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68 Days until the Blue and White Game (Spread Offense)

With Basketball season over and the Blue and White game just over two months away its time to turn my full attention back to football.

I'm going to spend the next month or so both monitoring practices (as well as I can from the central time zone) and speculating how the team, and specific player will fit into coach Quinn's new system. With practice three days away a good place to start will be with an overview of the newer offensive and defensive concepts coming this fall.

First, for he casual fan, here is a primer to the Spread Offense:

The spread offense involves spreading the field horizontally using 3, 4, and 5-receiver sets and, in some instances, wide splits between the offensive linemen. The object is to open up multiple vertical seams for both the running and passing game. As the defense is forced to spread itself thin across the field to cover everyone both receiving lanes and running lanes will open up. The number of receivers and nature of the sets allows the same plays to be run out of several different formations which makes it harder for defense to read the offense. The offense is also, by its nature, a fast paced offense that lends itself well to the no huddle or short huddle.


Example of the Spread running the same play from different sets

Useful Terminology: Not every offensive set in a spread philosophy will make use of each of these positions, and not every coaches system will use the same names for these roles. This is just from my understanding of the system.

Z Receiver - The Z receiver lines up behind the line of scrimmage and is usually the team's featured receiver. A good Z receiver will use initial buffer he gains by being behind the line to avoid jamming at the line of scrimmage. The Z Receiver is usually lines up on the same side of the formation as a tight end.

Y Receiver (Slot) - The Y receiver is a receiver who lines up between the split end/flanker and the linemen. If aligned with a flanker, the slot receiver is usually on the line of scrimmage, and if with a split end, off the line of scrimmage. As with the Z receiver, a featured receiver often takes a slot position with a split end to avoid jamming.

X Receiver (Split End) - The X receiver is a receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage, necessary to meet the rule requiring seven such players at snap. This receiver is lines up on the side of the field opposite the tight end. The split end is farthest from center on his side of the field. Because this receiver has to be on the line of scrimmage the position is best fit by someone strong enough to fight off a defensive backs attempt to jam them at the outset of the play.

H Back (Power Back) - Because the spread offense is focused on spreading the defense it makes little use of full backs. Every warm body on the offensive side of the line is force the defense to cover as much of the field as possible. The H Back has to be a player with a hugely divers skill set as they will be called on to run block, pass protect, and run receiving routes from multiple sets against anything from a corner back to a linebacker. The only substantive difference between a tight end and an H back is that the H back usually does not have to be on the line when the ball is snapped. There are certain formations (like those that include an F and H back but no tight End) in which an H back will find themselves on the line.

F Back (Skill Back) - The F Back is the name sometimes given to a half back who lines up as a receiver on the play, or a back who motions into that position before the ball is snapped. The main difference between an H back and an F back is the type of athlete who is playing the position. A back who might otherwise be a full back is going to be your H Back, a back who would otherwise be a half back is an F back.

For the Record, every offense has spread formations so the concept is not completely foreign to UB players, as the Blog "Team Speed Kills" puts it:
A spread formation uses most of the horizontal space on the field and a non-spread formation does not. Nearly every offense uses some spread formations, and many spread-based offenses use some non-spread formations. -- Team Speed Kills
It's not as if the UB players are being handed a system completely foreign to them, a fact acknowledged by UB Tight Ends coach Marty Spieler:
The past couple years, UB fans have seen a transition to some spread concepts. The tight ends in our scheme will be asked to be power blockers on one play and spread out as a receiver on the next play. Tight ends will be aligned on the line of scrimmage, in the backfield, and as wide receivers. In other words, UB fans will see a tight end be an integral player in all facets of our offense. -- Coach Spieler
Of course it would be far better for UB to make this transition in a season with players like Roosevelt, Starks, Hamlin, or Rack then in a season where nearly every skill position will feature a new name but that's not college football. Coach Quinn, for his part, feels that he has enough time to get his team ready for kickoff
I know it will take all spring, this summer and fall camp to implement the offense, defense and special teams. We will be ready for Rhode Island at home on September 2nd. -- Coach Quinn
There is little doubt the Bulls will be ready for Rhode Island, they are not even a passable team by FCS standards the concern is more likely centered around the Bulls preparedness once they get into their 'real' non conference games (UCF, UConn, and Baylor in the following three weeks).