Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spread Offense Q&A - Nunzio Campanile - Don Bosco Prep High School - NJ

It's a pleasure to have Nunzio Campanile in our second coaches Q&A session, Athletic Director and Offensive Coordinator at Don Bosco Prep High School in New Jersey.

1) Coach, thanks for taking the time to speak with us at spreadoffense.com and congratulations on your second straight New Jersey state title (2006-2007)?

Thank you, this past season was a lot of fun. We had a great group of guys that really put the team ahead of their personal interests and it made for a great team in all phases of the game.

2) Tell us a little bit about the spread offense you run at Don Bosco Prep? (Run first philosophy? balanced attack philosophy (run/pass)? Tempo? No-Huddle? Gun vs. under the center? Etc…)

Our offense at Don Bosco Prep is predicated on 2 things, controlling the tempo and balance. The tempo is set by playing fast. We operate out of a no-huddle system on occasion, but we always want to play fast. The more experienced we are, the more likely we are to go no-huddle.

We will use no-huddle to give us a jumpstart or change the pace. We always want to fly in and out of the huddle if we do use one. We have a different thought about balance then many other teams. We never gameplan to be a 50/50 team. Rather, we want to be flexible enough to take what the defense gives us. On every play we have the ability to get into the play that best fits the look that the defense gives. We want to run the ball, but we never want to be too stubborn.

We are willing to throw the ball until the defense gives us the looks we want to run the ball successfully. That may be the greatest advantage of the spread. The formations create a threat to run and throw on every down. We do believe it essential to throw the ball well if you are in the spread. If you can’t take advantage of their attempts to stop the run you become one dimensional. We always want the threat of a balanced attack. This past season we were a predominantly gun team. In the past we have been mixed depending upon the QB.

3) Based on this philosophy, what do you and your fellow offensive coaches look for when preparing for an opponent every week?

We look for basic fronts and coverages. We want to know the other teams best stunts. We always ask, what do they believe in? A good team is not going to drastically overhaul their defense in one week.

If they do, they are not going to be able to make the necessary adjustments to beat us. We also look for physical match-ups. Who are their best and worst players. We want to keep it basic. We feel that our style of offense allows us a great deal of flexibility. We may throw it 35 times against one team and run it 40 times the next week. We love to throw, but devised a gameplan for the past 2 state championship games, in which we ran the ball almost 80% of the plays. To us that demonstrates our balance. We have the ability to take what the defense gives us.

4) What type of student-athlete do you guys get at Don Bosco Prep offensively? Does the type of athlete you guys have dictate the offensive philosophy?

We get a mixed bag of athletes at Don Bosco. Being a parochial school we draw from a wide variety of towns, providing an array of different athletes. Each year it varies in what type of athletes we will have. This past season we had 3 tremendous running backs on the varsity w/ some real strong guys behind them.

We tried to keep them all on the field as much as possible. Some years we have 6 or 7 WRs that rotate. We definitely change our scheme depending upon our players. We will not change our philosophy for anyone. In other words we will always believe in balance & tempo. We will always believe in being a tough physical team that can run the ball. What may change is, the actual scheme or choice of formations we use. We will not be too stubborn to run a scheme that we do not have the players to run, we will be flexible enough to adapt.

5) How long have you been running the spread offense (or a version of it) at DBP? And how has the spread offense evolved over that period at the high school level in NJ and nationally?

We have been running some version of the spread for 7 seasons. 8 years ago we ran a lot of 1 back stuff w/ Ryan Grant at tailback (Green Bay Packers), but we were a predominantly power run offense. We have evolved a great deal. There are so many great ideas out there. We are constantly seeking out advice on better ways to do what we are doing. I watch a lot of football and try to find ways to adapt what other teams are using to improve our offense.

There are so many colleges running the spread that you can find new ideas everywhere. They are usually very accommodating to high school coaches. We tinker with what we do constantly. Mainly, so that others teams do not catch us. We do not want teams to out work us.

As far as the change in spread offenses, I think its been tremendous. I played QB for my father at Paramus Catholic. We ran a version of the Run-N-Shoot in the early and mid-90’s. We were 4 WRs every play. No one was running the spread then. We were one of the only teams even throwing the ball, now everyone is getting into it. That offense really helped my transition into coaching. Many of the principles we used still apply today. Its exciting, it gets a lot of players involved, and the use of the dual threat QB has really changed the game. Now a QB can be a runner and a passer.

