The following is something I posted about this time last year. While we've had a year to ogle Urban Meyer's spread option offense and receiver Chad Jackson has moved on to the NFL, I believe the post is still instructive.
To say that there's been a lot of talk about new Florida head coach Urban Meyer's offense would be the understatement of the season. But what is it?
The Spread Offense, I hear you say.
. . . But what is it? College Football News has an excellent strategy piece [ED: broken link] on one of the base plays of the Spread. Here's what I learned from it:
The Gators' Gun Zone Option
1. The Set:Apparently this play can be run out of several different formations, but one of the most common starts with five offensive linemen, one wide receiver on each of the sidelines, another wide receiver and a running back to the right (or left) side of and a bit behind the offensive line (this area is known as the "slot"), and another running back standing next to the quarterback, who is in the shotgun. All of which makes for a very long sentence!
2. The Key Players: Okay, I know they're all important, but some are more so than others. In addition to quarterback Chris Leak, this play involves running back DeShawn Wynn (the one standing next to Leak), and slot receiver Chad Jackson.
3. Pre-Snap Motion: Jackson goes in motion from his slot position and ends up standing next to Leak, forming a parallel line consisting of Wynn, Leak, and Jackson behind the offensive line.
4. The Snap: On the snap, Leak puts the ball in Wynn's gut, and the offensive line all step to the right. It will look to the defense like Wynn's going to take the ball and look for a hole in the right side of the line, so the defensive line will react by shifting in the same direction as the offensive line.
5. The Read: Leak will be watching two defensive players: the defensive end right in front of him and the outside linebacker, who's standing there reading the play himself.
6. The First Decision: If the defensive end is locked onto Wynn, Wynn will leave the ball with Leak and block the defensive end. Leak will keep the ball and run to the left directly toward the outside linebacker. If the defensive end is more focused on Leak than Wynn at the beginning of the play, Wynn gets the ball and cuts back to run through the hole.
7. The Second Decision: Assuming Wynn didn't get the ball, he's blocking the defensive end, and Jackson is now running behind and to the left of Leak. It's two on one: Leak and Jackson against the outside linebacker. If the backer is gunning for Leak, Leak pitches the ball to Jackson. If the backer is heading for Jackson, Leak runs it himself. Whoever ends up with it, they run behind the wide receiver, who is now downfield blocking the cornerback who was covering him.
The Vols' Bulletproof Vest
1. Make the Choice for Them: Let Leak have the ball and make him regret it. The defensive end locks on Wynn so the handoff is not made. The outside linebacker locks on Jackson so the pitch is not made. The rest of the team clobbers Leak. After awhile, this option won't seem as appealing, and the triple option will become one dimensional. Wait, the math's wrong on that. The triple option will become the option. Ah, better.
2. Change the Numbers, I: When Jackson goes into motion, slant the defensive line in the same direction. The outside linebacker utilizes a defensive block, preventing the left tackle from blocking his intended man, which in turn frees up the strong safety, who starts the play on the other side of the field, to race across the line toward the play. The defensive end will lock on Leak, which should cause Leak to hand off to Wynn, but by that time, the strong safety will have arrived to plug the hole through which Wynn wants to run.
3. Change the Numbers, II: When Jackson goes into motion, the free safety comes up to help out, and the other safety shifts over and back to cover the area the free safety vacated. With another defender in the area, Leak, Wynn, and Jackson each has a man assigned to him, so there's really no good option.
Of course, all of this happens in a span of about five or six seconds, and there are a lot of decisions happening on both sides of the ball in that short span of time. It's like high-speed, xtreme chess, with all of the pieces moving at the same time. Good stuff.