Posts Tagged ‘Power Spread’

Before we get fully involved in yet another Bowl Season in College Football, I felt it necessary to inform our 2 loyal readers (Kurt, do we have that many yet?) on where has been and where its headed for the future. (No, we are not headed off a steep slope and into oblivion!)

It may seem that we are driving a car in a fog in the middle of the night and forgot to turn on the headlights, but be patient loyal fans, for there is more to come – a lot more.

Truth be told I am a professional Tennis writer also and I am trying to develop a professional Tennis Site for the new year. This has cut into my time for Football more than I would have liked. But I also have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes (A LOT! – ask Kurt) and will be implementing a lot of this work into the site during the following year in what will really be our first LEGIT season of College Football in 2012. We will continue experimenting and working behind the scenes during the CBasketball season so expect some fun stuff – especially as we get closer to March Madness.

But the main thrust of this site is the Changing Face of American Football and in line with this theme there will be some real changes to the site – from the home page design to all the categories and sub-categories. We wont stop until we are satisfied with what we believe is a suitable product for mine and Kurt’s grandiose ideas! We will also make the site more conducive to quicker posts, which will mean much more material along with more timely material. Eventually we will work in some “live” minute to minute action with the NYC Underground becoming totally immersed in the College Scene around the city.

Lastly, I have been working on a full “connect the dots” History of Spread offenses and where they actually started and how the Power Spread came to be. In fact, 2 weeks ago I worked 24/7 for a week straight accumulating information to add to what I already knew on the details of how it all began in the 50s(for the most part), grew in the 60s, exploded in the 70s/80s, solidified in the 90s and grew again from a passing spread to power spread in the 00s. It will take weeks and months to share all this info and I will slowly be leaving posts on the site – especially once the categories are more organized to enable quick access to the information.

For now, Kurt and I will share the Bowl Season with our excited reader(s) and work hard at producing a product for next season that we can all share in and learn a little, live a little and most of all, HAVE FUN with the great sport of Football!


I was cleaning up the mess from last week and came across this interview with Kragthorpe in Nov,2003 about his first QB at Tulsa, James Kilian – a mobile QB that Kragthorpe structured his offense around.

In modern football, with the speed and athleticism of the defenses out there today you have to have a guy who can make some plays with his feet and James can do that as evidenced with the runs he made the other night. What it does for us offensively is that it allows taking advantage of his abilities and making people defend the quarterback. If the guy is just a pure pocket passer without the threat of running the football whether it is a little speed option, whether it is a zone read play, whether it’s a quarterback draw, or whether it’s throwing the ball back to the quarterback like we have done on a couple of occasions, then you have become a little bit easier to defend. So, I think that James and his abilities make it tougher on defenses in terms of preparation for our entire offense and then you know.

Before that he was a BYU boy (his dad a coach on the staff), but was thrown into the Texas A&M option offense, which the head coach wanted him to change to the “west coast” style byu offense. Then after Tulsa he inherited the complicated (both scheme wise and off the field issues) Petrino Louisville team. Then back to A&M under west coast Sherman, who had to give in to doing some power spread due to injuries and ineffective passing from the QB.

Now he’s basically went backwards with Old School College/Pro set Les Miles. Miles was actually a good OC himself – BUT THAT WAS IN THE 90s!! He wont progress. But Krags just does what the boss tells him – no really unique stye. But there’s no doubt that Tulsa was by far his best Offense – power spread!

I just cant help but wonder – if he had been paired with the next OC at Tulsa – Gus Malzahn. Brilliant QB mind with a brilliant Spread mind and Herb Hand as Oline coach bringing ideas from Rich Rodriguez’s PS at West Virginia. I venture to say that as great as the Malzahn Tulsa offenses were, they may have been better! Even if Meyer hired him as a QBs coach for OSU – I would love that. He has parkinson’s , but he is still a big part of LSU’s offense. He would help out young Tom Herman, an up and coming talent himself, but who has the job of QB coach along with OC. Of course, I have full faith in what Meyer’s doing at OSU and his moves so far have been practically perfect, imo.

Kragthorpe is a great qb coach – a good play caller and game planner – he has proven all of this everywhere he’s been. Even at Louisville, Brian Brohm had a HUGE senior season in Krag’s first year. This was the one place where Kragthorpe’s incredible flexibility got in the way as he tried to mesh his his less complicated BYU system with a very complicated NFL style Petrino passing game. In this one case a little bit of hard headedness may have paid off – trash the Petrino system after Brohm graduated and start new. But it was much more complicated than that. And with all the off the field issues there really was no hope.

Maybe if he can keep the Parkinson’s at bay we will yet see some more surprises by this coach who shocked the world at Tulsa a decade ago. But it wont be with Mile’s old school schemes. It will be with one of the multitude of brilliant coaches out there today experimenting with the POWER SPREAD!


This is a guy I was studying back in 2008 when I was learning why Florida wiped out  a much more talented (and yes speedier) OSU team in Jan of 2007.  I also studied all the recruiting, talent and coaches in the SEC in 2008/2009 and quickly found out the wins over the Big 10 were not matters of talent and speed,  but coaches and schemes.  There’s a reason for the SEC having the highest paid assistants.

The Urban Meyer Schemes and Way changing OSU forever more – a foray into the future of the ever changing face of American Football!

