Spreading the wealth around Spread offense takes hold in Mississippi

Published 12:30 am Sunday, August 15, 2010

President Barack Obama talked about spreading the wealth as a candidate in 2008, but no football offense better equalizes opportunities like the spread.

Just like his dialogue with Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, the spread has become a source of pride for devotees and an annoyance for football traditonalists.

It’s become a hot topic on message board arguments. It’s become the semi-official offense of the Sun Belt Conference, as nearly every team in the conference runs it.

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The no-huddle spread offense has become a fixture even in the state of Mississippi. Southern Miss, Mississippi State, Alcorn State, Delta State, Mississippi College and Millsaps run the offense at the college level, while Madison Central, Hattiesburg High School and now Porters Chapel run it at the prep level.

But what is it?

The spread is designed to spread — hence the name — a defense out and force defenders to make plays in space as the offense tries to take advantage of favorable matchups. It forces a defense to cover more of the field and increases the likelihood of a single broken tackle turning into a huge gain. With the quarterback in the shotgun, he has a better view of the defensive alignment. It gives him more time to set up in the pocket and allows a shorter player to play the position. It also allows him to be a dangerous running threat.

The offense is more democratic as it spreads the ball amongst many playmakers rather than just one featured back or one big-time wide receiver. That sharing can often nip chemistry problems on offense in the bud.

“I can think of two things that the spread is going to do for us this year,” PCA offensive coordinator Jerry Bourne said. “It’s not going to limit our ball distribution to one player. We’ve got three or four guys that I want to get the ball in their hands all night long. What it’s going to do is put them in a situation where they are going to be one-on-one with somebody on the defense.”

Another key that is rarely discussed about the spread is its ability to prevent injury. With players breaking just one tackle in the open field and the removal of collisions of massed bodies of linemen, linebackers and running backs in the tackle box from the equation, the chances of injuries goes down considerably.

“Another thing, it’s going to keep our guys from getting banged up so badly this year,” Bourne said. “When you’re one-on-one in space, most of the time that guy’s not going to get a killshot on you. He’s going to have to grab an ankle, grab cloth to wrestle you down. That’s a big plus that’s a byproduct of it.”