Spread option's pluses, minuses

When your offense can stretch the opposing defense vertically AND horizontally, you create more room for your rushers to run and your receivers to operate. That's the philosophy behind the Urban Meyer spread option that Tennessee will face Saturday night at Florida.

"They use the entire field, with the option, screens and reverses," Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "They make you play assignment football, like the old veer did."

Because defenders must first read keys and execute their assignments, they tend to be less aggressive against option attacks than standard offensive systems. That's especially true against Florida's spread option.

"They do a good job of taking your out of some of the things you like to do," Fulmer said. "It's a good scheme. If you're not careful, it takes some of your pursuit away. You get washed up into a wad."

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis put it this way: "Because of the way they spread you out, you can't get anybody out of place. If you do, you get creased for a big play."

Although the option forces a defense to concentrate on alignments and assignments, Chavis vows that he won't let Florida's attack put his troops in read-and-react mode.

"Don't think we're going to be sitting back," he said. "That's not our nature. We're going to be who we are. That's pressure, and that's what we're going to do."

Meyer's spread option enjoyed so much success at Bowling Green and Utah, you wonder why more teams don't utilize it. Chavis, who faced numerous option attacks as a Vol nose guard back in the 1970s, has the definitive answer to that question.

"Most people don't want their quarterback getting hit," he said. "That's the thing that threw that offense out the window a long time ago."

The option is just one facet of Florida's attack, however.

"That's not all they do," Chavis said. "They go five-wides and they chuck it around a good bit. But when they do run the option as a true veer-option principle, you put your quarterback at risk of getting hit. That's why a lot of people quit running it; they didn't want their quarterback taking those licks."

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