Why I Love The Spread Offense (Part 3)Erick Streelman
The last two blog posts have been about why I think the Spread Offense is the perfect offense for high school. In the first article we looked at some of the philosophical reasons why this system works…it attracts kids, it keeps you efficient, etc. In the second article, we started looking at some of the practical reasons why the spread offense works…it makes the defense predictable and it allows you to win on the chalkboard. So, if you missed the last two posts definitely go back and check them out.
But, as we all know, even if we have the perfect play called and we have the defense out-leveraged, if our tackle can’t block their end or our QB can’t throw a 10 yard out or our RB has poor ball security or our WR can’t get off a jam, none of it matters. It’s definitely a cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason so I will say it anyway. This game is not about the X’s and the O’s, it’s about the Jimmys and the Joes.
So, today we are going to talk about the most important reason that I believe in the Spread Offense…Kids can actually do it. More specifically…linemen can actually do it.
Just a reminder, we’ve talked at length about how your offense can be a valuable recruiting tool within your own hallways. That’s the first step to making sure your kids can execute. You need to have the best kids on campus actually playing football. Not to beat a dead horse, but if your five best athletes are sitting in the student section, its going to be tough to compete. So for the rest of this article, let’s just work from an assumption that we have done everything we can to get as many athletes possible out for football.
So, if that is true, let’s get to the point of today’s article. The Spread Offense is the best possible offense for building and creating linemen.
I think this problem is getting harder and harder to solve every single year. One of my former O-line coaches used to say, “God only makes a few linemen…I make the rest.” That is so true. There are so few kids that are big enough, strong enough, and passionate about playing O-line. I don’t have to make receivers or QB’s or RB’s. Everyone want to throw the ball, catch the ball, carry the ball. But linemen are a rare breed. But that is our job as coaches. We have to transform kids. We have to mold them. We have to coach them up. But, we also need to be realistic and understand limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. That, I would argue is even more important, than coaching methods. A problem that I see all the time is that coaches don’t have a realistic understanding of their players’ strengths and weaknesses. We see the game through our own eyes or through the eyes of college and NFL payers on Saturdays and Sundays. So, we create a system that is built on a talent that very few people have and very few people can replicate. And then we harp on kids…”You have to get that done.” There are too few coaches that actually take the time to figure out what a kid can do and then coach him to do it. Instead, we try to fit square pegs in round holes over and over and over. Then we yell at the peg for being square…”Why aren’t you a circle? Be a circle, one time!” (I am speaking to myself here, so no judgement at all). It’s a great reminder though…let’s figure out what our kids can do first. Then, let’s put in a system that doesn’t ask them to do what they can’t.
Of course, If you are blessed with 5 kids over 220 pounds that have a motor and love the physicality of the game, you can run any system in the world and you are going to be fine. If you have kids that are over 250 with a little bit of athleticism they probably don’t even need to have a motor or a love for the position. You can still run any system in the world and they can get it done with sheer size and strength.
But, what do you do if you have neither? What do you do, if you don’t have enough big kids that can fake their way to success or enough little guys that are physical enough to outhit their opponent for 4 quarters?
This is the #1 lesson in coaching high school football in general, but it is even more essential with linemen. That is why I love the Spread Offense. It takes away the need to win a battle at the point of attack. Because of our splits (3-5 feet), our depth off the line of scrimmage (1 yard) and the shotgun snap, we can win with 5 stalemates. In the quick passing game and the screen game, we can actually win with all 5 linemen getting beat. Let me say that again, in the Spread Offense we can have a successful play if all 5 linemen get beat. Now, don’t get me wrong, we work on vertical movement, we hit the sled, we coach physicality. But, in the back of my mind, I know that if we can get 5 stalemates, we are going to have a good night. Our backs will find lanes. Our QB will have time to throw.
So, I can take an athlete that is 6’1” 185 pounds, put him in a 2 point stance and actually give him a chance to help our team win. He doesn’t have to dominate his guy all night. He doesn’t have to generate vertical movement. In fact, there are very few plays in this offense that rely on resetting the line of scrimmage (Again, I don’t want to undersell the fact that if we are able to generate vertical push, we are certainly going o take advantage of it). But, let’s look at some of the staple plays:
On Inside Zone and Stretch we step horizontally. Its all about quickness and leverage. We start a yard off the ball from a staggered stance to give us the best chance to our leverage our defender. Then, we rip and run and force the defender to fight the reach block. On Dart and Trap we want vertical movement in the A gap, but because we force 5 or 6 defenders to cover our passing game, we will almost always have the chance to double team the Nose or the Tackle. Very rarely will we expect our center or our guard to generate vertical push in a 1 on 1 block. On the playside, we pass set, or down block. Either way, we have angles that allow us to seal our defenders away from the point of attack Every running play is about utilizing the natural running lanes created by our splits.
In the spread offense passing game, it’s even easier. We should never get sacked on Quick Game. The ball should be gone in less than 2 seconds. This is a great time to cut, just to keep the defense honest and slow their potential pass rush. In the Drop Back Game, we teach the vertical set. The QB is dropping 5 steps from the gun in order to create maximum separation. So, that’s a 10 yard sprint, which will take most high school kids at least 1.5 seconds. If we can slow the rush down for 2 more seconds, the QB should have a chance to get to his 3rd read and the ball should be gone Think about that. How quick is two seconds? Count to yourself (On a side note, when I said count to yourself this audience is probably the only audience that went with 1-alligator, 2-alligator instead of the more readily accepted and, quite frankly, normal 1- one thousand 2-one thousand. We are football guys at heart after all!) Anyway…in either alligators or thousands…2 seconds is not very long.
The Screen Game, it’s self explanatory. Screens are built by linemen getting beat on purpose and then using athleticism to get upfield.
Again, let’s go back to our original premise. The Spread Offense is the best system for high school because kids can actually execute it. If I have to make a lineman from scratch from a kid that isn’t big enough or strong enough or nasty enough, I want to give him as few things to do as possible and let him work on them over and over and over. All linemen in the spread offense need to know how to rip and run, pass block for two seconds, double team, and down block. Guards need to trap and Tackles need to lead block on a backer. And, if you can do those 4 or 5 things, you can succeed. It helps to be nasty. It helps to be big and strong. But we can win without it.
That, in a nutshell, is the trick to caching high school football. Create a system that your kids can actually execute. If you can create 5 linemen year after year after year, you are going to have a lot of success.
Thanks guys. Keep Chucking It!