There is an old philosophy in football that says, "When you pass the ball only three things can happen, and two of them are bad." Don't tell that philosophy to the growing spread coaches across the state. Not since the major emergence of the Wing-T formation has the state seen a major overhaul of offensive style.
There are several schools that have begun to commit to more of a spread formation look including schools like Memphis-Briarcrest with quarterback Chris Campbell, Savannah-Hardin County led by Will Gilchrist, Germantown-Houston quarterback Nathan Jolley and even Paris-Henry County with Marsalis Teague taking the snaps. The addition of quarterback with mobility helps to make this offense more successful. A mobile quarterback allows you have a back that can throw or run on every play.
The first advantage of the offense is the idea that it allows you to go without a huddle. Many teams are using this as a means to come up to the line of scrimmage and make the defense show their hand first. If the offensive coordinator does not like what they see they can signal in a new play to the quarterback. This idea allows the offensive coordinator to take some of the thinking out of the quarterback's hands and call the plays.
Another advantage of the offense is the ability to move the ball around several different players. Tony Franklin, Auburn offensive coordinator and creator of "The System", explained this summer in an interview, "I think because so many guys touch the ball. When you are kid nobody wants to play if they don't get to touch the ball. Instead of designing the offense around one or two players you design it around eight or ten players."
Many spread coaches will tell you that the offensive line play is still aggressive. For many high schools pass protection becomes so rare that on passing plays often offensive linemen take the play lightly. In the spread offense, the linemen are given simple rules and expected to execute as they normally would in any other offense, low and aggressive. Coach Franklin commented on the offensive line play, "You have to be physical for whatever offense you like. If you're not physical then you're not going to win. I think the offensive linemen are able to obtain an advantage because of the no huddle and the fact that we play so fast that defensive linemen get a little tired a little faster. We throw a lot of fast screens to wide receivers and that forces defensive linemen to take off to run sideways."
The spread offense seems to be self explanatory. Offenses will try to spread the field wide and find multiple players to spread the football to throughout the game. The ability to redistribute the football to several players presents itself as a big reason for the success of the offense. According to Franklin, "If your sales pitch to a guy is why don't you come out and practice for an hour and a half and we're going to let you stalk block and run into brick wall for an hour and half, not very many people want to do that. If you let them throw the football and you let them have fun I think you'll find there are a lot of guys wanting to do that."
The spread also gives teams the unique combination of simplicity from an offensive standpoint, but complexity to a defense. In most spread offenses the offensive line incorporates zone blocking rules which eliminate a large amount of thinking for the linemen. Franklin said of the Auburn offense, "I think if you have to think a lot as a player you can't play as fast or as effective so we try to keep it extremely simple." From the defensive perspective the offense can use motions and formations to complicate matters.
Fans should watch for the spread offense as it continues to flourish not only in Tennessee, but in the Southeast and college football. The offense should provide some excitement, high scoring games, and a need for defensive adjustment. Like so many good things in football the spread offense too will have its final days at some point in time. Fans should not expect that to be for a few more years as defensives statewide are still trying to learn more adjustments to stop the offense.