Urban Meyer Says The Death of the Spread Offense Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Coaches are control freaks in one direction or another. Jim Caldwell's big accomplishment with the Colts in his short career as head coach has been to make grown men sit in assigned seats. When they win a Super Bowl, I'm sure Peyton Manning will get misty, look to his coach, and say "This all started with the nametags, Jim. Without that, I'm crying into my guacamole on Cabo right now." Then they'll hug and ride off on a flying unicorn together. [/starwipe, fade, theme, and credits.)
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↵Sarcasm aside, coaches like to do things their own particular way, and rarely change in substantive, serious ways. There are very good reasons for this, but most prominently it is because getting any group of people numbering more than three to do anything effectively is like herding cats. Thus the lost sleep by coaches: they're up late watching film to keep the nightmares of one of their players tearing their ACL walking to the bathroom in the night from driving them completely mad, because it's something they cannot possibly control.
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↵All of this explains why one shouldn't be to excited by the notion of Urban Meyer scrapping the spread option altogether at Florida this year and beyond.
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↵Meyer has won two national titles at Florida in the past four years with his system, one reliant on forcing defenses to defend the entire field at all times. If he has someone like former Michigan qb coach and Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler on board, it is for the following reasons, and not because Florida is having trouble selling recruits on the idea that a pro qb could come from the spread system.
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↵1. The Evolution of Tim Tebow. Having one of Tom Brady's formative influences on the staff can't be bad, but Loeffler's presence isn't just a matter of name-dropping association. Loeffler is a top flight qb coach who won't just
↵work on Tebow's reads and footwork, but will also build in some new pro-style patterns into the speread option. Tebow has to evolve as a qb, and that's not bad news, as it means he could possibly be better in 2009 with the right framework.
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↵2. The Continuing Evolution of the Spread. The "spread" is a misleading term at best, encompassing a series of offense now morphing into their third, fourth, or fifth step beyond their forerunners. The spread you see at Michigan, the evolved run 'n shoot used by Mike Leach at Texas Tech, the New Hampshire school of the offense espoused by Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen...all use some of the same principles but in wildly different ways.
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↵If Meyer doesn't evolve in a league like the SEC, his team dies. If throwing the I-formation in every three series keeps defensive coordinators from zeroing in on your tendencies, do it. It's the sort of variance and unpredictability pro coordinators are constantly crowing about in extolling the superiority of the pro game--using it at the college level is neither new, nor particularly innovative. it just may be what the moment calls for given the talent and the expectations of opposing defenses scouting spread teams like Florida. Bringing us to the third point...
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↵3. It's just further proof that Urban Meyer is the Borg. Urban Meyer would be the first to admit this, but if it works, he'll assimilate it and add it to the arsenal. One possible vulnerability of running the spread is the critique that spread qbs don't adjust well to the pro game.
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↵Never mind that most qbs period fail in the pro game, including those who play in staid, old-school offenses where the qb works from under center; perception is reality, as Chris from Smart Football says, and the big numbers generated by college spread qbs mean any dropoff from the pros is going to be more noticeably spectacular than that of a pro-style qb coming into the NFL.
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↵So rather than concede that on the trail, you add in some variance, build in some pro sets, and pick up recruits concerned about missing out the special experience of starting a certain percentage of snaps perched just inches from a large, sweaty man's ass.
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↵It works for some teams, and will probably work for Florida when John Brantley, a strong-armed pocket passer, takes over next year in what will inevitably be a different offense. This move is as much about next year as it is about future recruiting, and will show that no matter the current crop of talent, Meyer will at least try to adjust to what he has.
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↵Meyer, being the control freak all coaches are, will only change if it means he can make it a part of his own system. For instance, he'll only seriously and publicly clamp down on discipline if it affects recruiting, wins, or the balance sheets at Florida. Right now none of them have made a dent. When they do, he'll change. Until then, The Machine is fully operational, and resistance is futile.
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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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