Football is a funny sport. Most teams, smart teams at least, adapt their systems and schemes to their players and also what’s working in football at that time. Now there are certain programs that have failed to do this. Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson ran the triple option for a decade with the Yellow Jackets, and while it won them games, you’re not raising any national championship trophies with that offense.
Then there’s also our Miami Hurricanes, who’s offensive system has seemed to be stagnant for years and years, which is one of the main reasons why UM has failed to be relevant for so long now.
I’m convinced until Miami goes to a full spread offense they will never be good...— The Last 〽️ohican (@WeeBeTheReason) October 6, 2019
Today, one of the most popular schemes for an efficient offensive is the spread, which most successful teams have adopted at least some form of, both college and in the NFL. To put it simply, the spread is where the quarterback is typically in the shotgun, three or more receivers (up to 5) are out wide, and it’s used to stretch the defense vertically and horizontally.
The idea of the spread is to get the ball to your playmakers, those with speed, and it’s typically found in fast paced and high temp offenses. The spread is both an affective scheme for a passing and running offense, and even when you’re not running it, your RB can be effective on swing passes. The spread is especially dangerous when you have a mobile quarterback.
In honor of it being 16 days until Oregon opens the football season against Auburn, here’s Dennis Dixon running it in for a 16 yard TD that would help carry us to a 34-33 win against Oklahoma #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/MyS6FrArHD— Jacob Archer (@Jacob_Archer12) August 15, 2019
Though it’s not the primary scheme in the NFL, several pro teams have used the spread in the past. The 2007 Patriots used it with Tom Brady and their plethora of receivers like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donté Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney, and became the most prolific offense in league history. Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs use the spread very frequently, and now Kansas City has perhaps the most dangerous offense in the NFL today.
Patrick Mahomes has been dominant for the Chiefs through two games this season.— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) September 20, 2018
You can watch how he maximizes Kansas City's spread offense using the multiple camera angles of Game Pass presented by @NFL. Learn more at https://t.co/T8eLfkXfhl pic.twitter.com/x4BBeN5OUg
Kliff Kingsbury came over from Texas Tech to become the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, bringing his spread offense with him, as he teamed up with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.
Kyler Murray has his first NFL TD #DETvsAZ (via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/yr4wFxG4Aa— ESPN (@espn) September 8, 2019
While the spread is becoming more and more relevant in the pros, there’s no questioning the effect it’s had in college football, and continues to have.
Other than the Wisconsin Badgers, who have found ways to win by continuing to run the ball, you’d be hard-pressed to find another school who's been successful without the spread offense.
Urban Meyer has won national championships with the spread option at Ohio State and Florida, and also transformed the Utah Utes into a relevant program when he used the offense with Alex Smith.
Wishing Urban Meyer well as he steps away to focus on his health/family. He is one of the greatest coaches ever, and an innovator of spread offense. Whether he returns to the sidelines or not, it was fun to watch.— Jesse James Palmer (@JessePalmerTV) December 4, 2018
You can see the spread continue to work at Ohio State under new head coach Ryan Day, who’s team is running it to perfection with quarterback Justin Fields.
Urban Meyer breaking down the spread offense/RPO is something every college football fan should watch. pic.twitter.com/nBhVv99BQ0— Buckeye Beat Report (@TheBuckeyeBR) September 1, 2019
Mike Leach, though his is more of an air-raid offense, is still related to the spread. Nevertheless, his teams, whether it’s been Texas Tech or Washington State, have been nearly impossible to defend for years.
Chip Kelly came to Oregon in 2007 as the offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach in 2009, and thanks to his spread attack, he turned the Ducks into a national power. With players such as Dennis Dixon, LaMichael James, Marcus Mariota and others, Oregon’s offense began lighting up scoreboards and putting points on the board, as the Ducks began racking up wins.