Back to the Future – Shotgun Football (A 100 year full circle starting early last century)

OSU’s failure to understand the full implications of the Spread and the BALANCE of the PS

The morphing of the Passing Spread into the Power Spread, seen as the illusionary death of the Spread Offense in College Football

A True Power SpreadThe Florida Gator/Urban Meyer Offense

Urban Meyer – more than just Offensive Schemes  He has learned from a lot of coaches – yes, even the Power Spread.  And he was a great Special Teams coach before anything else.  He has always delegated well, recruited well and paid attention to all the details required to produce top teams.  In fact, he has a lot in common with a former great coach here at OSU named Jim Tressel.  And like Tressel he tended to take on too much and not let his highly paid assistants take over when needed.

Here’s a scary thought – as good as Meyer was, he may be better now. He has made mistakes in the past – even mistakenly moving away from his own gem of an offense!  He has the experience of years now.   And if there was one element as a Head Coach that a Nick Saban had over Meyer it was the ability to let his assistants do their job and not give into the obsessional need to take over ever phase of the team.  Meyer says he has learned from his time off – I BELIEVE HIM – expect this detailed, smart, open minded coach to be a Saban like delegator making him the Coach of the Year for 2012!


Kurt to Drew:

Read the link.  Skip to last bullet point if you wish.  Meyer has maintained a relationship with Coach Stud apparently…

Drew to Kurt:
I said it before and I will say it again – Miles is holding back Studs, just like he would have done with Krags and he did with Crowton.  With more control, Crowton would have most likely  ran more intricate passing spreads , but with only a little Power Spread mixed in – but at least he would have gotten rid of a lot of the once successful, but now outdated two back stuff and veer option football that Miles ran back as an OC at Oklahoma St in the 90s .  Krags would have also been more about the passing spread, but with a little more PS mixed in and staying more with one back sets.   Studs = PS ALL THE WAY, as he comes directly from the Urban Meyer lineage at Bowling Green.  

I know he’s an OL coach  and that could be a problem – but like I said – I keep an open mind –  he’s an individual and NO ONE has free reign to work the PS or any Spread at LSU with Miles in charge.

I tell you this I like some of the stuff I have seen from LSU’s scheming and play calling this year -but then all of a sudden it sucks again.  I know that Krag supposedly still has influence , but I cant help but think that Studs is working some good stuff into the LSU offense this year, but  as always, Mile’s insists at sticking with what “he knows” over and over and over again.  Mile’s is very successful in many aspects of being a Head Coach, from recruiting to motivation, but he’s not the up and coming offensive mind that he seemed to be in the 90s with Oklahoma State.  If there’s been one and possibly his only flaw at LSU its in his lack of any real focus on offense and his inability to forge his old school concepts on offense with what is happening today.

Put it this way – Meyer/Studs or Tressel/Bolshit – to run an offense?  Remember that a former Meyer protege at Florida, Stan Drayton, is already our WRS coach! He hails from Allegheny College in my area of Western PA and where my cousin went to school and played Hockey!

ONE REQUEST TO URBANPlease keep Fickell -who was turning into a heckuva Defensive Coordinator before the whole tattoo mess!



This is what LSU needs to be doing with Jordan Jefferson to win the game —– POWER SPREAD —-  with the QB as a dual threat  —-  and this is the main reason I feel Alabama wins a defensive struggle.  Nick Saban’s Defense will not have trouble with the multiple Cluster of schemes that LSU runs.  And Les Miles will again do just enough to cost his team a crucial win.


OFFENSE – Alabama lost the big 3 at QB, RB and WR, but McCarron is a bigger recruit and talent than was McElroy and just lacks experience, Richardson is a MUCH bigger recruit than Ingram and an absolute monster and while those no way to replace Julio Jones, Haze and Hanks are fine in the multiple offenses skillfully handled by OC, Jim McElwain.  Plus, according to Phil Steele, Alabama has its “most exp’d OL in 3Y.”  Counting Richardson as a returning starter (since he’s a Heisman Candidate), Alabama has 8 starters returning on offense.  

LSU also has 8 starters returning on offense, but has had a switch at QB and OC this year as star QB recruit, Jordan Jefferson, found himself in a world of trouble in the offseason and former starter Jarrett Lee has seen most of the playing time.  The transition has been smooth as LSU returned 9 out of 10 Offensive Lineman, 2 starters at WR and their usual plethora of RB talent.  The big change is really at OC, where Gary Crowton never saw eye to eye with Miles and was supposed to be replaced with Spread master, Steve Kragthorpe, but he had to step down due to Parkinson’s.  Out went any real chance at consistent Power Spread with talented Jefferson as Miles is a former successful OC himself, but prefers to cling tightly to the old stand by schemes, only giving over slightly to the PS, because of Jefferson’s great running ability at QB.  With Pro Sets and some spread passing with Lee , this is easy pickings for Saban – the master at defending the passing spread. And Pro Sets are easy for any decent DC.

DEFENSE – Simple – 2 great Defenses and defensive minds. Saban is recognized as a defensive genius and Kirby Smart (DC) is his protege. John Chavis had as much to do with Tennessee’s great success in the last two decades as their head coach,  Phillip Fulmer.  His small, but speedy aggressive defenses were often overshadowed by the likes of Petyon Manning and other offensive stars.  He came to a great situation at LSU as they also use small, but speedy Linebackers and with Miles great recruiting and LSU’s traditions can actually get Chavis more talent than he even had to work with at Tennessee.  This year, according to Phil Steele, this is the most experienced LSU DL in years after several years of graduation and decline. Unfortunately, LSU lost possibly its greatest CB ever in Patrick Peterson (#1 DC ARIZ), but have 3 of 4 excellent starters back in the secondary.  With a total of 7 returning starters, LSU has had a top 3 defense all year long.

Unfortunately for LSU, Alabama has 10 starters back and has been the #1 defense all year!  With only one graduated starter on defense replaced by top notch JUCO DL, Jesse Williams, this defense is formidable and possibly better than the 2009 version. As good as LSU is on D this year, without Peterson, you have to give the nod to Alabama.