People used to think that combo was impossible, now you see it everywhere. We did many of these things when I was in school, but we never got in the gun. It really has changed the game in HS football.

6) Based on this evolution you’ve seen, is it still safe to say that defenses are still playing ‘catch-up’ in trying to figure out this offense (scheme wise)? Especially when defending an offense that has a gifted ‘dual threat’ type quarterback?

Defenses are playing catch up, if the team has the balance we talked about earlier. The dual threat QB has leveled the field. Under center the game is played 11 on 10. The QB’s ability to run has made it an 11 on 11 game. The offense can account for extra defenders w/ options, reads, and hots.

Many teams see the spread and think pass, but its much more than that. We have run the ball more than thrown it every year except one in the past 7 seasons, but teams are still giving us 5 and 6 man boxes to attack. A talented QB forces the defense to make difficult decisions.

Honestly I do not envy the defense in that situation. Often they are in a difficult position either way. Our QB this past season, Brett Knief, was the best dual threat QB we’ve had. I say that knowing the the 3 previous guys were all Div. 1 QBs. Steve Levy (Cal), Mike Teel (Rutgers), & Matt Simms (Louisville) were tremendous players that got better everyday. Simms & Teel were incredible throwers and smart QBs that allowed us to do many things, but they had to surprise you with a big run.

We hope that they are both future pros, but the ability to run in HS is crippling. Brett was a threat to run on every down and he killed teams throwing the ball. That dual threat puts a lot of uncertainty in the defense.

7) Play a little devil’s advocate, what are the biggest weaknesses you see in the run oriented spread offense in college and high school football?

The run oriented spread offense is limited. If a team has great perimeter defenders the defense can load the box to force long yardage situations. This limits the play action game. I will stick w/ our notion of balance. It takes a great deal of work to throw the ball successfully. We believe it is worth the investment of time.

Many teams in the “run oriented” spread only throw when they need to or have huge play action opportunities. This will hurt you when you face a team that is as talented as your team. When you are a threat to throw on every down the defense can not commit to one facet of your offense.

I often feel that a lack of balance kills some spread teams in big games. Plus it is hard to find QBs with those talents. If your QB gets injured will the next guy be able to run the offense. Balance is essential.

8) When this run oriented spread offense first arrived on the national spotlight, a lot of critics called it a fade or ‘gimmick’ offense, what made you and your fellow coaches buy into it and eventually implement it at DBP?

We believe in the spread for a lot of reasons. First it is easier to see what the defense is doing when you spread the field. Second, you take defenders out of the box, which means there are less players to block on every play. It also can eliminate confusion for the linemen in blitz pick-up. Third, it allows you to distribute the ball to more players. This makes the game exciting and interesting. There are many other options for kids today. We try to make the game fun and keep everyone involved.

We feel that the QB is central to the success of any offense. With that said we want to make the QB as effective as possible. I mentioned earlier that I have a Run-N-Shoot background. Coach Toal was a big fan of the “I”. This provided an opportunity to combine the 2. We are now running power run stuff out of 1 back formations. The QBs ability to run provides a numbers advantage. It was simple math.

9) Look into your crystal ball and tell us what the state of the shot-gun, run orientated spread offense will be in high school, college, and professional football in five years?

While the game of football will continue to change or at least cycle itself, I believe this offense will continue to be a part of college and high school football for a long time to come. The opportunity to showcase your best athletes is too important, for the spread to disappear.

The development of athletic QBs will also continue to be an important element in HS & college football. This offense has found a way to combine the triple option w/ the Run-N-Shoot. Both of those offenses are essential parts of the HS & college game. Teams use these ideas to hide deficiencies in the line or elsewhere in their personnel. While I believe elements of the spread will be extracted for use in the pros, it will never be a major part of pro football.

The QB is too valuable in the NFL to expose him to as many hits as he takes in the spread. While I love the offense its growth is hurting the development of college QBs for the NFL. It seems many are less prepared for the nuances of a pro offense.

10) Coach, what would be your advice to a High School or Pop Warner coach looking to install and implement the shot-gun, spread offense for the first time?

