As a coach at the high school level who ran The Spread Offense and hearing from different college coaches who run it at clinics, two very simple components need to be executed properly in order to run this offense.
- The Center Shot-Gun Snap
- The Bubble Screen QB Throw
1. The Center Shot-Gun Snap
The center shot-gun snap is the 'ignition' point for every spread play, this is what sets everything in motion, allowing the perimeter skill players to 'see' the start of the play as hearing a snap count is impossible from those distances.
The actual snap of the ball itself is what I feel is the most important, because a bad or inaccurate snap can really throw off the entire flow and continuity of the play. What I mean by inaccurate is that the quarterback prefers the shot-gun snap to be between their number on the front of the jersey, allowing them to securely catch the ball, then go through their play flow, whether that is a zone read, triple option, straight hand-off, QB sweep/draw/wrap/counter/ISO, bubble screen, or straight pass.
I've heard Rick Trickett (O-Line coach at Florida State, formally at West Virginia and Auburn) say that he demands that his centers get 100 shot-gun snaps in 'a day' in the off-season (are your centers doing this?), that's how important mastering this simple yet extremely important element of the spread offense.
2. The Bubble Screen QB Throw
The bubble screen is one of those components of The Spread Offense that really makes things hard on the defense, placing them 'between a rock and a hard place' in trying to decide on perimeter support for the run (especially against the zone read or triple option), and how many players to commit to 'the box', as your outside linebackers and strong safeties need to cover receiver #2 (the inside twin receiver), taking them out of the box.
The other component of the bubble screen that has become even more interesting is when offenses 'fake or act out' the bubble screen, making the perimeter defense freeze (if only for a split second), which may be the difference on an inside zone read run going to the house, or for a 6 yard gain as the 'box' defenders are all covered by blockers and perimeter help cannot support the inside play.
Now, looking at the above scenarios you're likely saying, 'lets put this great play in', again easier said then done. Just like the shot-gun snap above from the center needs to be executed correctly, the bubble screen pass and catch need to do the same.
I've heard coaches at clinics describe the bubble screen throw by the quarterback as like 'turning the double play' in baseball between the second basemen and shortstop. The quarterback first has to catch the snap cleanly, rotate his body correctly, whether to his throwing arm side or his backside. Usually some kind of zone fake hand-off precedes the throw, so a clean fake between the QB and Super-back must occur (no 'dislodging' the ball during the fake) if the case requires it.
I mentioned above how centers in Coach Trick's programs are required to do a lot of 'off-season' work, well I would strongly suggest the same with the 'pitch and catch' of the bubble screen. Rep's, rep's, and more rep's!
Remember, a bubble screen (based on ball placement on the field, hash-marks, formation, etc..) could be thrown as short as 10 yards or as long as 25 yards. All of these distances need to practiced, over and over again.
Receivers or 'athletes' need to be aware of the rules of a forward pass vs. a lateral on bubble screens. I would teach them to always assume the bubble screen is a lateral (thrown behind the line of scrimmage, this also allows for the release of O-linemen downfield, a big part of the bubble screen).
Mastering these two 'simple' components of "The Spread Offense" will go a long way in driving defenses crazy and eliminating costly mistakes on offense.