Friday, August 24, 2007

Texas high school football resembles 6 man football

's wide open offense.

Sports Illustrated has a feature on Todd and Riley Dodge: the father/son + coach/player combo formerly from Southlake Carroll High School, and soon to be reunited at University of North Texas, where Todd takes over as head coach this season.

Todd Dodge's offense is notable, first, for basically utilizing one running play: an option where the QB can hand to the runner coming in front of him, or - if the backside DE chases - the QB can keep the ball and run to the area vacated by the chasing DE. They run the play to both sides behind Denver Bronco style zone blocking. They rarely use other running plays.

Second, Dodge's offense is notable for the no huddle intelligence and organization of the offensive players. Dodge's offenses frequently set two or three different times before a snap, and each time prepared to run a different play from the one they were prepared to run 6 seconds ago. Some games, the offense sets three different times on maybe half the offensive snaps. They still typically get snaps off with 10 seconds left on the playclock; and they can still get into a fourth set, and get the snap off, if they need to. How? Like this:

STEP ONE: Run previous play, unpile, set for [play 1] an automatic play if defense has a particular number of defenders in the box.

STEP TWO: Wrong number of defenders in box. Look to sidelines, receive new play, reset [for play 2].

Repeat for possible play 3 and play 4; then snap. Repeat the entire process for about 50 scrimmage plays per game.

Dodge runs a spread offense which is copied by several North Texas area high schools. The other schools NEVER run the offense with the same efficiency and precision as Southlake Carroll. The other schools are typically scrambling to snap the ball with one second left on the playclock, and after only one or two play changes at the LOS. Southlake Carroll wins b/c they are smarter, more organized, and more efficient.

Texas high school football is now a pass happy neo-flag football league. Why? Some conjectures:

  1. spreading the defense thin is superior offensive strategy

  2. cable tv and football highlights increase kids' knowledge of passing/catching/route running fundamentals

  3. video tape and coaching schools result in overall better quality coaching

  4. the football is both smaller and better manufactured - and is thus easier to grip, throw, and catch
#4 is a huge deal. Footballs used to be unwieldy boats. Now they are closer to nerf footballs. You can toss and catch a modern high school football almost as easily as you can toss and catch one of those big and soft Chicago-style softballs. Throwing a football pass is almost as easy as throwing from shortstop to first base in a park beside Lake Michigan. It makes a HUGE difference.

Yesterday's footballs were also heavier. You couldn't throw them as far or as zippy. Also, when you caught a hard pass with that heavy football: it could hurt - as in real pain. It does not hurt to catch today's lighter-weight and zippier footballs. All of this makes a HUGE difference.

Today's kids do not play outside + throw and catch as much as yesterday's kids. Yet, seemingly every h/s in Texas has their Varsity and JV and Freshman teams flinging footballs all over the field, and catching them. The smaller, more easily gripped footballs have changed the game. Grab one sometime. You can sling those babies.

In the SI article, Dodge explains the genesis of Southlake Carroll's widely copied offense:

...has its roots at Thomas Jefferson High, in Port Arthur, Texas, where Todd, a Methodist preacher's son, played quarterback from 1978 through '80. Under coach Ronnie Thompson, Todd threw the ball about 30 to 35 times a game, which was unheard of at the time in Texas [my emphasis -g]
Todd caught up with Thompson again in the late '80s, when Thompson was the offensive coordinator at South Garland High and Todd held the same position at nearby McKinney High. "Ronnie had put together a little package that included some Port Arthur, a little old University of Houston run-and-shoot and a little of Dennis Erickson's Miami Hurricanes pro-style one-back offense," says Todd, who drew on Thompson's expertise. "At McKinney we replaced the I [formation] with the spread, and we really lit it up. I've used four receivers out of the shotgun ever since."

Buddy Ryan believed he could defeat the Run and Shoot by blitzing it. He believed - much like a basketball press doesn't become really effective until the opponent tires a bit - constant pressure would tire a QB, and eventually cause him to turn the ball over, and/or become a bit gun-shy, and/or literally become injured.

In the history of football, defense has always caught up to every offensive trend. It will be interesting to see if Texas High School defenses eventually blitz the Southlake Carroll offense into reduced statistical output. It will be interesting to see how colleges defense Dodge's offense at University of North Texas. It will be interesting to see what success Dodge can have when he introduces the offense a) cold, and b) to mediocre/average players. How much better will Dodge's offense be in Year 3 than in Year 1? I don't know the answer. I'll be watching.

Buddy Ryan also disliked the Run and Shoot b/c it could not run clock when a team was ahead. Southlake Carroll seems to have fixed this problem via repeatedly pounding their option play at opponents. It is a power play - not a finesse play. Southlake RB Tre Newton ran for over 2,000 yards in 2006. Maybe the option play overcomes the stopped-clock problems of the Run and Shoot. Its the same option play Vince Young ran at Univ. of Texas, and nobody ever stopped it there.

I always suspected the Run and Shoot had problems when it butted right up against the end zone - especially inside the 5 or the 10 yard line. Southlake Carroll has never seemed to have a problem in this area.

I will be watching North Texas.
Be Mean, Green!
Um..... meanly cover them....
um.... in gaudy green?
So they are embarrassed to be seen in public? I'm kinda at a loss here.
Be Mean, anyway.

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