SPECIAL TEAMS – Always a staple of the detail oriented Saban teams – this year could be special as all the STeams performers are returning!  Again, LSU is hurt more by graduation as they lose a lot from their #2 ranked STeams of 2010. Miles surprisingly has had many good special teams during his head coaching career – not as much due to his attention to detail as with Saban, but more due to his all out aggressive nature and risk/reward mentality that permeates his teams.

COACHING – ALABAMA HANDS DOWN. Not necessarily because Saban is so great (overrated?) or Miles is so bad (underrated?), but because of 2 other factors

1 – Continuity – Two great DCs, but while I wouldnt call McElwain of Alabama a great OC, he’s solid, works well with Saban, and has been there a while. The OC at LSU is their OL coach under Miles and Crowton, Greg Studrawa. He also served as OL coach under Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen at Bowling Green, before being promoted to OC when Meyer left.  As OC he continued the success of  the Power Spread under Mullen and with Omar Jacobs as his QB.  I cant imagine what a PS guy like Studrawa must have felt being stuck in between Crowton’s passing spreads and Mile’s more conventional 2 back offenses. Its hard to know what Miles is thinking as Kragthorpe is a Spread guy as is Studrawa, but the problems with Jefferson changed whatever ideas any of these men might have had for LSU this past Spring.  A lot of potential with Studrawa, but a mess compared to Alabama’s solid situation and still not enough POWER SPREAD!

2 – DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS – While Miles is a great recruiter (possibly better than Saban, imo!), he doesnt adhere to the details that Saban does – almost no one does. He also doesnt have the organization that Saban promotes – again, almost no one does.   AND Miles will tend to take crazy risks during big games.  All these factors have lead to big losses in the past for Miles, where Saban probably wins the same type of game. Even the great LSU team of 2007 almost blew it with much disorganization, lack of detail  and crazy risk taking throughout the whole season!

BOTTOM LINE – Alabama has  lost a great leader at QB and a great WR (they replaced their Heisman RB with the same quality). LSU lost a great CB, dang good LB and had all kinds of problems this summer with their multi-talented QB.  Plus, more than anything, the OC situation is still shaky.  The losses are pretty even.

But the overall experience is on Alabama’s side.  Especially on Defense (slight edge) and Special Teams (Big Edge). Even if you give LSU the edge on offense – its only slight. Add in the coaching edge and  Home Field advantage for the Tide, plus Mile’s penchant for blowing big games and this is just too many obstacles for LSU and Alabama should win a great defensive battle

ONE CHANCE FOR LSU? – I will finish how I started:

POWER SPREAD WITH JEFFERSON (like OSU needed to do with this guy below!)



NEBRASKA 34  The Former OHIO STATE University 27

“Hey Tom, did you see that Nebraska , Ohio State game  –  what was that??   That Bowserhead guy really SUCKS! It was crazy – that Brandon Miller kid is kickin some ass – showing off all this talent everyone’s talking about – gets hurt – in comes Bozehead and they cant get anymore points. Suddenly, Martini catches fire and that’s the game – no way the bucks lose that game if Miller doesnt get hurt!” 

“Yeah – I think you mean Martinez – but he’s so inconsistent – young kids – takes them forever to get the fundamentals. Plus, he’s one of them there runnin qbs – cant really pass – all that gimmiky fake hand off stuff – like we’re back in the 1920s or somethin. That shit would never work in the NFL!  But , yeah that Bowsermen guy really sucks – whats he doing on Ohio State – wasnt he that bartender we had at that place with all those hot chicks at last year’ company party,  hoohahahahaha!”

HAHAHAHOOHOHHAHA.. UGH.UH….choke/ gag, cough up a huge amount of morning flem and uses his coffee cup as a sewer grate to spit in

“Jesus, are you ok?… Like Ive always said – ITS ALL ABOUT THE QB – Its how its always been – thats why the NFL pays their QBs so much – the first half was Miller time and the 2nd half was Martini ..time..?”

“Yep, no doubt about it – the QB runs the show- if that damn Martini kid would grow up Nebraska will have a shot at the BCS this year……. Whoa , Damn!…  who’s the hot new temp! weeowww!”

I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a conversation like this amongst our Financial Elite in the Wall Street District of NYC.  It would be no different than what we would hear throughout the rest of the country – from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta to Texas, Nebraska, Montana or anywhere in CA!  Its always been the same – since I’ve been a kid anyway – all about the talent – all about the stars – and #1, all about the QB.  But I have always disagreed with this theory.  When I was a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, I always felt everyone gave Terry Bradshaw wayyy too much credit for the Pittsburgh Steelers 4 Super Bowls.  And still today, I feel the same and would disagree with most who feel it was all about the QBS in  Saturday Nights Debacle where OSU gave up a 27-6 lead to lose by a TD.

Sure, Miller and Martinez are two youngsters learning their way to potential stardom and Joe Bauserman (hopefully I got the name right!) doesn’t have their kind of talent – especially in his feet.  But here’s the truth that I see –  laugh as you might, but Bauserman is not that bad and all 3 of these QBs production or lack thereof was a product of the schemes run on that night. And,  btw, while I agree that Bauserman may be better off at a smaller Division I school, he was once a top recruit from Florida and he has a decent arm and can make some reads IF he’s put in the right position.

