April 24, 2017, 03:25:26 AM
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Some years ago, Sports Illustrated ran a telling piece on the rise of the explosive, wide open offenses that had come to dominate football. In the article, Ohio State’s head coach pointed out that his team was ripping off plays “every 12 or 13 seconds” while predicting “we’ll hit 100 plays a game soon.” Other coaches bemoaned the challenge these offenses placed on defenses. “Of course, most colleges use their best athletes on offense, as backs and receivers,” said Alabama’s head coach. “When the defense is forced to spread out, it must go to man-to-man coverage. But if the offensive boy—the pass receiver—is a better athlete than the defensive boy, he’ll beat him. So you have to go to double coverage, and that weakens you against the run.” And supercharging it all is the rise of true dual threat quarterbacks who can run and throw. ”The hammer that has broken things down is the option,” said Arkansas’ head coach. “Now you’ve got teams with split receivers, with runners, and with quarterbacks who can run the option as well as throw. This simply generates more offense than any defense can handle.” The article was a fascinating look into state of football tactics.But here’s a detail I forgot to mention: The article, by Dan Jenkins, was published in 1968. And the coaches he quoted were not Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Bret Bielema, but instead Woody Hayes, Bear Bryant and Frank Broyles. Yet the article reads like it could have been written this season, given the continued trend at every level of football towards spread offenses, record setting passing numbers, and the ascension of dual-threat quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, who are neither static passers nor strictly runners who can’t throw or read defenses.