A regular refrain here at Roll 'Bama Roll, one of the last outspoken bastions of #MANBALL, is that spread teams, particularly HUNHS systems produce just an awful brand of football and produce awful football players, ill-prepared for little else than two-hand touch, seven-on-seven backyard games (seriously, I'd rather gnaw off several limbs and a reproductive organ or two than watch a Baylor-TCU game.)
When the emphasis is on tempo, and you coach to game loopholes in rules, you are doing a disservice to the sport, to the players, and to those players' professional development. It's no coincidence that we've seen a lack of fundamentals more among the offensive players.
Last year, Tom Cable was very outspoken about this:
“I’m not wanting to offend anybody, but college football, offensively, has just gotten really, really bad, fundamentally,” Cable said.
“You see these big bodies and think, ‘He’s 6-5, 300, and his arm is (this long),’ and you watch him, and he’s not a finisher, he doesn’t strain, he can’t stay balanced, he can’t play with leverage. You see all these negatives and think, I can get a (defensive) guy who runs a little faster, jumps a little higher, that’s got an aggressive streak in him. At least I can see that on defense. I’m going to have to re-train an offensive lineman that’s coming out of college right now anyway.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re doing a huge disservice to offensive football players, other than the receivers, that come out of these spread systems. The runners aren’t as good. They’re not taught how to run. The blockers aren’t as good. The quarterbacks aren’t as good. They don’t know how to read progressions and coverage and have no idea.”
To that, add Pete Carroll who chimed in yesterday with a similar complaint about the taffy-softness of spread linemen, and how they are utterly unprepared to actually, you know, play football for money:
“The style of play is different,” Carroll said. “There will be guys that we’re looking at that have never been in a (three-point) stance before. They’ve always been in a two-point stance. There are transitions that have to take place. In the last couple years, we’ve seen pretty strong adjustments by college offensive coordinators to adjust how guys are coming off the ball. They’re not as aggressive and physical-oriented as we like them to be.
“It is different. There is a problem. I looked at a couple guys this week, and I couldn’t find a running play where a guy came off the ball and had to knock a guy off the football. There wasn’t even a play in the game. It’s hard to evaluate what a guy’s gonna be like. We learn to, but it’s not the same as it’s been.”
Jimbo Fisher, however, has a somewhat interesting take on it. He acknowledges the increasing athleticism of modern college athletes, and generally agrees that they may not be better football players in eras past. However, his reason is not the spread, but because elite teams chase players that are bound for the NFL after three seasons.
“Everybody’s going to the NFL in three years. We understand that,” Fisher said on Sirius XM College Sports Nation last week. “I was at a booster club meeting and Charlie Ward was there. You realize, Charlie Ward never saw the field until he was a redshirt junior. Those days are gone, because someone’s gonna transfer, they’re gonna leave.
“I think we have better athletes playing football than maybe we’ve ever had any time in the history of football, but at times, I don’t know if we have better football players, if that makes any sense. When you become a good football player, your talent, experience and knowledge and toughness come, and that takes time.”
I think it's probably disingenuous to pin this on the NFL, Jimbo.
Excellent players have (since Eric Swann's case,) left three years out of high school, no matter whether it was 1992 or 2016. It is the spread -- there are very few teams remaining that run, what could be called, a traditional pro-set offense. Off the top of my head: Alabama, LSU, Michigan State, Louisville, Georgia, Miami, Iowa, Michigan, Arkansas, Florida, and Stanford come to mind. But, even in the traditionally-stodgy SEC, there are just three teams in the West and two in the East that do so. It is also no coincidence (in my mind, at least) that Florida and Alabama met for last year's SECCG; that Michigan State met Iowa for the Big Ten crown, that Stanford won the PAC 12, that Michigan is surging -- fundamental football still wins.
What do we think, fam?