DEFINING UTAH'S SPREAD OFFENSE

The intent is actually to spread out a defense and take advantage of its weakest links, whether it's through the air or on the ground. Bottom line: get the ball into the end zone.

When college football fans hear someone say "Utah runs a spread offense", they will most likely think of the Florida State Seminoles, and all of the game the ‘Noles threw 35, sometimes 40 or more passes in a game just because they could do so.

Utah's spread offense is much different. The quarterback must not only be a passer, but a runner as well.

With an opposing defense is unable to stack the line of scrimmage with eight men because of four and five wide receiver sets the quarterback has a smorgasbord of options with the running game alone. You will see the quarterback run the ball himself on draw plays, traps where the offense guard will pull and be a lead blocker, and even an occasional quarterback sweep. That's also why Utah running back Brandon Warfield has been so successful thus far this year running between the tackles. Fewer defenders, more yards.

It also helps with the option game, although it is not used in the traditional sense with a fullback. The quarterback has to be accounted for by one defender, often times leaving the running back (Warfield) available for big yardage with a good pitch as he swings up field and turns the corner.

The wild card with the spread offense is that it takes an opponent out of its base defense, a 4-3 or 3-4 most likely, and into a nickel or dime package, where more defensive backs are utilized instead of linebackers. This is another reason the Utes will be able to run the football right at an opponent even without a lead blocker or tight end in the game.

Utah head coach Urban Meyer knows a thing or two about the running game. He was an assistant coach under such well known head coaches as Earl Bruce at Colorado State and Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. Both of those coaches loved to pound the football straight-ahead and force the ball down the opponent's throat. Both coaches have been known to use the option as well so Meyer is well-versed in this area. When you see Utah put up over 200 yards rushing in a single game do not be surprised, it's by design.

And finally, once a running game is established, or even the threat of a running game because of the reputation of the offense, big plays in the passing game are simply a matter of execution. The key beyond the obvious need for good pass protection from the offensive line and running backs is big-play ability from the wide receivers. Speed kills, and the model of Ute receivers in the future will be more like Paris Warren, players that can make a lot of yardage "after" the catch.

It has been an exciting start to the 2003 season for the Utes, and it is only going to get better as more and more players are added to the roster that can be utilized in the spread offense.


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