There is a lot that goes into it. We started by tailoring the formations around our existing offense. We were already big proponents of inside & outside zone. They are still the basis of our run offense. We do a lot now, but when we started we were simple. Less is more sometimes. Too many people want to do everything they see on TV every week. I say find out what fits your team and work at it religiously. Once you master it then add some more. We get better at coaching it every year, through trial & error. We had to take a long hard look at our terminology. We changed a lot of our language to streamline our playcalling and allow for the no-huddle.

We also spent a great deal of time on the snap. Our first attempt at the spread in 2001 was scrapped because we had trouble with the snap. The next year the same center had only one bad snap the entire season. We just stuck with it. Now it is not an option to scrap it. The shotgun has become too integral in what we do to scrap it. We make sure to work on it every day. This game still comes down to fundamentals. If you run the spread it is not a magic solution that allows you to stop working on the little things. Take the stuff you believe and tweak it.

11) How can High School or Pop Warner coaches get in touch with the staff at Don Bosco Prep?

The two best ways would be email or phone. The phone number in the football office is (201) 327-8003 x 155. The number in the athletic director’s office is (201) 327-4704 x 120 that is my direct line. My email is: ncampanile@donboscoprep.com

Our head coach is Greg Toal and our offensive line coach is Chuck Granatell. We would all be glad to share the little bit that we know, since many people have helped us throughout our time at Don Bosco and before.

12) Tell us how some Don Bosco prep alumni are doing at the college level? And a little about your tough schedule ahead in 2008?

Currently, Mike Teel is the QB at Rutgers University. Brian Toal will be back on the field at Boston College along with Ryan Lindsey & newcomer Alexander DiSanzo. Corey Wootten is playing at Northwestern University, Michael Ray Garvin is playing at Florida State. Matt Simms, Brian Roche, & Darius Mann are playing at Louisville. Matt will hopefully step into the QB role there in the coming years. Marquise Liverpool is playing WR at Temple. Justin Trottau is playing at the University of Florida and Sam Griffin is at the University of Cincinnati. There are a few that I am leaving out and I apologize, but we are very proud of the success that our guys are having at the next level. They are almost all contributing greatly to their programs’ success.

Next season the Ironmen will be hitting the road in the early part of the season. We travel to St. Xavier in Cincinnati, OH. We than play Valley Forge Military Academy at home. Our third game is at De La Salle High School in Concord, CA. St. X and De La Salle are two of the most decorated high school football teams in the country. We follow that by playing some of the best teams in New Jersey including; Bergen Catholic, St. Joe’s Montvale, Montclair, & Ridgewood. We feel that this is probably the most ambitious schedule in the history of New Jersey high school football. We only have that opportunity because of the guys mentioned in the previous paragraph and their teammates. We’re truly honored to be involved in such great games this upcoming season.

13) Coach, final question. You have one game to play to save planet earth vs. the University of Mars and the President of The United States has chosen you to run the offense. You need to pick a dual threat quarterback to lead your spread offense to victory. You have 4 weeks to prepare for this game in the coliseum in LA, and the only rule is you can’t choose a quarterback that you currently coach… who’s in the gun for you for this game?

That is a really difficult question. I tend to favor a great passer that can run. There are many great guys out there, but the dual threat makes it interesting. If it were a current player, I would choose Tim Tebow from Florida. He is not the most accurate passer but he manages the game real well. More importantly he has all the intangibles that it takes to lead a team. I have had the pleasure to meet his high school & college head coaches. Both men raved about his toughness, discipline, dedication, and athletic ability. I want the QB to be the toughest guy on the team. Tebow probably fits that description the best.

About Nunzio Campanile:

Nunzio Campanile is the first year athletic director at Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey, NJ. He has been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Don Bosco for the last eight seasons. In that period, the Ironmen have played in seven New Jersey state championship games, winning four. The Ironmen have finished ranked in the USA Today four times in the last eight seasons, finishing as high as #2 in the nation in 2003. The 2007 season had the Ironmen ranked #3 in the nation on Maxpreps. In those eight seasons, the Ironmen have averaged over 40 points per game and have compiled a record of 88-5. Nunzio Campanile played quarterback at Paramus Catholic High School in NJ and at Amherst College. He graduated from Montclair State University in NJ.

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