. Kelly is almost a combination of Meyer, Malzahn and Briles and may still have a say in the Future machinations of Power Spread. 

Frost has to be a smart guy to understand the concepts of these three mentors. It shows in his schemes. Early on, Nebraska ran some exotic schemes and interesting play calling, but this drive was brilliant simplicity. Nothing real innovative or out of the box. Just good PS Offense. Using the whole width of the field with a great mix of run and pass. Options combined with quick hits, passes and even a sprint rollout left! Not only PS 101 – this is Offense 101. 

Marinez Ball Fake – Great PS / Option Football 

After all the spreading, Nebraska ran some kind of Read Option every single play and went right down the field for another TD. Mix of power and spread runs, while alternating QB Keep/RB Give. 

The actual TD by Martinez. He effectively acts as a blocker taking out 4 players with his ball handling. Four OSU players followed Martinez while the RB plowed up the middle for a TD. A record 4Man Block by the smallest guy on the field!

OSU Good Drive Bad Finish to Start the 2nd Half – Nebraska Mixing Coverages

OSU started the 2nd Half with a great PS Mix on Offense – spread runs, passes, power runs. With that being said, Nebraska really showed their inexperience. Great attitude, but over agg with a lot of mistakes. One such mistake led to a big screen pass to Dobbins. But OSU lost some variety – going to the outside run one times too many – and Neb stuffed it. Then the tricky Coverage Mix once again by Neb fooled Haskins into an interception in the endzone.  

OSU Pistol + Jumbo Package – Spread Power

First we start seeing the Pistol and start to pound the ball. Too the credit of the OSU Oline they really went after it with a different attitude in the 2nd Half. Pad level, technique, the stuff Urban said they worked on for 2 weeks. 

Still, in saying this, the Nebraska D was fatiguing some – mentally probably as much or more so than physically. Also, the talent of the OSU RBs is amazing. Just need a little space. All of our spreading in the 1st Half and even some on this drive opened some space. Add in the Oline attitude + a tiring Defense… well, you can do the math. 

We also see the jumbo package (3TE) for the first time. It looks like a PS Wishbone similar to some of the stuff Dana Holgorsen runs. I like it a lot. It reasserts the Power dominance that Urban Meyer wants from his Power Spread. It’s especially effective when the Defense is starting to wear down. No fakes or options – just power handofffs. Though even with this scheme you will notice Haskins carrying out the fake rollout to draw some of the defense away from the middle of the field and open space.

I also compare the heavy Pistol runs of the 1st Drive to the runs of the 3rd Quarter. Three’s a big difference in the energy of the Nebraska’s Defense. We had decent pad levels even in the first quarter, but the Husker energy was much higher to start the game. Fatigue played a factor. The timing of these power schemes was perfect by OSU.

What I didn’t mention in the video is we may see some great Spread Power schemes in the future from this Jumbo Package. Spread Power is never done much in College or the NFL. It’s the kind of ideology Wisconsin made famous. Heavy tight sets, from which players spread out all over the field post-snap. Sort of the other side of the Power Spread coin. I expect we will see some interesting play designs from these Jumbo Sets in the future. Especially versus an aggressive D that wants to slam the run like Michigan. 

The Closest the OSU Offense came to a Pro PS Offense

Out of the pistol in a tight 3WR or 2TE set is the closest Meyer came to a ProPS offense. A lot of drive blocking out of tight sets set up by WR motion. Still it was set up by a lot of PS 101 that Meyer has run for almost 20 years. Also, Meyer’s team will run the jet sweep or QB Run or RPO at the drop of the hat. All with No Huddle and possible Tempo. IF I call this ProPS I’m using the term lightly.

BTW – WHAT A RUN BY WEBER! With all teams running some version of Power Spread now – College and Pro alike – talent is starting to come to the forefront again. PS Offense vs a PS Defense – talent can be a deciding factor.

So we have the talent and the Defense is fatiguing. So keep running the same player over and over. Not so fast. That simply doesn’t work anymore. The talent edges still aren’t what they used to be. 

OSU runs weber into the middle – not much. So next player – same motion from the Slot Back Campbell as 2 plays before – but this time the give is to Campbell, the fake power by Weber. Campbell sprints to the right sideline – TOUCHDOWN. Variety is always needed. Aggressive Variety. Power Spread.

PS Defense – Need Variety! – Coverage and Blitz Mix

This video shows OSU in it’s exotic passing downs 3-3 Defense. I’d like to see this more on all downs. I explain why in this short video and hope that Schiano grows more confident with his players to finish out the year and uses their speed and talent to overwhelm and confuse offenses. Too many Line Slants and Stunts + too much Man Under leads to easy to read over aggression. Zone blitz, pre-snap movement, mixing cover shell shifts – etc – keep it simple, but keep variety. Easier said than done.

Speaking of coverage mixes. Here Nebraska starts in a 2-4 Cover 2 and moves into what I call a Cover 6. The tight Safety effects both Haskins and the WR creating a total miscommunication and wildly incomplete pass. 

Old School Urban Meyer POwer Spread 

OSUs last TD. After the heavy Pistol runs, OSU went back to spread passing to open up space again, then went back to Power Spread for it’s last drive. A mix of short passes, power runs and even a deep pass to loosen the Defense, which was starting to key on the short stuff. Finally a classic Read Option, Urban Meyer PS 101 straight up the gut Touchdown!

Summary

In the 2nd Half Nebraska’s Defense tired some, but the Offense kept applying pressure. Still 3 straight 3&Outs to start the half hurt. Two dropped passes on 3rd down-one that would have been a huge gain- and a pass that came up inches short were killers. Nebraska made a load of mistakes on O, D and SpTeams. Take away half these mistakes and they very well could have won! 

The great thing for Frost is that his team didn’t quit. OSU let down a bit on both O and D. The D also started playing  too passive in Cover 2 or a loose Quarters.  Husker QB Martinez ate this up. Two late scores made this a close game. Even the Defense kept fighting as they were losing their legs late. Frost said the loss hurt, but the future looks bright. I agree. More experience and talent to go with these schemes and attitude could really be scary for the rest of the Big 10 and all of College Football.

Urban Meyer PS 2020

As for the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer I think there were a lot of positives. I don’t know about all the Bear Defense and Pro Offense talk, but what’s really happening is that Urban is evolving his PS Offense, while still keeping the basic tenets of his Oline/Power oriented Power Spread.

Old School PS Offense as a singular concept or ideology isn’t good enough anymore. A lot of coaches – even the great Malzahn – are going toward PSAR or Power Spread Air Raid. For Urban this is too much spread. He needs more power. So he has to evolve a bit into the future with PS2020. I think that’s starting to happen.

Not necessarily a Pro PS, but a mix of this along with Spread Power. I think there will be more. And more Variety. I know Urban likes to create Power Rhythm that eventually wears down the Defense, but there’s other ways to do that. No matter what, Variety is needed. Even better – FLEXIBILITY. That hidden concept that PS2020 coaches like Frost are starting to touch upon.

While this win by Urban and his team is not about the re-emergence of the running game like so many people think, it may just be the start of something greater. An Urban Meyer PS2020 Offense which will explore more ways to power and open up space with different sets and schemes and maybe eventually different kinds of tempos.

The question is whether or not Urban will keep Aggressive with Variety. Aggression, by itself, is not longer sufficient.  If he clamps down to one or two concepts, then progress will be stymied. But if he continues to explore ways to open space for power, and vice versa, then we may see a new innovative way of using Power Spread. Stay tuned.

~DP

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