When you think of the spread offense, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it running the ball using the zone read, triple option, and quarterback 'single wing' type plays like West Virginia and Oregon (with Dennis Dixon)? Is it throwing the ball all over the field both vertically and horizontally like Hawaii? OR...is it a balanced mix of rushing the football and passing the football like Florida?
I must admit, when I personally think of the spread offense today (at this moment), the first thing that comes to my mind is the use of the quarterback in the rushing game...the Coach Rodriguez style of the spread that has made West Virginia a national powerhouse over the last 3 years. But is this style of the spread offense the best style? Is this style the 'formula' for ultimate success?
Maybe the reason I think of the spread in this rushing form is because it is the newest, freshest, or the 'buzz' out there in college and high school - not necessarily the 'best' form or style.
I mean don't get me wrong, when Oregon, Appalachian State or West Virginia had teams scrambling to figure out how to defend their respective rushing dominant spread offenses, it was some of the funniest stuff to watch as both a fan and a coach. It was so good that you wondered 'how the heck are they doing that?'... gashing some pretty good defenses with these shot-gun spread running plays?
On the flip side, if you tuned into West Virginia's two defeats this year versus South Florida (who has beaten WVU two years in a row with great defense) and Pittsburgh, you would have shook your head saying "What's all the fuss about?"
As a former offensive coordinator myself, I must admit that one of the hardest things to do is get away from something that is so successful so often. Is it pride, ego, stubbornness, or the fear of not enough preparation or more importantly game exposure to 'Plan B' that prevents coaches from shifting gears when a defense hasn't stopped you all day?
Remember, there is only so much time in a day and more importantly so much 'game experience' for alternative measures to be confidently ran when the scoreboard is on.
So as a coach...what do you do? Your racking up tons of yardage and points using a lot of the same stuff simply because the defense can't stop you, do you stop calling what's working (going against the 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' motto) and try to 'balance' your attack? Risking a possible turnover or more importantly loss of offensive momentum and scoring to prepare for the future (just in case)?
Obviously the capabilities of your player's will have a lot of determination on how balanced you are willing to be.
It's a fact that Patrick White from WVU couldn't run Colt Brennan's offense at Hawaii (or vice versa) but how 'balanced' could these two guys really be?
Colt Brennan threw for 4,174 and rushed for 65 so far this year
Patrick White threw for 1,548 and rushed for 1,185 so far this year
If you looked at these two stats from two great college QB's, you would say that West Virginia is the more 'balanced' offensive team, but is either team really 'balanced'?
Then you have the Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow from Florida, his stats so far this year look like this:
Not very balanced stats, but during my observation of this year, I would have to say that Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen of Florida do the best job of 'balancing' an attack and more importantly staying with that balanced attack game plan then any other spread offense in the nation.*
Is it because of Tim Tebow's skills? or a philosophy the Gator's have that staying balanced in the spread is the right formula to keep defenses honest and stressed?
The Gators did lose 3 games this year in the very tough SEC conference.
* (As a side note, Butch Jones from Central Michigan also did a great job of balancing his attack in the Motor City Bowl this year.)