In the first half for OSU there were some positive signs.  It looked like maybe Fickell let ex-Urban Meyer assistant, Stan Drayton, put in some of his expertise on the Power Spread as there weren’t so many different sets and plays and a lot more cohesion. Also, there was more misdirection out of the Power Spread,  using the skills of Miller and his talented tandem of RBs.   This made life easier on young Miller as OSU as THE POWER SPREAD CAN USE THE RUN TO SET UP THE PASS – now THERE’S  a staple that has always worked in Football. Not a focus on a single player (QB), but a design on offense that has always worked – only now it can be down out of the Spread – not pass first Spread, but run first Spread philosophy.

And that’s where Nebraska got in trouble in the 1st half.  I know that Kurt said below that Pellini has said he wants to run out of the Spread and the blame last year in Nebraska’s abandonment of the Power Spread lies with their former Offensive Coordinator, but Pellini’s Offense is doing the same stupid schemes this year with the RBs Coach, Beck, promoted as the new OC – Pellini’s the one in control.  It was nice of Beck to admit mistakes during the Wisconsin game, but they happened agains against OSU.   I really don’t think he or Pellini really understand the Power Spread – or even know that’s what they are running.  How could any coach that understands the benefit of a great running QB in the Power Spread continue to use the Pro Set or I Formation for more than a handful of plays a game??  THIS is the main reason Ohio State didn’t win any National Titles with Terrele Pryor.

Then, to start the 2nd half, Nebraska comes out in the Pro Set again!!!  Down 20-6 and a 2 RB, running QB under center – ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!??  As an Ohio State Fan I was so happy that we arent the only  Offensively Challenged minds in College Football.  This year has gotten so bad that Im reduced to rooting for other team’s ineptitude in an effort to get a victory!  But, alas – it was too good to be true.  But not until after Ohio State proved even more brainless in coming out in the 2nd Half in the I Formation with power runs up the left and right guard on almost EVERY 1ST DOWN PLAY and many 2nd downs. HORRIBLE SCHEME – HORRIBLE OFFENSIVE GAME MANAGEMENT!  As my good OSU buddy Jimmy was yelling at me that we had a big lead and should play it safe – I SAID “THAT’S NOT THE GAME OF FOOTBALL ANYMORE!”  With all the talent on the field today and with some of the brilliant schemes going on – mostly out of the Power Spread Concept – NO LEAD IS SAFE!  To OSU’s credit and I think to the credit of Luke Fickell to try and stay aggressive – we went back to the Power Spread and that’s when we  moved the ball and got another TD.  But after that there was more I Formation junk and then the INJURY>  then almost a total shutdown with Bauserman.

Finally, for Nebraska, after the turnover, Pellini went to the Power Spread and  lo and behold , IT WORKED! And I thought to myself with the score now 27-13 is he going to try it again?  Or will he think its smart to go the way of the “brilliant” NFL with either a Pro Set , Pro Passing Spread or West Coast offense – basically all the NFL really does.  But to my dismay he ran Power Spread after Power Spread scheme and I knew then we wouldn’t be able to stop Martinez. Only a handful of Defensive Coaches are even close to slowing down the Power Spread right now – lead by Charlie Strong at Louisville – but NO ONE CAN STOP IT – if its executed to even a minimum degree of efficiency. And with Fickell unable to concentrate on just Defense anymore, we are seeing the inept efforts of Heacock, who NEVER knew how to stop an offense with a running QB in a misdirection Read Option Spread.

Now, where does Bauserman fit into all of this – he’s just a sucky QB,  right?? Case Closed. NO- CASE RE OPENED!  Bauserman may not be a Heisman Candidate, but he’s good enough.  Again, the field needs to be Spread to help him out – WHY you ask – because he’s too damn short to be behind center or doing silly NFL play action out of the 2 back set – the days of Pat Haden are over!  What do you do with a small , but smart QB , with some arm strength on shorter passes and a decent release – spread the field and whip short passes around.  Even some Read Option – or even some Pistol.  In fact, Nebraska, WHEN they do use the Power Spread , has a real nice package of Zone Read Pistol and a 3 RB look that resembles the  Single Wing Hybrid with which Urban Meyer experimented. Bauserman would be fine in this package.  But I cant expect that from the cluster mess that we have going on. But at least spread the field and do some quick passes – sort of like Purdue’s Joe Tiller offense or the Air Raid of Leach’s Texas Tech attack.  Our lone TD against MSU was from the spread.

Now, you can see even from highlights of the last drive that it wasn’t all good with Bauserman in the shotgun passing spread – but its our best chance – and he made some nice throws even though MSU had their ears pinned back, knowing we had to throw, and were really coming after Bauserman.

Would we have won with Bauserman in the Spread??  Probably not once Nebraska went to and stayed in the Power Spread.  BUT if we had run the Power Spread at the start of the 2nd half and kept applying the pressure, we may have been up 34-6 or more!   THEN by continuing to run the spread we may have held the ball longer with short completions and maybe Nebraska runs out of time – or starts to throw too much and gets one last interception.  This game WAS NOT ABOUT THE QBS – and it wasn’t JUST about just passing or running the ball as Steven Sipple said (see Kurt’s Entry on Week 5) – IT WAS ALL ABOUT SCHEMES – IN PARTICULAR THE POWER SPREAD.  Ohio State executed it in the first half and Nebraska had an even better Power Spread package at the end.

Over on  I will eventually research further into what the heck’s going on with Bo Pellini – who made such a big splash as a head coach, but is now being questioned not only for his Offense’s flaws, but amazingly, also for his Defense’s issues.

Oh and don’t worry – we will be hearing more from our Wall Street friends, Tom & Dick – The Football Experts – later in the year …. Harry may even chime in with some thoughtful insights of his own!


