Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rich Rodriguez Spread Offense

Like the Calvin Magee clinic? How about hearing from the man himself, Rich Rodriguez?

Six more hours of spread offense dissection from one of the decade’s biggest names.  This clinic took place just before Rodriguez took over at West Virginia while he was making a name for himself under Tommy Bowden at Clemson.

While nothing went according to plan at Michigan, the innovations Rodriguez spearheaded at Tulane, Clemson, and finally West Virginia, became his thumbprint on many offenses we’re seeing today (particularly in the run game).  What if Rich Rod stayed at WVU instead of trying to resurrect  Michigan? What if they actually landed Terrelle Pryor in 2008 instead of having to pin their last desperate hopes on Denard Robinson?  UM’s defense certainly didn’t help matters, but it makes for an interesting look at how drastically perceptions would change if a few chance events took place.
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In the late 90s, while other programs were rediscovering athleticism at quarterback (McNabb at Syracuse / Vick at Va Tech), Rodriguez was capturing lightning in a bottle by paring athletes (Shaun King, Woody Dantzler) with complimentary, multiple option threats from the gun.  If you have the old (now canonized) Alex Gibbs Gilman clinic on wide-zone, you’ll hear Gibbs marvel over what kind of mileage coaches were getting out of Dantzler at the time.  In the infancy of his philosophy, it was applying extremely simple concepts from the gun and capitalizing on the low-hanging fruit of “athletes in space”.  It was by adapting to the talent on the roster to the innovations of defensive adjustments, borrowing from other successful programs (Northwestern), and acquiring an infusion of  expertise (Rick Trickett), that Rodriguez became increasingly successful through the height of his career.
Rodriguez essentially set the table for up-tempo offenses of today (Oregon, Oklahoma State, etc) that have taken the best of both worlds (spread option with proven Air Raid concepts)  and evolved into a multi-dimensional threat to defenses.  Did Rodriguez plateau or hit the creative wall before leaving WVU?  The offense relied heavily on zone read and speed option with the passing game usually a result of play-action or a simplified 2-man-game.  Was he the victim of a program in decline, a dried up well (little recruiting help), or did his offense simply fail to evolve itself to the defense’s natural response? Will we witness his return to the coaching ranks, adapting his offense to the new decade’s defenses?

Most of the second session illustrates what Rodriguez was doing at Clemson.  Since part of this discussion relates to how that offense changed through the decade, here is some supporting evidence:

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