In the past two segments in this series we've looked at the history of the spread offense and at the most popular current versions of the spread. We've talked about early innovators of the spread including Glenn Ellison, Mouse Davis and Steve Nuss. We've looked at todays brightest minds like Rich Rodriguez and Chris Ault who've taken what the early innovators built and added their own unique twists and turns. In this third and final segment we're going to take a look at the offense that first year head Coach Larry Fedora has began to install in Hattiesburg.
An although you will seldom hear Fedora himself refer to his offense as "a spread", there's little doubt that "The Offense" takes advantage of space and vertical seams, trademarks of a spread offense. There's no doubt that Fedora led offenses are productive.
From 1999-2001, Fedora led the offense at Middle Tennessee State University. During that time the Blue Raiders Fedora produced one of the nation's most prolific offenses. The offense averaged 424 yards of total offense, 181 rushing yards and 31 points per game over three seasons.
In 2002, Ron Zook hired Fedora to help implement the spread offenses in the SEC. In 2002, Fedora served as the run game coordinator, in 2003 he served as co-offensive coordinator and perimeter game coordinator. In 2004, he had the opportunity to run the offense on his own and responded.
The 2004 Gators ranked first in the SEC in six different categories including passing offense (271.1), total offense (426.9), 3rd-down conversion percentage (47.8), touchdown passes (29), pass attempts (407) and pass completions (243). That Florida offense was just the second in SEC history to feature the league's top passer and top rusher, and it was the first in conference history to feature the top passer, top rusher, top receiver and top player in total offense.
After moving to Oklahoma State, Fedora's offenses progressed on a yearly basis. Under Fedora's guidance OSU became one of the most balanced offensive teams in the country, averaging over 200 yards rushing and passing a game the last two seasons.
What makes Fedora's offense unique?
The offense that Fedora and his staff debuted in the spring game was more closely akin to the spread option than any of the three major types of the spread offense being currently run in college football today. But, Fedora's offense will throw the ball a bit more than traditional spread-option teams like WVU under Rodriguez.
What makes Fedora's offense fun and exciting to watch is his game management and tempo management. A Fedora coached offense always determines the pace of the game.
Anyone who has heard Fedora speak about his offensive theories has heard the coach reminisces about sitting with his father as a youngster watching football. The younger Fedora would be fascinated by the two-minute drill. We've all seen when teams are running their two minute offense and they easily move the ball down the field for scores in the closing minutes of games. The younger Fedora would ask his father why teams didn't play like that all the time and would seldom get more than a gruff "they just can't" from his father.
Well, that just wasn't a good enough answer for the younger Fedora to accept so 30 odd years afterwards he began working with up tempo offensive theories and has put them into practice. Southern Miss fans can expect just that from "The Offense" this coming season.
Expect the unexpected, expect three, four or five wide receivers, then a at two TE set. Look for Damion Fletcher and Bubba Kirksey slashing out of the back field gashing opposing defense for big yards on the ground, look for Austin Davis to run the option play one play and roll out and hit any of talented pass catchers the next play (it could be a running back, receiver or tight end). Take a breath or two and the expect the unexpected again.
One thing you can count on is that the Eagles will be in full Attack mode. They'll attack the defense, not just the goal line, they'll use horizonal and vertical spacing to create running lanes for back and passing lanes for passing strikes. They'll change the pace of the game, they'll go fast and they'll go very fast. They will fatigue the opposing defense and pressure them into making key mistakes. The plan is to fatigue the opposing defense both mentally and physically.
And we'll get to see "The Offense" evolve and change just like it has for the last 50 years and it's not likely to stop anytime soon. If you want to get a glimpse of the "next" offense of the future it's beginning where the run and shoot began at the high school level.
Right now Kurt Bryan the head coach at Piedmont (Calif.) High School is introducing the world to the A-11 offense. Bryant and Steve Humphries, the director of football operations, have developed an offense in which all 11 players on the field potentially are eligible to catch the ball. They introduced it to the California Prep ranks a year ago and finished with a 7-4 record.
So in closing, Eagle fans get your popcorn ready, it's going to be an exciting year.
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