#8 NEBRASKA: 17 – #7 WISCONSIN: 48

In the 2nd half I’ll have an identity crisis

Tim Beck replaced Shawn Watson as offensive coordinator in the off-season after the Husker offense’s production seemingly fell off of a cliff in the second half of the previous two seasons. Saturday night against Wisconsin in Nebraska’s long anticipated debut in the Big Ten Beck seemed to fall into the same trap Watson did: abandoning their ground attack and relying on Martinez’s arm.

With Watson it seemed that he tended to fall back into his West Coast Offensive roots when things would go awry. With Beck, to be fair, it’s still too early to tell. It seemed that when he took over for Watson it was because Pelini wanted an offense truly oriented around The Power Spread which Watson was not producing. So why Beck part way through Saturday night’s game dialed up pass after pass, without even much play-action, is a mystery. What is encouraging though is that Beck knows Nebraska is a spread-to-run team and they will have to get back to that.

I like the way you naked bootleg

2011 is something of an experiment for the Badgers: give offensive coordinator Paul Chryst a qb that can run but yet who possesses all of the same qualities as any of Wisconsin’s previous steady pocket-passer types, along with their gargantuan offensive line and stable of bruising running backs and you have one scary offense.

For Paul Chryst landing Russell Wilson might turn out to be on parallel to what Cam Newton was for Gus Malzahn.  Both Chryst and Malzahn are excellent coaches with great schemes, but those players were like gifting them video game-like athletes capable of seemingly anything. While it’s well documented that Bielema likes Wisconsin to have a smash-mouth offense, what doesn’t get enough attention is the subtle mis-directional cues that Chryst throws at opposing defenses. Against Ohio State last year it was variation of Jet Sweeps pump fakes to wide receivers in the flats which kept the Buckeye defense on their heels. In the past Chryst has also been one to catch defenses off-guard by using the Naked Bootleg, with Russell Wilson this is more lethal for Chryst than ever before. Despite whatever Bret Bielema says about his team’s offense, which seems to only discredit the ingeniousness of his offensive coordinator, there’s much more to it than just three yards and a cloud of dust.


With all the brilliant schemes now seen on the field, especially in College Football,  one can only imagine that Vince Lombardi would still use this famous line in a different context to describe what he was seeing in today’s game.   I was wondering myself for a while in 2007 and 2008 what exactly was happening on the field during the first decade of the new millennium. I always felt that Talent was everything in football – the most talented team always wins, right??   I was a huge lover of the NFL – all about the players (sometimes just the STARS) – without much awareness of anything else.  And back in the day when teams would stay together and not fling around the league year after year with only HUGE Salary QBs and a couple of other players remaining situated in he middle of this revolving door of new players every year. Back when I watched the NFL one felt like part of the team because all these great players were so familiar – they felt like a family amongst themselves and the fans felt like part of it.  There was no Fantasy Football as a sad substitute to feel a part of something greater than ordinary life.  At least I had the slight awareness to know it wasn’t ONLY about the QB and the STAR PLAYERS.   I knew that it took a lot of different players to build a winning team – lineman, dbs, etc and not just the QB that “WINS” Super Bowls. After moving to Pittsburgh I was amazed out how Terry Bradshaw was the “WINNER” of 4 Super Bowls, when he was surrounded by a Hall of Fame lineup on both sides of the ball.  In fact, many a pass was thrown up blindly by this Southern boy with the big arm, knowing he had the most athletic pair of receivers in the game who would bail him out every time.  To this day I still love talent first – as so many do who still watch the NFL and refuse to accept the development of any new schematics entering the game — but thanks to rampant free agency and a lack of loyalty I moved away from the NFL and studied the GAME itself more, having a better understanding of what I am actually seeing — not just a bunch of talented jocks running around and hitting each other –  there were other factors involved in wins and losses besides TALENT  – coaching, the program or organization and of course, team chemistry just to name a few. I actually started having an inkling of these “other” factors as far back as the 1980s with the help of my favorite NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals, and their inability to win a Super Bowl despite their great TALENT.  My slight “jump” in awareness that there is something more to a team than just a great offense or defense was in the realization that Special Teams played a bigger part than most fans realized. The Bengals had such fun and dynamic offenses with great QBs, but their Special Teams and, many times, their Defense always held them back.  Then I saw the same thing with my favorite College Football team, Ohio State, who, in the 90s,  had some of the best talent in the Country and great Defenses to go with great Offenses, but break downs on Special Teams that cost them.  Of course, I was overjoyed at the detail and attention given to this part of the game of football when Coach Tressel came a long and led us to a National Championship.  Sure enough, we won many a close game during that  Championship run in 2002, due in many ways to the best Special Teams I ever witnessed from my favorite teams. Still, even after looking at the Coaching, Special Teams, Chemistry, etc, I was missing something and as I got further away from the NFL in the 00’s and started watching more and more College Football – not just Ohio State games. Then came the ignominious season of 2008 – the year we were supposed to have one of our greatest teams ever, rivaling the great 1998 team.

It was early in that year that I ran across possibly the hardest game I ever had to watch – and I watched it over and over and over again, until I finished analyzing and recording every single play of the game.  This is the September debacle where my beloved Buckeyes were blasted by my most hated team on the planet (possibly more than Michigan) – USC…..ugh!   I knew the talent on both teams – I had already studied these players as HS recruits – there was no clear edge.  In some spots USC had the talent edge, but in others it went to the Buckeyes.  Experience was actually on the side of the Buckeyes that year as most their top players surprisingly came back from the great team of 2007.  The Coaching could be called a tie or arguably in the Buckeyes favor and the our Special Teams was annually better than USC’s Special Teams, which were not always a main focus of Pete Carroll teams.  Lastly, the chemistry. The camaraderie that existed on our team was second to none as they fought thru a rough year of failed expectations, never quitting and always keeping their heads up with class.