Even in the old fashioned SEC conference, Nick Saban and Alabama has taken a few notes from the spread playbook, with the influence of coordinators like Lane Kiffin and Mike Locksley. As Saban has adapted the Tide’s spread offense in the past five years, we’ve seen more national championships come out of Tuscaloosa, and also Tua Tagovailoa become one of the greatest collegiate quarterbacks ever. It also helps with getting their explosive receivers like Jerry Jeudy and Devonta Smith into open space.
In 2016, Scott Frost brought his no-huddle spread offense that he learned from Kelly at Oregon to no-name UCF. That first year, the Knights went 6-7, and then 13-0 the following season, with Frost turning UCF into a dynamic offense, and helping McKenzie Milton become a 4,000 yard passer who threw 37 touchdowns in 2018.
The @American_FB Conference has spoken!— UCF Knight News (@UCFKnightNews) November 29, 2017
11-0 Head Coach Scott Frost has been unanimously voted Coach of the Year & McKenzie Milton is your Offensive Player of the Year! pic.twitter.com/XgTSxzYRA3
My favorite version of the spread offense today is Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners. Riley, who learned under Leach at Texas Tech, runs an offense at OU that takes from multiple schemes, with the spread being perhaps the main one. Since Riley was hired as head coach in 2017, he’s produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners and number-one NFL Draft picks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, and Oklahoma has had one of the most proficient offensive attacks in college football.
Now, Riley is taking Jalen Hurts to new heights in 2019 and he’s operating the Sooners offense to 47.2 points per game.
Going back to the SEC, you have Ed Orgeron with the LSU Tigers, who I'd like to talk about for a second. In 2017, his first year in Baton Rouge, Orgeron went 9-4 and his offense averaged 25.8 points per game. Following that season, offensive coordinator Matt Canada was let go, and was replaced by Steve Ensminger, who runs a spread to go along with a pro-style look. The next year in 2018, the Tigers went 10-3 as LSU then averaged 32.5 PPG.
Then prior to the 2019 season, Orgeron brought on Joe Brady to serve as the passing game coordinator. Brady spent the last two years with the New Orleans Saints as an offensive assistant, learning under Sean Payton and becoming an expert with the RPO as well as tight ends usage.
With Brady’s implementing the spread more into LSU’s offense, the Tigers have erupted, scoring 47.7 points per game. Quarterback Joe Burrow is one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, and has thrown for 2,484 yards (2nd in NCAA), 29 touchdowns (tied for 1st) and is completing 79.4% of his passes (1st in NCAA). Oh and also, the Tigers are 7-0 and ranked second in the country.
The only QB in college football since 2000 to have 25+ Pass TD and a completion percentage of at least 75% after seven games:@LSUfootball’s Joe Burrow pic.twitter.com/RCcRL2buEH— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 22, 2019
Just to rattle off more teams that ran the spread and had success: Baylor and Art Briles with Robert Griffin III. West Virginia with Rich Rodriguez, and players like Pat White and Steve Slaton. Another West Virginia team, this time with coach Dana Holgorsen, accompanied by quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin. BYU with coach Bronco Mendenhall, along with Max Hall and Austin Collie.
2012 ~ Geno Smith (#WestVirginia) stat line vs Baylor— BeforeFamePics/Vines (@BeforeFamePics2) September 2, 2016
45/51 656 PASS YDS 8TDS 0 INT
5 CAR 31 YDS pic.twitter.com/WbsYkuBaSV
So as you can see, the spread offense has a history of being able to change programs, and catapult teams into the elite of college football. If you go listen to any of these coaches, what this spread offense is able to do utilize their athletes, who have tremendous speed, and get them into open space. It’s the most popular offense in college for a reason, it works!
What College Football used to be:— Rich Ohrnberger (@ohrnberger) August 31, 2019
Big Ten> Run Dominant
Pac-12> Spread Offense/Zone Read
Big 12> Air Raid
ACC> umm... Basketball
What College Football is now:
Big Ten \
Big 12. }>SPREAD OFFENSE
Hmmmmmmm. What team am I thinking of with fast athletes who need to be utilized more? Ahh yes, Miami!
In part two, we look at Miami’s history with the spread (yes they have one), and why it’s necessary that UM switches to that style of offense.