The spread offense is all the rage in college football these days. More and more teams seem to be going to it in one or more of its variations. It's already taken the Big XII by storm. Now it's worked its way into the SEC with three of 12 teams running it full time and several others mixing in aspects of the spread.
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide isn't one of them.
Florida and Auburn try to spread defenses out from sideline to sideline. The Crimson Tide chooses instead to bunch things together using a two tight-end set most of the time. It's what I've come to think of as the Anti-Spread Offense.
Brad Smelley and Colin Peek will help lead the attack for Alabama's offense. Both players are first time starters for the Tide. Smelley saw limited action last year in a back up role catching seven passes for 98 yards.
Peek was a transfer from Georgia Tech where he was a starter. Peek left the Yellow Jackets after a coaching change there brought in the triple option offense which doesn't use a tight end.
The two should make a for a very active receiving combo in the Alabama passing attack. Both have the speed, athleticism, and soft hands to contribute.
The question remains as to how effective they will be at replacing the run blocking skills of Travis McCall and Nick Walker. Last year's starters were adept at opening holes in the running game.
Alabama is first and foremost a running team and will likely remain that way under Nick Saban. Ultimately the new combo will be judged on how they open holes in the running game.
Smelley, a 6'3'' 220 pound sophomore out of Tuscaloosa, saw action in six games as a freshman. His biggest game last year came against Mississippi State when he caught two passes for 49 yards. His longest catch came in the same game for 37 yards.
Peek is the bigger of the two at 6'6'' and 247 pounds. He was forced to sit out last year after transferring to the Tide. He was actually eligible to play in last year's Sugar Bowl but was unable to because of a nagging ankle injury.
Why go with a two tight end set instead of going to the spread? Probably the same reason NFL teams do it, it works. The NFL's Dallas Cowboys plan to use a two tight end set as their base offense set.
The Philadelphia Eagles have also decided to go with the two tight end set. These are two of your more successful franchises in NFL history. They know what it takes to win.
Joining them is their conference foe the Washington Redskins who drafted tight end Fred Davis despite having Chris Cooley already on the roster. Washington Head Coach Jim Zorn assured Redskins fans he hadn't lost his mind, and that Davis was drafted so that Washington could go to the two tight end set.
So while your average college fan might not look at Alabama as being on the cutting edge of offense the NFL sees things entirely different. Considering these high school players desire to play in the NFL, this should leave the Tide with a leg up in recruiting.
That never hurts.
So with roughly one-third of all NFL teams headed to the Anti-Spread they each have to find a traditionally built tight end, a great run blocker with capable hands. Tight End Two would be more athletic, capable of playing an H-back role at times. Peek will fit category one with TE2 being better suited for Smelley.
If they can fill those roles, opening running lanes for Ingram, Richardson, Grant, and Upchurch, as well as helping provide constant, dependable targets in the passing game, then the Tide is set.
The Anti-Spread will have proved it is the go-to type offense in the future.