So based on the final score I was completely in error with most or all of the above observations OR there was still a missing element I wasn’t seeing.   It wasn’t long into my obsessive post game analysis that I started to realize this “missing link”SCHEMES!   That was it – pure and simple .  The schemes run by USC’s Offensive Coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, were so ahead of our Defense – in terms of everything – from the use of multiple sets and  formations to all kinds of pre-snap shifts and motion – even  variations in the use of the game clock and snap counts.  We were so off balance on defense that we looked as slow as a 1980’s High School team.  And when our distraught players lost all confidence and began to hesitate on every play, we not only looked slow, but weak as well as we were blown out of holes by players of the same size, strength and speed.  Most fans concluded, as they had throughout most of USC’s reign, that their athletes were far superior. This was easy to disprove in he 2nd half as young Luke Fickell became more involved as a Defensive Coordinator in that 2nd half and made some wise adjustments in an effort to put our players in much better positions to stop this brilliant offensive scheme of USC.  Suddenly, as the playing field was leveled, our athletes looked every bit as fast  as USC, if not faster, and actually were able to keep the score from getting ridiculously out of control as USC stayed really aggressive on offense until late in the 4th quarter.   Unfortunately it was too little too late as our Offense never made a schematic adjustment to counter the much more aggressive schemes of USC’s defense. Our underrated offensive talent was left running for their lives, under constant pressure by a defense that seemed to know every play we were about to run.  It could be argued that we had the better team that year – we were massacred in schematics – and it was then that I started studying our schemes week after week and by the following year in 2009 I was studying all the schemes across the Country.

As I looked around it didn’t take long to notice some of the Read Option stuff that Sarkisian was running being used all over the place.  And, unlike the complicated brilliance of Sarkisian’s Multiple Offense, there were a lot of Spread Schemes out there that used a lot of Read Option runs over and over to great success. I started studying why these runs were so successful and so consistently maximized the talent on the team. It was pretty simple – use ALL OF THE FIELD and ALL OF THE PLAYERS including the QB in misdirection to keep the Defense off balance.  Some teams such as West Virginia or Navy didn’t pass much from their schemes, while others really mixed in both, such as Northwestern, who constantly seems to fluctuate between a Passing Spread and a Running Spread.  I finally came up with the term Power Spread and I wasn’t talking about the gimmicky offensive schemes seen throughout football history. I didn’t even use the term to mean Scheme — instead I was thinking of a concept or idea.   It incorporates all of football history from the Single Wing to the T Formation to the Pro Sets to the Run and Shoot, to the West Coast and to the Passing Spreads.

It’s schemes can be Pistol, Wildcat, Zone Read, Triple Option or just the Passing Spreads that have been used for a while: Run and Shoot, Air Raid, Fun Gun of Spurrier , Norm Chow’s BYU spread, Bubble Screen spreads of Gary Crowton or the more complicated NFL type passing spreads of Petrino, Weiss, etc.

Now when I say Power Spread I’m not talking just SPREAD – there are two words to this phrase – you can’t leave out the POWER.  IF you think about it  – it’s an oxymoron – because how can Power and Spread be used together?  To me it means – UTILIZING  THE WHOLE FIELD,  ALL THE TOOLS OF THE GAME AND PLAYERS ON THE FIELD – A   PERFECT BALANCE.  This includes misdirection and every player, except the lineman,  as an offensive threat.  Every coach knows that you can’t defend BALANCE because you cant defend EVERYTHING. I call this the Accordion effect.  Like an accordion the Power Spread “spreads” to where the defense ain’t.  Short, long, middle, wide.  Run or pass it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t have to include option or a running QB – though this is helpful because with a running QB you have utilized 11 players instead of 10 – so there’s more balance.   You don’t have to run the  option or mis-direction, but again when you do this there’s just so much balance — you utilize  more players and more field when you have mis-direction or play action and it opens holes in the defense as they try to search for the ball amongst all the players from all over the field

Now some teams use speed to open up the whole field – Auburn and Oregon. Some teams use the POWER part of the term more – Alabama with its Pistol and Wildcat formations just pound on teams!  Also, Villanova may be the absolute definition of the POWER SPREAD with every one of their lineman over 300 lbs (in the FCS!) and they just spread the field and pound the Zone Read up the gut over and over until the defense stops it. Then the do play action and quick throws to loosen the defense. Then go back up the gut!  IT’S THE GREEN BAY PACKERS OF VINCE LOMBARDI IN SPREAD RUNS!

Not only does the Power Spread incorporate all the PLAYERS and the whole FIELD, but it also incorporates the whole HISTORY of Football in the most balanced offense ever.  In fact, Gus Malzahn and Chip Kelly’s schemes at times look like the 1920’s Single Wing with 4 running backs in the backfield and all kinds of mis-direction hand offs and fakes. The HUGE difference is that today we can add the passing game to that. The Single Wing eventually went away because it was easier to pass out of the T Full House Formation and then even easier out of the Pro Sets of the 60s and 70s.  Eventually we went to passing spreads starting first with the Pro Sets of the West Coast Offense, then the Run and Shoot, the No Huddle of the Buffalo Bills and finally the Pro Passing Spreads of New England and Indianapolis. But NOW,  some smart coaches in college determined that running the ball between the tackles out of these spread formations killed a defense and we have come full circle all the way back to the original single wing mis-direction plays of the 20s.  But with passing — IT INCORPORATES EVERYTHING THERE IS ABOUT OFFENSIVE FOOTBALL. IT ENGULFS THE NFL SCHEMES BECAUSE IT INCLUDES AND EXPOUNDS UPON THESE SCHEMES.

