Breaking Down the Evil Genius

It's unusual to think of a Steve Spurrier coached team with a better defense than offense, but that is what he has this year. The South Carolina defense will be one of the best the Gators will see this season, but Spurrier's offense is also rounding into form. The players have changed over time, but Spurrier still runs the same basic offensive plays. Here's a look at those from our resident coach.

Mike Stoeber is a long time friend of mine and as qualified of a person as you will find in teaching football to the general public. As a matter of fact, Mr. Stoeber used to teach football as a course at the University of Florida. He was the Director of Football Operations under Ron Zook and before that Stoeber really sank his teeth into game planning and learning tendencies of Gator opponents as the Game Analysis Coordinator under Steve Spurrier and his staff. He worked for ten plus years on Spurrier's staff making playbooks, self scouting and analyzing opponents for the gator offense and defense.

Stoeber was my boss throughout my years on the staff at Florida and is currently still working in the field of analyzing plays and dissecting coaches video. He works for a large company that works with teams in analyzing opponents and developing game plans. His current client list includes more than 50 NFL and collegiate teams. Both teams that met in the Super Bowl last year are current client's of Stoeber and he also does work for seven SEC teams.

I asked "Coach Stoeber" if he would use his knowledge of the Spurrier offense to share a little bit of what Spurrier is thinking about when he attacks a defense. I guarantee when reading this you will learn something new and will not find a more qualified person to share his knowledge on the game of football on the Internet.

SPURRIER RUNNING GAME

For Coach Spurrier's system, it starts with the running game. To me, this will be the key of the game. In South Carolina's three losses, they have averaged less than 50 yards a game. In their seven wins, they have averaged more than 125 yards a game. They were out rushed by more than 40 yards in each of their losses. You might think that they just are not trying to run the ball. This is not true. South Carolina has had more passing plays than running plays in only three of their 10 games, namely their 1st two SEC games (Vanderbilt & Georgia – both losses) and Kentucky.

The key to Spurrier's offense has always been the run game. In the 1996 championship season, UF averaged about 170 yards per game. Even the big three of the Big 12 this year (Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech) are averaging 167 yards a game running the ball. I think South Carolina will need to run the ball at least 30 times and gain 100 yards. If so, UF will need to honor the run which changes the type of coverages they will play and defender's aggressiveness level.

PASSING GAME

Spurrier's offensive passing play book is actually smaller than you think. I have seen some team's play books grow to 200-plus pages. In comparison, Spurrier's 2000 UF play book had 32 pass routes. I completed a four-year study in the 1990s on his play calling and was surprised to find that 10 pass plays accounted for almost 90% of all plays. What makes his system so great was it was not overwhelming in terms of number of plays but still so powerful in the way the different routes could be run out of different personnel group and formation to get the best match ups. I will share some of these base routes I think will work versus the Gators' style of defense and why.

Back Routes

I think a key to SC's passing success will be throws to the the backs. Although South Carolina only throws to the running backs 18 percent of the time, I believe this will be a key area to attack. RB Mike Davis had 52 career catches, including two catches for 25 yards and a TD versus Tennessee.

One of the possible routes is to run off the flat defenders with deep routes and place the RB on the LB one-on-one. It is difficult for the linebackers to both play versus the run fake and then get into position to cover the RB in the flat.



TE Routes

SC's top receiver is TE Jared Cook. It is interesting to note that he was averaging 3.8 catches per game until the last two games. Versus Tennessee and Arkansas, he only had two catches total. I expect he will have four-plus catches this game.

One of the best route combinations versus cover-2 is to release the TE vertically. This route is to get upfield 13 yards then stick and break to the middle of the field. The ball should be received at about 20 yards.



WR Routes
3-STEP ROUTES

I expect to see more three-step drops in an effort to control the rush and move the ball. Due to us playing off coverage, I expect to see a lot of slant routes. Another combination I think would be effective versus our attacking linebackers in the three-step combination of a 4-yard hitch and a slant behind. This is a simple read for the QB. If the LB attacks the hitch, throw the slant. If the LB drops deeper, throw the hitch.



5-STEP ROUTES

The best areas to attack versus cover-2 are the middle of the field (see TE route above) and the deep outside areas. In fact, sending three receivers deep versus 2-deep safeties put the safeties in tough situations.



7-STEP ROUTES

Another possibility is to keep more blockers in and isolate one defender. A simple read with maximum protection is often a good solution to get a throw for a QB that is getting a lot of pressure. A simple corner route is good option versus cover-2. If the corner jumps the hitch, throw the corner route. If the corner drops deeper, throw the hitch.



SC Keys to Success

I believe that a running game will need to be established in order to be effective. The running backs and tight ends versus our linebackers will be South Carolina's best passing match up. A short passing game will help keep the defense honest while attacking our safeties deep will be their best chance to hit a home run.

However, if I could truly guess what Coach Spurrier is going to do, I would be making a lot more money than I am as a defensive coordinator somewhere!


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