The spread offense has taken over the football world and no one can stop it. Now, I’m no high paid analysis, but I have figured out how to stop the spread.
It’s very basic when you break down the foundation of the spread. It is designed to put the ball in the hands of the play makers, while they are in space.
The first step in defeating the spread is very simple: tackle. Defenders are more interested in making big hits, then securing the tackles. When facing the spread, the offense is trying to create one on one match ups, often allowing a big gain after the first tackle is missed.
If the defense concerns itself with making a sure tackle before attempting a big stick, it will eliminate the long gain.
The next step in stopping the spread is playing man to man defense. Along with running man coverage, you need to press the receiver. This prohibits the receiver from getting off of the line of scrimmage freely and disrupting the timing of the offense.
To adjust to the multiple receiver sets, the defense should line up in a 3-4 hybrid look or a 4-2-5 look with a nickel back. With these alignments you get better athletes on the field. With these schemes you still get an effective pass rush, along with better coverage skills.
As the spread offense has developed so has the defensive side of the ball. In older variations of the 3-4 scheme the outside linebackers were more suited to rush quarterbacks. These linebackers have developed into better cover players. For example you can look at Nevin McKenzie and Adam Meyers-White at the University of Tennessee. They are both former high school safeties that moved to outside linebackers. The nation is full of these players, and more are making big plays on every level of the game.
With the man to man scheme, the team will have to play more disciplined football. Much like the defenses of the 80s, who adapted to the triple option, the amount of responsibility increases. There is a safety net for coaches who run zone coverage, but they are picked apart in the long run. If you look back to the Florida – Tennessee game from 2007, you will notice the Gators offense shredded the Vols defense for 554 total offensive yards. If you compare that to the Florida- Michigan game from 2007, you noticed that the Wolverines pressured the Gators receivers and only allowed 399 total yards.
The best way to defend against the spread is having a good offense. Looking at the four games that Florida lost in 2007, they lost the time of possession by 6.5 minutes per game. In those same games they were out rushed by 89 yards.
Those teams who beat Florida converted 56% of their 3rd downs. With those conversions the explosive spread attack is not on the field. Looking at the development of the spread offense the offense is not a catch-up type of offense. It is used to score and strike quickly at the beginning of the game.
The four loses that the Gators suffered in ’07 they were behind in three of the loses at half time. Of the 552 total points that Florida scored in 2007, 309 were scored before half time. So if you could make it to half time with the lead, there is a good chance that you can keep the lead until the game is over.
Football is an ever evolving sport, and the schemes are evolving as fast as the players. With more wide open attacks there are new ways to defend them. However some things don’t change. The old saying is true, offense sells tickets, and defense wins championships.