The only chance of stopping these schemes is by luck, a huge talent edge (which rarely exists anymore in college football) or by the PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE defensive schemes. Nick Saban made this popular with his Zone Blitz schemes – looks aggressive, but isn’t too aggressive. See, how do you beat the most balanced offenses in the history of football? With the most balanced defenses. Aggressive but not too aggressive.  The ILLUSION OF AGGRESSION.  You show an aggressive look,  but play zone or give the illusion of  deep zone,  but unload a surprise blitz, like when your linebackers drop into coverage, but blitz the nickel back and safety. You play man to man on the corners but deep zone in the middle. You play zone short but man to man with safeties – and on and on. The PHANTOM DEFENSE is the epitome of this – NO DOWN LINEMEN – nada! – everyone standing and there’s no way to know where the pressure will come from OR even if there will be any pressure at all?

We are going to see this cat and mouse game for the next decade not only in college but also in the NFL

And besides the whole use of the Field and the deception and involvement in all he players on the Field, there will also be more players used off the BENCH as well!  Substitution like we never have seen before is going to start happening. It’s already started on defense because of the hurry up offenses.  Defenses basically start 22 players now – no 2nd string – because they need to be fresh. Nick Aliotti’s idea of using a DE in coverage may have been a good one in the title game against Auburn (I think Urban Meyer liked it but Nick Saban didn’t), but we will never know — why??? — because the guy was totally winded. Oregon did not have the defensive depth of talent it needed to sufficiently defend the Hurry Up Offense. They had 15 players when they needed 22. Same thing applies to the offense – as the QB’s and RB’s get hit more because of more plays run, there will be a need for substitutions – yes even the QB’s!!  There is a lot of talent out there – plug them in the system – 4 good QBs over 1 great one may not work for TV ratings, but if the team is able to switch the parts, because the Scheme is so good and the team starts winning – fans will soon take affection to their multi-headed QB.  FOOTBALL IS THE ULTIMATE TEAM SPORT AND COACHES ARE STARTING TO REMEMBER THIS – ONE OR TWO GREAT PLAYERS CAN BE TAKEN DOWN BY A GREAT TEAM!

As we start using 50-70 players a game in College Football,  the NFL coaches are going to take notice – why? – simple – INJURIES.  Substitution reduces injuries and keeps the team stable for the season. Injuries don’t just take away good players – it hurts the continuity of the TEAM!  It’s better to play more players and keep continuity.  Once the NFL starts winning by using more players they will see the advantage of having extra QB’s (like the Steelers last year) then the running QB will start happening in the NFL. When the wins start piling up the NFL will embrace the change.

Now this idea embraces the TEAM and takes away from the STAR which the NFL builds its livelihood on. about. The only reason I think this type of system may happen in the NFL anyway is because of the efficiency and simple brilliance of this incredibly balanced concept. It’s so hard to stop and yet so simple. The defenses have to somehow counter with the same great balance back at the offense.  So you need the WHOLE TEAM just like you need the WHOLE FIELD and not just ONE GREAT PLAYER or ONE PART OF THE FIELD. All of the all-time greats like Lombardi,  Halas and Brown would have loved this concept of football because they KNEW that it’s about TEAM and  that “winning isn’t everything – its the ONLY THING.”


Power Spread is a term I came up with a couple of years ago.  Its a Concept – utilizing different schemes to produce Power Football from a Spread Formation.   Today we see lots of these schemes, the most well known at present is probably the Read Option – Where the QB is lined up in a shotgun and reads the defense on the move with the ball at the RBs side until the last second when the decision is made to let the RB take the handoff or a QB keep.  A sub-scheme off of the read option is possibly the most famous of all Power Spread schemes – the Zone Read.  The Zone Read actually combines the use of zone blocking (made famous in the 1980s with such teams as Glen Mason’s Minnesota Gophers) with the Read Option.  West Virginia, coached by Rich Rodriguez, had great success with speedy players to make this scheme hugely popular in the 00s.

The Pistol formation is the other popular scheme in the Power Spread.  This scheme has the QB positioned not so far back from the center as in the shotgun – thus its called Pistol – a smaller gun.  From this “half” shotgun position there can be a RB positioned behind the QB as a Tailback in a pseudo I formation. There’s other variations with 2 backs, split backs, even triple backs in some sort of pseudo Single Wing from the 1920s!  But the idea is to have the rb or rbs somewhat hidden and useful in mis-direction, while still keeping the field spread and the QB in great position to either run or throw.  The great idea about the Pistol is that the QB can be much more protected than in the Read Option where he’s constantly vulnerable.   The pistol can be run either with a mobile , semi-mobile or even a non-mobile QB.  Just depends on the play creativity from the different Pistol sets.

The other Power Spread Scheme that needs mentioning is the Triple Spread Option, invented by Paul Johnson while at Georgia Southern in the 1980s.  It may look like old fashioned Veer Option(Oklahoma) or better yet, Triple Option football (Nebraska) of days gone by, but its really a semi-spread or spread set (depending on the width of the Wingbacks) disguised within a Triple Option scheme.  In fact, their is only the QB, under center, and one RB – so its basically a One RB set, which is usually a Spread set.  But in this case, two of the four WRs are lined up in a close to the Oline, slot position, called Wingbacks — again harking back to the Wingback formations of the early part of the last century.  Paul Johnson took this scheme to Hawaii, then made it really famous at Navy and now Georgia Tech.  While at Hawaii, he tinkered with spreading the Wingbacks out a little wider as Slotbacks and/or lining up or motioning into 3 players to one side of the field with a Wing, Slot and WR and passing a lot more out of what looked like purely a run option offense.  Thus, Triple Spread Option , Triple Option Spread or Spread Triple Option – whatever suits your fancy.

