One of the really fun things about coaching football is being able to choose what kind of offensive and defensive tactics are going to be utilized during a season or game. It’s kind of like being the General in a military operation. You sit down with your staff and give your beliefs and philosophies and then you listen to theirs. In the end, the ole General makes a decision and then puts the plan into action. There’s something exhilarating about the whole process. There are so many options and they’re all good. It’s no secret that at the present time some form of the Spread Offense is the most popular offense at the collegiate and high school level.
But, what is the Spread? Is it just lining up in the shotgun? Can you be under center? Can you run option or not run option? Many fans see the quarterback line up in the shotgun and say, “Oh, they’re a Spread team.” Well…maybe, maybe not. To me the Spread describes an offense that uses multiple wide receivers (usually 3 or more) with the goal to stretch the defense out along the line of scrimmage and trying to use the entire field. The spread wide receivers also run routes to different areas of the field to stretch the defenders vertically and horizontally down the field. Spread normally indicates only one running back, and usually does not use an attached Tight End. Teams will use players to execute the passing game with better receivers, get fast players in space, and to get the “spread out” effect on the defense that creates room to run the ball. And yeah, to me the quarterback is in the shotgun but doesn’t HAVE to be. I read a book a few years back called “Twelve Mighty Orphans” by Jim Dent. These guys played in the 1930’s and 1940’s and spread the defense out to take advantage of their strengths. They didn’t call it the Spread, but that’s what they were doing. So, this is not a new concept, but there have been quite a few wrinkles added. By the way, if you haven’t read this book, I would highly recommend it.
In today’s football, my idea of the Spread is a formation that has the quarterback in the shotgun (quarterback lined up several yards behind center) and three or more receivers lined up wide. Although the ball can be run from this formation, the passing game is the number one priority. A couple of examples of a Spread formation are shown below. The first is a “3 x 1”, so named because there are three receivers on one side and one on the other.
The next diagram shows a “2 x 2” which simply denotes there are two wide receivers to each side.
Another word that you’ll hear bandied about is Tempo. In football terms it describes the rate or rhythm of pace of play by the offense. Are teams playing a slow tempo or fast tempo? A great resource for coaches interested in up tempo is a three video series by Jud
Naeger of Valle Catholic High School in Missouri titled Time to Add Tempo into Your Offense. The four time state champs have done a great job with an up tempo offense. Most Spread offenses like an up, fast tempo. Coaches believe tempo does several things to the defense including:
- Knocks opposing defense off balance
- Makes it hard for defense to huddle up between plays
- Makes it hard for defense to substitute
- Makes it hard for defense to vary and stunt
- Fatigues your opponents defense (although I’ve always believed the offense has to be getting tired too)
- Make defenses prepare for schemes and pace
We’ve now looked at two characteristics of today’s football. Spread the field and play up tempo. If you want a third characteristic of today’s football look no further than zone blocking. Zone blocking is blocking an AREA rather than a particular gap. Blocking for run plays can be categorized as either gap or zone. Gap running plays are designed to get the running back through a specific gap in the line. For example, a fullback may lead block into the B-gap (between the guard and tackle) and the running back simply follows him through. Zone running plays are designed to block general areas across the line of scrimmage while the running back finds the best opening. Other than the obvious traits a running back needs (speed, power, quickness…etc.) he also needs great vision to see the openings and cut quickly to hit the opening.
In zone blocking the offensive linemen all step in the direction of the intended play and there is usually a double team on the play side of the line of scrimmage and also on the back side. Theoretically, double teams should allow the offensive line to get a good push on the defensive line. As they get this push one of the two linemen disengages from this double team, gets to the second level and blocks a linebacker or safety. Pushing a big, bad, strong defensive lineman backwards seems impossible but that is the benefit of a double team. A basic zone blocking scheme is shown below.
Establishing a base offense is important but most teams today want to have multiple looks. It’s possible to be in the shotgun most of the time but being under center sometimes as well. (or vice versa) Most coaches would like to have several formations, motions, and tags. One back, two back, tight ends, no tight ends – the multiple list goes on and on. The very best we know at being highly multiple is Craig Buzea, head coach at Homewood-Flossmoor in the south suburbs of Chicago. A large public school of 2,700, the H-F Vikings have become one of the perennial powers in the state of Illinois. They are an offensive juggernaut with an offense so multiple and so dynamic that much of the state is asking how they do it. If you are looking for ways to upgrade your offense and add some different looks then his three video series Highly Multiple Zone Based Viking Offense will be a perfect addition to your library.
Of course, we here at Chiefpigskin believe that all offenses are good if learned inside and out and then taught to your players inside and out. The Spread offense is no different and the available videos will give you that opportunity.
As always, feel free to contact us here at Chiefpigskin any time to talk football. That’s what we do.
Coach L. Albaugh DBLITY