Neil Callaway thinks spread offenses are affecting o-line play

Neil Callaway talks about being a demanding position coach, how much work offensive lineman need due to the proliferation of spread offenses and wanting to follow in the footsteps of his coach, Bear Bryant.

USC's gargantuan right tackle, Zach Banner, wanted everyone to write it down, record it and memorize it to make sure they got it straight.

"Coach Callaway is the meanest person I've ever met, but he's also the best offensive line coach that I've ever had."

Neil Callaway, USC's first-year offensive line coach, learned from the best, playing for legendary head coach Bear Bryant at Alabama from 1974-77. Bryant was known for his no-nonsense demeanor and his ability to get the most out of his players.

"Coach Bryant was tough," Callaway said. "He was tough, hard-nosed, but at the same time, he was very loving and caring."

Callaway has carried the lessons he learned from playing under Bryant into his own coaching career. He has 37 years of coaching experience and a reputation for riding his players hard.

"There's no group that works harder on this football field than the offensive line," USC head coach Clay Helton said. "There is literally no breaks. I have to literally stop practice and give them break to allow that to happen."

With that tough coaching has come vast improvement for a USC Trojans offensive line that is one of the most talented in the country, but gave up 28 sacks last season. The Trojans allowed only 11 this season and were third in the country in sack rate on standard downs, allowing a sack on just 1.9% of standard down plays. On passing downs, they allowed sacks 4.6% of the time -- No. 16 in the country.

Overall, USC's offensive line finished seventh in the country per Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate statistic that takes into account a team's opponents and rates a team on a scale where 100 is perfectly average, above 100 is good and below 100 is poor. The Trojans graded out at 214.3 after last year being 89th in the country with an 84.0 Adjusted Sack Rate.

USC improved from 55th in the country to No. 21 in a similar statistic for run blocking and improved from 3.00 to 3.27 yards per carry on standard downs. But there is still room for improvement in the run blocking area for the Trojans as they finished 67th, 87th and 86th in three other run blocking categories measured by Football Outsiders. 

According to Callaway, there's a reason that pass blocking improvement comes quicker than run blocking: the proliferation of spread offenses. 

"There's no question," Callaway said. "I remember 20 years ago when you got somebody, they knew how to run block, but they didn't know how to pass block. Now, they know how to pass block and they don't know how to run block. I think on the ground floor coming in, guys are so far behind as far as run blocking that it takes a little time and it's harder to run block.

"Once you learn how to pass block, it's easy. Run blocking is hard though. You're trying to move a guy from point A to point B where pass blocking you're just trying to slow them down. We have to spend a lot of time on run blocking to make sure we can do that. We want to be a balanced offense."

"Everybody thinks the game is seven on seven and one-on-one pass pro[tection]. That's the furthest from the truth. To be honest, I think it's really taking away some of the things you need to play."

Watch Neil Callaway, above, talk about the impact of spread offenses, being a demanding position coach and wanting to follow in the footsteps of his coach, Bear Bryant. Also, a cameo appearance from the biggest of USC's linemen.

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