Spread HD Demystified

Penn State's new offense is not nearly as complicated as some are expecting it to be. Get the lowdown here.

Ever since Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno coined the phrase "Spread HD" for the team's new offense last winter, fans have been trying to decipher exactly what it means. Is it just another bit of hyperbole meant to make things seem more complicated than they actually are (like former gems "Superback" and "Flex Tight End)?

Or is there really a cutting-edge element to it.

In order to learn more about the "Spread HD," we went to a variety of program observers to download their thoughts on the offense, based on what they've seen in preseason drills to date.

"The scheme is pretty basic," one observer said. "[The coaches] typically run it from a split back formation. The quarterback is often in the shotgun, but sometimes under center."

As another observer explained, "Often they will use motion, shift a guy into the slot or out wide. The receivers are usually spread wide. The scheme really is not that different than what has been run [in recent years]."

So if the base set has seen little modification, what's at the heart of the scheme?

"It's all about players," one observer said. "Getting speed and talent on the field — [the coaches] are working in different sets into the formations. They'll run a speed set with a combination of Derrick Williams, Stephfon Green or Evan Royster, then a power set with Evan Royster, Brent Carter, Brandon Beachum, Dan Lawlor or Michael Zordich.

There are also "hybrid" sets that feature various combinations of the speed and power backs. Further, there are times when a wideout — Williams or recent addition Chaz Powell — will initially line up on a flank, only to motion into the backfield to form a two-back set.

As another observer said, "They are working to keep defenses guessing, with decoys, misdirection and options." Observers indicate that the coaches feel that the approach, if run correctly, will "keep the defenses on their toes" and make them hesitant to blitz regularly.

The key, according to most observers, is twofold: First, getting the right personnel for the right situation. Second, and more importantly, is getting the players to "become consistent with all aspects of their play. Green is working on his blocking and Lawlor on his ball-carrying. They need every guy in the set to be able to play any role."

That is goal is to get to a point where defenses can't predict what is coming based on the offensive personnel PSU is using, which has been an issue in recent years.

And what about audibles?

"There are not there yet," one observer said. "If they get to that point it would mean they are really cooking, because it would mean the boss-man [Joe Paterno] feels great about their execution."

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