Actually, when Paul Johnson spread his Wings wider into Slot position he actually turned his Triple Option set into one of the first “famous” passing spread sets in football history and ironically the first Power Spread scheme of the modern age – The Run & Shoot!  Started by Mouse Davis at Portland State in the 1960s and made famous by Jim Kelly and the Houston Gamblers of the USFL in the 80s and finally by Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers of the NFL in the 90s,  the Run & Shoot was a quick pass, passing spread with the QB under center and utilizing half rollouts right OR left on every single play!  The set and WR patterns were so simple it was brilliant. Everything was based on WR and QB reads.  Like the Triple Option, the scheme requires great cohesion, so it must be run exclusively so without any other schemes or concepts involved so that the right level of execution can be achieved.

The Run&Shoot had something in common with the Power Spread Concept from the start-  brilliant simplicity in maximizing talent.   You didn’t need to be a star WR or even a WR by trade to play in this scheme.  In fact the Slot Backs who caught the most passes were usually converted RBs or scat backs with a lot of speed and decent hands.  Still, the QB position was not so flexible in this regard as the quick thinking passer with a fast and accurate “arm”  was  required for the best success. But the overall simple brilliance of the scheme finally brought out the first real Modern Day Power Spread scheme when the Detroit Lions were the first NFL team to consistently use the Spread to Run concept when they highlighted Barry Sanders in this Run&Shoot package during the same time that Warren Moon was zinging passes all over the field for the Oilers.  This development came about as so many do in sports – due to necessity – Barry was an incredible runner, especially in the open field and Rodney Peete did not have the strongest or most accurate arm.  In fact Peete was probably a better runner and actually took advantage of the “spread sets opening the field” to take off and run a lot more than the usual passing spread or West Coast QBs of the time.  But in the end it was all about Sanders and spreading out the field to let him find the seams. Of course, when teams ganged up too much on Barry it was a lot easier for Peete to find his WRs, regardless of his limitations as a passer.

As with the Run&Shoot of the Barry Sander Detroit Lions, always the Power Spread is about the threat of the run first, unlike the passing spread sets or even the spread concepts of earlier days with the Bill Walsh West Coast Offense. These are all “pass first” concepts as opposed to the older and more traditional “run first” styles of the Pro Two Back Sets that started in the 60s and continue to this day or the  Full House sets that dominated football from the 30s thru the 50s (though Dutch Meyer is credited with the first Spread Sets in College Football at TCU in the 50s).   All of these sets utilized the QB under center, which in the 30s was a revolutionary idea as early football was usually played with the Center snapping the ball back to someone at a certain distance away.   And if you look at the old Single Wing sets of the 20s and earlier it looks like, at least in College Football, that history has made a full circle back to the future with the Power Spread.  Back in the 20s and earlier,  the forward pass was still a novice idea and most of the scheming consisted of an overwhelming layer of misdirection utilizing all 4 backs in a contained set.  They were not spread sets, but still utilized the backs and ends in a multitude of formations with the same run first mentality and great use of misdirection involving EVERY player including the QB!

And this leads me to my last point about the  Power Spread.  This is not a gimmicky concept or gimmick schemes.  It utilizes every player at a team’s disposal – not leaving the QB out as a function of handing the ball off and getting out of the way.  Or setting up in obvious situations in 2 back sets where the FB always blocks and the TB always gets the ball. OR even obvious situations in passing spreads where the threat of the run is almost nil.  The Power Spread is designed as run to set up the past like the old schemes of days gone by, BUT , and here’s the key – THE POWER SPREAD CAN BE USED IN ANY WAY THE TEAM, TALENT AND COACHING DEMANDS.   It can also be used as a pass first offense if you so desire as was the Barry Sander’s Run&Shoot scheme that so confounded defenses.  They had to protect the pass, because of the Slotbacks spread out so wide , even though they knew the great threat at RB.  The mis-direction schemes at the beginning of last century did not involve any passing expertise you see today.  But then neither did the early Full House or Pro schemes later in the decade, though the pass continually improved and finally exploded into a great weapon with the development of the West Coast and Passing Spreads of the 80s and 90s.  Now, in the 00s, finally a system developed where by its impossible to know whether its the pass or run which will be the greatest weapon on the team and how and where ALL the offensive players will be utilized.  THIS IS THE POWER SPREAD – ABSOLUTE BALANCE.

In the end the Power Spread is about nothing else, if not BALANCE.  As pioneers such as  Dutch Meyer, Mouse Davis and Bill Walsh discovered – the field can be spread horizontally as well as vertically and when the misdirection of the old Single Wing is brought into the equation the balance of this offense is so complete that its near impossible to stop – even with bare bones execution. And if the Team possesses a player who can throw the ball a little, then its simply impossible to stop at this time in Football History. Always, its run first out of the Power Spread, but its very easy to alternate to a pass first mentality  when the defense stacks the box and then back to the run. In fact, the field can be stretched deep, short, wide or middle – like a 4 way Accordion – continuing to counteract  the defense until the defense can no longer commit to any one part of the field or any one player. EVERY PLAYER MAXIMIZED, EVERY PART OF THE FIELD UTILIZED.  That’s the Power Spread and where Football continues to grow – from the Rugby style scrums of the 1800s, the Single Wing of the early 1900s, the T Formation Full House of the 1940s,  the Pro Sets of the 1960s and finally the Passing Spreads of the 1990s – this is just one more step forward in the Evolution of American Football – THE POWER SPREAD.