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A Spread Package.

That Capitalizes on Anything the Defense Gives You

WHENEVER AN offensive coordinator comes up with a spread package that utilizes three, four, or sometimes five receivers it will be sure to receive a mixed reception.

The hard-liners will call it just a gimmick.

The deep thinkers will claim that it is an unsound philosophy that will prove ineffective over the course of time.

The football traditionalists will say it is not football--how can you expect to move the ball with only one running back?

Maybe one voice in the wilderness will call it the offense of the future.

I can understand the criticism. If I were faced with an offensive line incapable of protecting its passer, a receiving corps without the ability to maximize yards after the catch (YAC), and a quarterback unable to make good decisions, I might look elsewhere for a base offense.

But such is not the case at Columbia Academy. Our personnel made a believer out of me when I discovered it had the three basic prerequisites of a spread package offense:

Solid pass protection from the offense line and backs.

Sure-handed receivers capable of making a play after the catch.

A quarterback capable of getting the ball to the open receiver.

I have heard our offense scheme criticized many times, but I have seen the devastation it can inflict on a defense whenever it is properly executed. I am convinced that dedication to the following six keys will enable coaches to achieve excellent success with the spread package.

Develop a sound quick-passing game.

It is obvious, if the offense cannot complete passes; the defense won't have to defend the wideouts. One of my goals with the spread package has always been to spread the defense the width of the field to open a maximum number of running and throwing lanes (Diag.1).

If the passing game is not a threat, the defense will not defend the entire width of the field, thereby limiting the number of running and throwing lanes.

Hitting "Uncovered" and "Hot" reads.

Many coaches cringe when I tell them our QBs and receivers will check automatically to a pass whenever the receivers are uncovered or defenders show blitz. Recognizing uncovered receivers becomes a must regardless of whatever package or personnel is on the field.

"Take what the defense gives us." Our players probably hear those words from me 50 or 60 times a day. So when we align in trips and the defense fails to cover all receivers, our QB will get the ball to the uncovered receiver (Diag.2).

This is our "uncovered principle," and from the first day of camp we talk and practice what the defense is giving us. Similarly, our receivers will recognize defenders in blitz position and make a "hot" call to our QB. We will exploit a secondary blitz by hitting the uncovered receiver in the vacated coverage area (Diag.3).

The uncovered principle and the execution of "hot" routes in vacated coverage areas are obvious situations that can be exploited vs the secondary coverage. Other defensive schemes are not always so obvious and call for another basis for our offensive philosophy.

If the defensive corners give us an 8-12 yard cushion on our X/Z receivers, we are going to get the football to those receivers quickly and let them gain yards (Diag.4). Our receivers are usually our best athletes, and I want the ball in their hands, in open space, as quickly as possible.

Regardless of your offensive philosophy, I am willing to bet that your objective boils down to one simple goal... get the ball into the hands of your best athletes. So I say, hand it, pitch it, throw it, do whatever it takes to get those athletes the ball in open space and let them gain yards.

Check the play call to the numbers advantage.

When we see an unfamiliar or gimmick defensive coverage scheme, the first thing I do is set trips into the boundary (short side of the field) and see what the defense is willing to do. I have found that most defensive coaches will become conservative with their coverage when we do this.

By setting three receivers into the boundary, we are challenging the defense to match our offensive strength with extra defenders on the short side of the field. If the defense does not match our formation strength, we will automatically check our call to trips side. Whether it be with outside zone run or quick screen, we will get the ball to the strength of our formation quickly when we have a numbers advantage (Diags. 5 and 6).

By committing our offense to "positive numbers," we must treat equal numbers as an offensive advantage. When the defense adjusts its strength to trips side (leaving single coverage on our backside receiver), we will capitalize on this match-up and check to a quick choice route backside (Diag.7).

By utilizing multiple formations in our spread offense, we expect to see a number of defensive looks. Knowing this, we expect our skill position players to recognize and capitalize on a numbers advantage as soon as it appears. Our "checks" to a positive numbers situation will often produce our best big play opportunities.

Utilize multiple motions and formations to counter press coverage.

One of our objectives with the quick-passing game is to complete the pass as many times as possible to guys who can maximize YAC. By doing this, we also hope to force the defensive secondary to "coverdown" (Diags. 8 and 9).

By "covering down," a defense may do one or two things (or a combination of both):

Rotate the secondary into a Cover 2 look with the corners in press coverage on our X/Z receivers,

Walk the outside LBers up into press coverage on our A/H.

Regardless of which adjustment the defense makes, we know that our offensive package has the multiple motions and formations to counter press coverage on our receivers.

When facing a press look, the first thing we do is motion the press receiver to check for man coverage.

If we have man coverage, we begin to work for a numbers advantage. With motion and different trips formations, we will find a positive numbers match-up with the defense, plus the ability to isolate the press receiver on one side of the formation against single coverage (Diag. 10).

Inevitably, when we have our quick passing game going, one of the first defensive adjustments will be some form of press coverage on our receivers.

Operating from a spread package, we know that our quick game must be effective against single coverage. We expect to have either a numbers advantage to the trips side or a quick choice call against coverage. With each scenario, we will have the appropriate checks in take the advantage the defense gives us.

Run the football effectively Vs 5-in-the-box.

When we talk to our offense about gaining a numbers advantage with our offensive sets, we do not limit it to the defense secondary. We also seek to capitalize on positive numbers in the "tackle box" (Diag. 11).

By forcing the defense to cover down, leaving only five defenders in the box, we ask our offensive line to control the LOS with our inside zone schemes. When we force a defense down to 5-in-the-box, we expect our five guys up front to take control and dominate the LOS (Diags. 12/13).

The core of our run game is inside and outside zone schemes. Just as we turn to our outside zone scheme when we achieve positive numbers on the outside, we will check to our inside zone scheme when we gain a similar advantage in the tackle box.

Our offensive line understands the success of our offense begins up front, and they recognize that a defensive adjustment that leaves 5-in-the-box as a definite advantage for them.

Coaches must he willing to throw the hail on "obvious run downs."

The first key to executing an effective offense is the ability to execute with the quick passing game. We take this a step further by being willing to throw the football in specific situations normally deemed as "obvious run downs."

By spreading the field in short yards and goal line situations, we want to force the defense to defend the entire width of the field. We will then seek out and check to an uncovered receiver or positive number.

As a strong believer in this offensive tactic, I am willing to throw the quick game from anywhere on the field in the spread package.


I believe in the spread offense package. But we also have two-back, tight-end and double tight end packages in our offense. Every package has its own advantages in particular situations.

I have found that many coaches view the "Spread" as a pass-dominant offense. Without a doubt, the passing game is a must from this package, yet each year I find the spread to be our most effective run package as well--due to the advantages it creates.

We sell our players on the premise that whatever the defense does with its alignment and reactions will be wrong because our offense will be able to attack soft or vacated areas.

Each season I find offensive motto in the spread package coming back to same thing: "Make the Defense Pay!" Our offense practices its "automatics" in the spread package everyday, beginning the first day of camp.

This has become is a must for us, so that come game time our offensive personnel will recognize and capitalize on anything the defense gives us.
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Article Details
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Author:Mizer, Mike
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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